Liverpool flop among £157m worth of loanee buy options Premier League clubs must consider

Matt Stead
Liverpool players Mo Salah, Arthur Melo and Curtis Jones

Everton have a couple of loanees to make calls on, Arsenal may recoup a good fee for one outcast and Liverpool cannot possibly keep their worst ever signing.


Ruben Vinagre (Everton, £17m)
Not to p*ss on Ruben Vinagre’s chips, but 24 four Premier League minutes, each of which were confined to August, does rather undermine any prospect of Everton making his loan move permanent.

The Portuguese probably won’t mind. His “dream come true to join a big club” has become a bench-based nightmare watching a relegation battle. Frank Lampard seemed to struggle with the mere concept of Vinagre’s existence aside from a pair of early-round League Cup starts; Sean Dyche has at least named him as an unused substitute in every game since being appointed thus far. That £17m purchase option will not be explored by either party.


Conor Coady (Everton, £4.5m)
There seemed to be a contractual obligation for the value of Everton’s buy option on Liverpool fan Conor Coady to be preceded with a ‘just’ at one point. Paul Merson could not wrap his head around the decision Wolves made to let their captain join a Premier League rival, let alone with no recompense, but it will require just £4.5m to turn it into a more long-term arrangement.

That seems no more or less likely with the change in management. Lampard adored Coady and Dyche has retained his remarkably vocal centre-half partnership with James Tarkowski. The suspicion is that the boss will find someone a bit blockier and more suited to a back four but a seven-figure sum for someone to sort out your dressing room, front up, refer to Everton Football Club and sit at the front of the team bus is sensible money.


Arthur Melo (Liverpool, £32m)
F**k me, he’s still there?!

A genuine candidate for the worst loan in Premier League history from Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool, who were told they needed midfield reinforcement, rejected the idea they needed midfield reinforcement, admitted they needed midfield reinforcement, then reinforced their talented but brittle and injury-prone midfield with the panicked arrival of a talented but brittle and injury-prone midfielder who played 13 minutes of a 4-1 Champions League defeat to Napoli and an hour of a 1-0 EFL Trophy loss to Rochdale before suffering an injury from which he has still not recovered months later. He could genuinely be the worst signing in Liverpool history, all things considered.

It was symptomatic of the pointless, misguided, chaotic nonsense which has come to define the previously infallible recruitment model that underpinned success at Liverpool. Steven Caulker was genuinely a better addition seven years ago and probably still would have been – even as a midfielder – in 2023.


Renan Lodi (Nottingham Forest, £25.4m)
“I don’t want to give him the kiss of death, but he’s in really good form,” said Steve Cooper of Renan Lodi in late January. “He’s one of our own now and we love him. Time is the best ingredient when it comes to improvement.”

The latter part of that statement was an interesting nod towards the sentiment which had been growing in some quarters of the Nottingham Forest fanbase. Many felt that Harry Toffolo was the better option at left-back, with Lodi unfairly favoured because of his experience. But the Atletico Madrid outcast has been a crucial component of their recent improvement and putting £25.4m down on a regular starter in what ought to be a slightly quieter summer – provided they avoid relegation – would be the wise play.


Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Southampton, unknown)
Over the course of 134 career league appearances with five different clubs, Ainsley Maitland-Niles can list Arsene Wenger, Mick McCarthy, Unai Emery, Freddie Ljungberg, Mikel Arteta, Sam Allardyce, Jose Mourinho, Ralph Hasenhuttl and Nathan Jones as his managers. Ruben Selles and Southampton already seem a better fit for the England international than any of those.

Maitland-Niles started four games under Hasenhuttl and five matches under Jones, flitting between defensive midfield to right-back, right-winger and even centre-half. In caretaker charge of the visit to Chelsea, Selles picked the 25-year-old at right-back and was rewarded with a determined, diligent performance as part of a clean sheet win.

Arsenal could welcome Maitland-Niles back from his loan this summer but yet another fresh start seems unlikely at a club which has outgrown the player. It is not known how much Southampton would need to spend to make him theirs for good but they do have the option.


Matias Vina (Bournemouth, £13.6m)
Fourteen substitute minutes is not a sufficient sample size to pass judgement on the success of Matias Vina’s loan move to Bournemouth. The versatile Uruguayan joined during an ambitious January transfer window in which the Cherries committed to more than £75m worth of signings, yet somehow avoided buying anyone from Liverpool. Dango Ouattara, Hamed Traore and Antoine Semenyo have hoarded most of those newcomer minutes.

Bournemouth have already sent £440,000 Roma’s way for Vina, with a further £220,000 due if he plays often enough to activate certain clauses. If at any stage the 25-year-old can find a way past Jordan Zemura and into the starting line-up for a chance to prove his worth, the Serie A giants could be due another £13.6m.


Weston McKennie (Leeds, £30m)
It would take “something strange”, in the words of Phil Hay, for Leeds not to utilise their club-record option on Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie. Relegation would hardly qualify as unusual for a team currently occupying 19th place with a new manager but all being well, their American ranks will be swelled this summer.

McKennie has already settled into the starting line-up at Elland Road, even if his presence alone could not prevent defeats to Man Utd and Everton, with a battling draw at Old Trafford in between. There are claims that a permanent £30m move have been put in jeopardy because of Javi Gracia’s appointment and, more pertinently, Jesse Marsch’s sacking. It is a real shame that only American managers can use American players.


Arnaut Danjuma (Tottenham, £35.2m)
Those associated with Everton might be keen to ask Arnaut Danjuma whether he is still happy with his decision to renege on a winter deal to instead join Tottenham on loan. The forward has played nine minutes of a Champions League defeat to AC Milan, 11 minutes of a Premier League loss to Leicester and 19 goalscoring minutes of an FA Cup victory against Preston.

Less than a half of football in almost a month is unlikely to have persuaded Tottenham that a reported £35.2m option should be considered for a player who has been for various reasons unable to provide a proper counter-argument. Even Danjuma’s inevitable goal on April 3 won’t stop Spurs setting such money aside for more pressing squad needs.