IAN AYRE insists Liverpool’s transfer strategy won’t prevent manager Brendan Rodgers from adding experience to his squad.
The Reds operate a policy with the emphasis on signing players under the age of 24 - but the managing director says it’s not “set in stone” and exceptions will be made.
Owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) want to invest in youth to build for the long-term and that is reflected in the business which has been done since Rodgers was appointed last summer.
Fabio Borini (21), Joe Allen (22), Samed Yesil (18) and Daniel Sturridge (23) all fit that profile.
Loan signing Nuri Sahin, whose stay was cut short last week, is 23 and the oldest player to have been brought in was Oussama Assaidi, who celebrated his 24th birthday two days before his arrival.
Skipper Steven Gerrard has questioned the wisdom of turning your back on more senior professionals – citing the example of former Scotland midfielder Gary McAllister, who made a big impact at Anfield after joining on a free transfer at the age of 35 in 2000.
Ayre believes the Reds are right to focus their attention on emerging talent but stresses players over 24 are not off limits.
Ayre told the Echo: “If you remember back to the sale of the club, John Henry said we want to win but we don’t just want to win once, we want to build something which keeps winning.
“If we’re going to do that then we need to do it from the ground up with young players, so that when you start winning you have still got the majority of that group to keep contributing over a period of time.
“It’s not a policy which is set in stone but it’s an aspiration. If we feel there’s a particular position or player who can contribute to the group and is over that sort of age limit, it doesn’t mean we won’t consider that player.
“As everyone saw in the summer we renewed deals with many of our senior player. So experience is vital and we will consider more experienced players where it makes sense.
“But where a player is younger and talented with the right level of ability, we will always go for the younger option because it’s a better long term investment for the club to have someone who will be here a long time hopefully.”
At the end of the summer transfer window FSG refused to meet Fulham’s £6million valuation of 29-year-old Clint Dempsey due to his age and lack of resale value. The American international ended up signing for Tottenham.
With Andy Carroll having already departed on a season-long loan to West Ham, Rodgers was left desperately short of firepower for the first half of the campaign.
That gaping hole in the squad was belatedly filled with the £12million signing of striker Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea earlier this month.
Ayre, who is responsible for conducting transfer negotiations, has no regrets about the Reds’ inactivity on deadline day last August.
“The issue then came down to a particular deal and a particular price or structure to that deal. It wasn’t right to do it,” he said.
“Likewise the interest in certain other players wasn’t right. Sometimes you have to be stronger for the greater good.
“People may feel they want to criticise the fact we didn’t have an additional striker. But at what price would you sacrifice spending for something that is not in the long term interests of the club versus what we just did, which was getting a great price on a great player in Daniel Sturridge?
“If we had spent that money in the summer then we wouldn’t have done that trade recently.
“It may have left us short, but the pieces just did not come together. We’ve come through that period now. I still feel it was the right decision.”
The contribution of Robin van Persie for Manchester United this term has highlighted the instant benefits of buying someone at the peak of his powers.
The 29-year-old Dutchman has already plundered 21 goals following his £24million move from Arsenal.
At the end of his four-year contract his value will be minimal but by then he’s likely to have repaid that fee several times over.
“Absolutely, but if you look at the United team they have a very established group and have added a very experienced player to that,” Ayre added.
“What we are doing is that we are building something. But if the right more senior player became available and was the right person to contribute - and the manager made that point strongly - we would definitely consider it.”
The danger with building for the long-term is that Liverpool’s established players who crave a return to the Champions League could become impatient and consider their futures.
With the likes of Luis Suarez, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel having all penned new deals in the past six months, Ayre is confident that won’t happen.
However, the Reds’ MD admits that as a club they must continue to convince them that they can achieve their ambitions by staying at Anfield.
“Of course we have to progress to be able to hang on to our world class talent,” added Ayre. “But we wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t think we would progress.
“You need to have a mix in your squad and we have probably got the best balance in terms of any team in the league.
“Our two most senior players have spent their whole careers at this football club. At the lower end we have a bunch of five or six very young players who have come through our Academy process and are now contributing for the first team.
“Then in the middle of that we’ve got world class international players like Luis Suarez, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Glen Johnson, Pepe Reina and Lucas Leiva etc. That’s the right mix I think.
“We’ve got people who understand what this club really means and have enjoyed success here. We’ve got young players breaking through, learning and getting experience from them.
“Then we’ve got international players like Luis Suarez who could be playing anywhere in the world – but he’s playing at Liverpool FC.
“We will continue to add to the group and improve it. Daniel Sturridge signed recently and has made an immediate impact.
“We may or may not add to that further before the end of January. That’s something we’re still working on and considering. We will only buy when the right deal is there at the right time.”