After insisting throughout his first months at Liverpool that he was content with the players already within his squad, Jurgen Klopp stunned supporters by launching a £25 million bid for Brazilian winger Alex Teixeira at the beginning of 2016—midway through the January transfer window, Klopp looked to have identified the missing piece to complement an already impressive forward line. Teixeira, who had scored 22 goals and laid on three assists in 15 league games for Shakhtar Donetsk before the Ukrainian Premier League’s winter break, launched a charm offensive, pushing for a move to England.
“I am not ruling out other leagues but I do want to play in the Premier League,” he explained, two days after Shakhtar received Liverpool’s offer. “In my mind, it is the strongest in the world.”
What followed, however, was disappointing and frustrating for both the 26-year-old and his Merseyside suitors, with Shakhtar continually upping their valuation of Teixeira—first to £38 million, then to an eye-watering £53 million. Klopp rightly pulled the plug on the deal, with Teixeira ultimately joining Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning, and the German advocated his switch to Nanjing, saying “If you want to go there, if you are 26 and you get an offer like he got—everybody would think about it! There are a few problems less for the next generation of Teixeiras.”
But it left Liverpool without one of Klopp’s priority targets, and while the manager refused to question Teixeira’s motive for joining a club backed by the super-rich Suning Commerce Group, the winger’s compatriot, Chelsea’s Willian, labelled Jiangsu a “small club,” and proffered that “I’m sure that the financial aspect was crucial for his decision.”
While it is debatable whether one of Europe’s most historically successful superpowers can bemoan the trajectory of the modern footballing landscape, Teixeira’s move to Jiangsu was certainly a questionable decision. However, with the Chinese Super League campaign coming to a close at the end of October, both Liverpool and Teixeira look to be in a much better position—and the Reds’ transformation over the past nine months highlights the virtue of patience.
For Teixeira, beyond financial prosperity, moving to China has seen his development as a footballer continue, with the former Vasco da Gama star—who was part of the Rio de Janeiro side’s youth academy setup along with Philippe Coutinho—enjoying a sensational maiden campaign with Jiangsu. He scored on his debut in both the Asian Champions League and the Chinese Super League, and went on to hit 11 goals and tally 11 assists in 28 league games, with only four players—Alan (22), Elkeson (23), Lei Wu (25) and Ricardo Goulart (27) registering more goals and assists combined.
His pace, skill and eye for the unpredictable saw him become a fan favourite at the Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre, while his presence has boosted those around him, with manager Choi Yong-soo building his starting lineup around him—and, by all accounts, he has taken to the culture enthusiastically, too.
Meanwhile, though Klopp could have benefited from that extra firepower in the second half of the 2015/16 campaign—particularly when his side were looking short of ideas as they fell to a 3-1 defeat to Sevilla in the Europa League final in May—the German has since reshaped his squad into a formidable prospect, most notably spurred by the acquisition of Sadio Mane in June. Mane made the £30 million move from Southampton to considerable fanfare, despite many holding reservations over his consistency during his two previous seasons in the Premier League, and has swiftly become one of the Reds’ most important players.
The 24-year-old is Liverpool’s top scorer in the league so far this season, with six goals in 10 games, while only Coutinho and Roberto Firmino (both 12) have more goals and assists combined in all competitions. He has provided with the same speed, trickery and direct attacking style that Teixeira would have, but at two years younger and signed for just £5 million more than Liverpool’s initial bid for the Brazilian, Mane is arguably a better acquisition for Klopp’s Reds—the only negative being his imminent departure to the Africa Cup of Nations, a tournament that could see him miss six games.
After Klopp cut his losses in the race to sign Teixeira in January, he instead turned his focus to Divock Origi and Sheyi Ojo, and with the Belgian netting 10 goals in his first season with the Reds, and the young winger returning from a muted loan spell with Wolverhampton Wanderers to score once and assist four more times in 11 appearances, they proved more-than-adequate alternatives while new targets were drawn up for the summer. Rather than desperately pursue a January plan B, Klopp bided his time before the opportunity to sign Mane arrived; and now, both Klopp and Teixeira look to have benefited from Jiangsu’s big-money offer.
It may be that, eventually, Teixeira follows Willian’s route out of Shakhtar to the Premier League—with the Blues stalwart joining Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala for the short term before sealing his move to Stamford Bridge—and it could well be that this sees Jiangsu’s No. 10 finally make his way to Merseyside, but for now, both he and Liverpool look to be thriving in their current situation.
Missing out on a top target is not always a catastrophic turn; with patience, a more attractive solution should emerge.