Roy Curtis: Rodgers' latest spending spree is his biggest gamble yet
If we are to paint a picture of Brendan Rodgers today it might be of a frantic figure hurrying to the Vegas slots armed with his last fistful of quarters.
Liverpool’s troubled caretaker is gambling what little remains of his viability at the top of the game on a frenzied summer of spending that seems – to this eye at least – a facsimile of 2014’s calamitous transfer market misadventure.
A year ago Rodgers frittered away the Suarez dividend on a low-key, uninspiring English international, a highly-rated Southampton defender and – most memorably – a wild punt on a striker with disciplinary issues and a decidedly patchy scoring record.
If Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and, of course, Mario Balotelli contributed to anything, it was to the season-long tangle of confusion that by May saw Rodgers pounding the pavements of desperation in search of the last chance café.
Now, having not only located that tea-house for the bewildered but found a further £60m swathed in gift-wrapping, here comes Brendan’s lunge for redemption.
It is to place his future in the hands of a low-key, uninspiring English international, a highly rated Southampton defender and – most significantly – to take a wild punt on a striker with disciplinary issues and a decidedly patchy scoring record.
The costly recruitment of James Milner, Nathaniel Clyne, and, critically, Roberto Firmino suggest in Rodgers a streak of amnesia, a potentially fatal tendency to either forget or, worse again, stubbornly put aside the lessons of the recent past.
Clearly, the Ulsterman believes he has identified a saviour in Firmino.
That he was willing to sign off on a more costly deal than that which brought Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal to secure the largely unproven and, beyond Anorakville, unknown
Brazilian represents a clear crossing of the Rubicon moment in his Anfield career.
If there has been some wildly buoyant predictions of Firmino arriving from the backwater town of Hoffenheim to open the sluice gates of glory in the manner of a reincarnated Suarez, the spectre of Mark Gonzalez looms at least as large.
Here was another South American darling of YouTube whose over-hyped early body of work was exposed when he crashed and burned at Anfield.
Perhaps Rodgers is merely saying that if he goes down it will be by his own hands.
For the second successive summer he has consumed an enormous sum of FSG money without coming close to signing a genuine world class talent.
But it is Firmino by whom the manager – already favourite in most bookies’ lists to be the first casualty of the yet unborn season – will live or die.
With a price-tag just a shade under £30m the 23-year-old has cost Liverpool almost as much as Chelsea speculated on his exiled compatriot Diego Costa.
But where Chelsea secured La Liga’s most proven and pitiless gunslinger, Rodgers has placed the title deeds to his future on promise, on hope, on a wild hunch.
Goals – Liverpool’s Premier League return tumbled by 49 last season – are the oxygen the Liverpool manager can no longer breathe without.
Daniel Sturridge’s eternally brittle health can no longer be played as a get-out-of-jail-free card,
Even Firmino’s fans would concede that the South American’s taste is for something other than the blood that flows through the jugular vein.
Through his career in Brazil and Germany he has averaged just one goal every three appearances.
One in-depth profile of Firmino lists his principal attribute as the “first stealer of balls in Hoffenheim’s pressing system.”
Surely Rodgers has not written a £30m cheque for one of Fagin’s urchins, for nothing more than a pickpocket?
The more positive scouting reports depict the Brazilian as clever, tactically astute, hard-working, a team player and eager to learn (albeit, in a flicker of Balotelli rebelliousness, he has been fined for training ground transgressions), for sure all admirable qualities.
But Liverpool’s search is not for a model citizen, it is for a merciless killing machine. Suarez and Costa are the baddest men in their respective houses, but they come with a blue-chip guarantee of game-changing interventions, of thriving in the most unforgiving theatres.
Firmino is a kid from a mid-table nowhere who all at once has to shoulder all that Kop yearning.
The English game is littered with the charred remains of those roasted on the spit when they could not justify such expectation.
This is what it has come down to for Rodgers: a final coin down the chute, one last yank of the one arm bandit... jackpot or bankruptcy.