Kenny Dalglish said yesterday that a significant new signing would “whet the appetite” at Liverpool and help lift a club still stuck in an on-field malaise, nearly two weeks after his succession from Roy Hodgson.
Negotiations are continuing in an attempt to break the impasse with Ajax, whose valuation of €25m (£21m) for Luis Suarez is £8m more than Liverpool's, and Dalglish, who says that his first acquisition "has got to be someone decent", acknowledged the potential psychological effect of an arrival on players and fans.
"It's important for us as a football club to give the supporters a lift, the players a lift," Dalglish said. "If we can get someone in who will improve what we have, great. Players themselves want competition and they maybe get a lift when a new player comes in. Everybody wants to see fresh faces at the football club, whether you are a player, manager, owner or supporter. It does make a difference. If they can help us, we will do our best to get them in."
Suarez wants to leave Amsterdam, though his arrival would deliver Dalglish with another considerable test of his man-management skills. The 24-year-old is a combustible figure, banned by the Dutch FA in November for seven games for biting an opponent on the shoulder. There is a view among many Liverpool fans that the less desirable traits of the Uruguayan, who is remembered for his unrepentant response to his deliberate handball which helped defeat Ghana in the World Cup quarter-final last summer, are just what a rather diffident squad needs.
When Dalglish took on the Liverpool manager's job for the first time, in 1985, he had Graeme Souness as an "enforcer", and as a player Dalglish operated alongside Jimmy Case, though that kind of quality has diminished since Javier Mascherano's summer departure to Barcelona. "I think there would be a doubt about Jimmy or Souey playing too many minutes nowadays, the way they tackled," Dalglish said, when the point was put to him. "I think the only thing the players have been missing is a bit of confidence. Certainly Javier was a fantastic player. But when people go, you have got to replace them. That's what happens at football clubs. People move in, people move out. You just get on with your life."
That is what Dalglish evidently feels Joe Cole must do. Since arriving on wages of £90,000 a week this summer, the 29-year-old has failed to impress and there was a resonance to the fact that he found himself playing 45 minutes for Liverpool reserves at Hyde United's ground on Wednesday night – nearly a year on from appearing for Chelsea against Internazionale in the Champions League.
Dalglish stressed that Cole, who has started only eight Premier League games and has not featured in any of the new manager's three matches at the helm, is in "the same boat" as any other of the Liverpool players he believes are struggling for confidence. He stressed that Cole's role in the Lancashire Senior Cup quarter-final against Manchester City did not constitute a "punishment", though neither did he offer any sympathy for a player who he feels must seize the opportunity "to impress".
"They are all starting afresh and it is up to them to impress," Dalglish said. "[Cole] will get an opportunity. If they want to play, they have got to impress but, by the way, they've all done as much as they can. Some people look at reserve-team football for first-team players as a punishment but this was a necessity for everybody. If it was a punishment, the players would have been told that."
Though Dalglish sticks resolutely to his line that luck and confidence are what Liverpool lack, there are problems to resolve in all areas of the pitch. The club's interest in Aston Villa's Stephen Warnock, a player Dalglish knows, reflects the fact that Paul Konchesky has far further to travel to convince the manager, but central defence has looked the most vulnerable aspect of the club's play with Martin Skrtel, one of only two ever-presents for the club this season, struggling horribly for form.
"There is no problem with transfers as long as we are responsible," said Dalglish. "We can go and look for players and try to sign them and bring them in. Any time I have been in a transfer market it has been responsible so I will continue to do that and try to spend the club's money as diligently as my own."
Liverpool, who are also understood to maintain an interest in Villa's Ashley Young and Wigan's Charles N'Zogbia, are yet to part company with Ryan Babel, whose move to Hoffenheim has been delayed while the player waits to see if a better offer comes in.
Liverpool have gone six games without keeping a clean sheet – their longest run since October 2007. Their last win away at Wolves, where they play tomorrow, came in April 1979 when Alan Hansen scored the only goal of the game and Dalglish was in the side.