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Have Liverpool lost more than just Sterling with sale of star?

For the second successive season in a row, Liverpool fans have been forced to watch as one of their prize assets has been plucked from their grasp.

All the narrative has so far surrounded Manchester City overpaying for Raheem Sterling’s services and the Reds apparently getting the better deal, but if £49m in this market only gets you a far from polished English winger, who exactly can Liverpool lure with the same funds to replace him?

Rumours of Marco Reus ditching Borussia Dortmund seem fanciful, especially without the all-important Champions League place. As do reports that Brendan Rodgers’ Reds can bring in Alexandre Lacazette if Arsenal are also interested.

Should Liverpool (14/1 chances with Coral to win the Europa League) bag the France international, however, how long would the honeymoon last before, if successful, ‘bigger’ clubs came circling and recent history repeats itself?

Having given in to player pressure and cash temptation, the Liverpudlians have presented themselves with a problem: making themselves appear a rung below the best. Having plundered clubs such as Southampton themselves, bigger fish in the food chain are now picking off the Merseyside men.

Few teams boast more prestigious history than the Reds, but as all that silverware becomes a glimmer in the memory of another generation, dusty medals will do little for them in the present.

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If they are not careful, the Premier League giants will start being viewed as a stepping stone and a selling club, rather than the pinnacle of a footballer’s career, but in truth they have long since ceased to be the latter, though that does not mean they cannot be glorious again.

Luis Suarez was the first genuinely world class player, aside from Steven Gerrard who also flirted once with an Anfield departure, since Fernando Torres, that the Merseysiders could boast.

Suarez and Torres’ departures may have looked like smart business but Liverpool’s subsequent spending was not, and it set an early precedent for Sterling’s own exit. Others like Michael Owen, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano have also come and gone, although the latter two seemed inexplicably undervalued.

The solution is not as simple as the Reds suddenly claiming a trophy. It’s all about perception and, aside from last season’s demoralising debacle, the Reds’ regular absence from Champions League football has dented their prestige as much as wantaway players, while their image has also arguably been tarnished by poor PR choices.

Money speaks, and the Northwest club are caught in somewhat of a vicious circle. They need to win significant silverware to attract the best players, so they can land top sponsorship and TV deals, and consequently offer those stars competitive wages. At the moment they just cannot realistically rival the likes of Manchester City, who can offer trophy chances as well as high salaries.

Of course, City had to start somewhere themselves, and perhaps one marquee transfer could turn the tide and other players’ heads. Currently Philippe Coutinho is Liverpool’s most talented attacker remaining, though perhaps academy graduate Jordan Ibe or summer signing Roberto Firmino could be the next Anfield icon. The Reds will need quick progression on the pitch to retain those ambitious talents, however.

Liverpool (1/3 to finish outside the top four) are not the only Premier League side to have suffered high-profile losses in recent times, as Arsenal and Manchester United have both lost superstars to La Liga and could again, while the Gunners have also been repeatedly raided by the two Manchester clubs.

Arsenal have shown that reputations can be restored, and successive club-record signings plus two FA Cup triumphs on the trot have seen them become a big draw once more, with Man Utd’s high-profile arrivals seeing them immediately bounce back to the continental stage in a similar way.

This season is so crucial for Rodgers’ Reds to close the gap, then, and failure to do so again will see them fall further down players’ preferred pecking order. No pressure.