Liverpool rejection is disguised blessing for Richard Hughes as Arne Slot gets transfer freedom

Arne Slot new head coach of Liverpool and Richard Hughes sporting director of Liverpool during thier first press conference at AXA Training Centre on July 05, 2024 in Kirkby, England.
-Credit: (Image: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Arne Slot and Richard Hughes appeared together at the Liverpool head coach's introductory press conference. Both confirmed that there would be a collaborative approach to transfer business, and they may both have just been handed some new freedom in the market.

It was something of a novelty even seeing Hughes, with previous sporting directors having acted primarily in the shadows. But the message was that the new-look recruitment structure is nothing especially radical, and that Slot will certainly still have plenty of input in who gets signed.

There are decisions to be made all over the pitch. One slightly overlooked area is in goal, where Caoimhin Kelleher could leave, and Adrian recently confirmed his exit from the club.

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Thankfully for Slot, all indications are that Alisson is content at Liverpool, despite apparent Saudi overtures. If Kelleher stays put, the Reds might be able to get away with not recruiting, with The Athletic reporting that Vitezslav Jaros will step up into the role vacated by Adrian.

If you had to guess, you'd suggest Kelleher might leave too, although it is contingent on somebody meeting the club's valuation. But regardless of whether or not Liverpool needs to sign another goalkeeper, the news about Adrian could be significant.

Liverpool did actually extend a new offer to Adrian. But it's long been rumored he would reject it in favor of a return to Spain, and he's now confirmed he is leaving, with Real Betis the expected destination.

It's not exactly the highest of praise for someone who arrived on a free transfer, but Liverpool at the very least got its money's worth from the deal to sign him after he left West Ham in 2019. In fact, the move paid off within months, after Adrian's heroics won the Reds the Super Cup.

Adrian of Liverpool celebrates with the trophy during the UEFA Super Cup match between Liverpool and Chelsea on August 14, 2019 at Besiktas Park in Istanbul, Turkey.
Adrian's crowning moment at Liverpool came in the Super Cup against Chelsea. -Credit:Mike Kireev/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Since then, he has been far more peripheral, and the rise of Kelleher has rightly relegated him to third choice. But the fact Liverpool has kept him around speaks volumes about his role behind the scenes, which has clearly been valued.

However, at the start of this new era for Liverpool, Adrian's departure could give Slot and Hughes some welcome flexibility. That's because the 37-year-old has been taking up a valuable non-homegrown slot in the squad for some time.

Lots of clubs choose to use a homegrown goalkeeper as their third choice. Manchester City, for instance, has veteran (and former Liverpool stopper) Scott Carson to fill that role. At the other end of the age spectrum, Jaros would do the same for the Reds.

And Liverpool has been close to the wire on non-homegrown slots in the recent past. The departures of Thiago and Joel Matip had already created a bit more breathing space, but Ryan Gravenberch has progressed beyond the age where he can class as an underage player, so there had only been a net gain of one spot prior to Adrian's decision to leave.

Homegrown considerations are always at risk of being overstated. The squad rules are not overly draconian. But it's certainly one less thing to think about for Slot and Hughes, who will not want their hands tied in their first summer at the helm, trying to reshape the squad as they see fit.

Especially with the expanded Champions League format, Liverpool will want a deep squad. Adrian was a good servant to the club, but by rejecting the offer of a renewal, he might just have provided a blessing in disguise when it comes to recruitment for the rest of the summer.