Liverpool transfer plan suggests FSG have learnt from mistakes amid Man United crisis

Liverpool enjoyed an impressive season in the WSL last term
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Marc Atkins - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

In the gym at the AXA Melwood Training Centre, the words 'Ready For More' are daubed in big red letters on the wall.

It's a slogan designed to galvanise the troops during arduous afternoon Strength and Conditioning sessions but it also neatly encapsulates the sentiment at Liverpool this summer as the Reds seek to build on what was a hugely encouraging Women's Super League (WSL) campaign.

Matt Beard's side defied expectations to secure a fourth-place finish last term, accruing 18 more points than they did in the previous season and leapfrogging archrivals Manchester United in the table. A combination of shrewd recruitment, smart coaching and the squad's long-awaited move to Melwood has contributed to Liverpool's impressive revival but there is a feeling within the club there is still plenty of work to do in order to bridge the gap to the top three.

READ MORE: Liverpool willing to break transfer record to secure statement summer signing

READ MORE: Arne Slot already knows Liverpool transfer he has to complete as two exits loom

Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal - the three teams that finished in those spots last season - have all spent heavily in recent years to establish themselves amongst Europe's elite.

In January, champions Chelsea signed Levante striker Mayra Ramirez for a British-record fee of £385,000, while City and Arsenal splashed the cash on Jill Roord and Kyra Cooney-Cross respectively last summer. Matching that level of investment is the only surefire way of challenging the WSL's longstanding top-order - a fact it appears Liverpool's decision makers are now entirely cognisant of.

It emerged on Thursday the club are willing to break their record transfer fee (currently £100,000 for Sophie Roman Haug from AS Roma) to acquire the services of highly-rated Canada international Olivia Smith from Portuguese side Sporting CP.

The ECHO understands Liverpool are hopeful of agreeing a deal for the 19-year-old, who can play as either a forward or an attacking midfielder and has a release clause in the region of £210,000. Certainly, there is much to admire about Smith as a footballer.

She was named both Player of the Year and Young Player of the Season in Liga BPI last term and, in 2019, she became the youngest player to feature for Canada's senior national team at the age of 15 years and 94 days. There is also much to admire about what Smith represents.

Five years on from Liverpool's inglorious relegation to the Championship, Smith is a physical embodiment of the Reds' commitment to doing better. Securing her signature would constitute an enormous statement of intent at a time when the financial landscape of the women's game is shifting seismically in favour of those who have the deepest pockets.

It is no coincidence next term will mark the first season all 12 WSL clubs are backed by a Premier League side. Now, more than ever before, money is starting to talk and a failure to invest handsomely could come at a significant cost. That said, it is understood Liverpool will not seek to perform major surgery on their squad this summer, preferring instead to bring in a handful of quality signings, with an emphasis on bolstering their attacking ranks.

Of the seven players who joined the Reds last summer, six have been - to varying degrees - a success. Defender Grace Fisk finished last season as Liverpool's Players' Player of the Year while midfielder Marie Hobinger was voted Player of the Season by the fans.

Scotland centre-back Jenna Clark and Norway forward Haug have also impressed on Merseyside, while there have been flashes of promise from goalkeeper Teagan Micah and England Under-19 international Mia Enderby. Only Natasha Flint, who joined Celtic on loan in January before securing a permanent move to American side Tampa Bay Sun earlier this month, can be quantified as a bit of a disappointment - and even she chipped in with some goals before her mid-season departure.

There is, then, little need to disrupt the status quo by being overzealous in the transfer market. Liverpool's progress over the past two seasons is thanks in no small part to the foresight and careful consideration of Beard and women’s team managing director Russ Fraser.

The pair work to a three-to-five-year plan and that adherence to a well-devised strategy has paid dividends since Beard's return to the club in 2021. Still, Liverpool cannot afford to rest on their laurels.

Twelve months ago, Manchester United went into the summer off the back of a season in which they took the WSL title race to the final day and reached their first Women's FA Cup final. Fast forward to now and, despite winning the FA Cup back in May, Marc Skinner's side look a shadow of their former selves.

New minority shareholder Sir Jim Ratcliffe's startling ambivalence towards the future of the women's team was clear in an interview he gave to Bloomberg Television earlier this week while several players, including goalkeeper Mary Earps and captain Katie Zelem, are set to leave on free transfers this summer.

They are at risk of becoming a cautionary tale; an exasperating example of what happens when a club relegates their women's team to a supporting role. To a lesser extent, Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur and even Everton have discovered how difficult it is to turn a season of progress into sustained success.

Liverpool will hope to avoid that fate next term and, while Smith can in no way be expected to singlehandedly turn Beard's side into title challengers, her expected arrival suggests the club's hierarchy have learnt from their previous mistakes.

Liverpool, ready for more? It certainly looks that way.