On this day back in 2014, English midfielder Adam Lallana signed for Liverpool Football Club from Southampton for a fee of £25m.
I remember seeing the headline that we’d just spent the first of what was essentially the Luis Suarez money and signed Lallana from Southampton for £25m.
2014/15: A false start
I was genuinely ecstatic at the time.
He’d had a superb season for Southampton in 2013/14 and had been crowned both their Player’s Player and Player of the Year while also making the six man shortlist for the coveted PFA Player of the Year award.
Add to that he had been their captain for the entirety of Southampton’s Premier League stay at that point, promising to add leadership to the squad as well as goals, assists and flair.
You can imagine my disappointment then, when he was struck down with injury practically as soon as he arrived.
The Englishman was ruled out at the tail-end of July, missing the start of the Premier League season and not featuring until Liverpool’s 1-0 loss to Aston Villa in September when he replaced Raheem Sterling on the hour mark.
Needless to say, his Liverpool career did not get off to a flying start.
The Englishman was utilised predominantly in wide positions under Brendan Rodgers and despite the occasional sparkle, struggled to make an impact during a season that can only be defined by terms such as ‘underwhelming’ and ‘disappointing’ for both Lallana and Liverpool as a whole.
For an attacking midfielder to finish the season with just 5 goals and 3 assists was unacceptable and Lallana knew it.
2015/16: A tale of two halves
Unfortunately for Lallana the 2015/16 season started with much the same. He failed to break into the first team as a regular in Brendan Rodgers faltering Liverpool vision, being resigned to Europa League and League Cup appearances.
He performed well, scoring twice in the Europa League but his Premier League minutes were seriously limited.
One of the defining images of Klopp’s first partial campaign as Liverpool manager was Lallana collapsing into his new manager’s arms when substituted late on against Spurs in the German’s Liverpool managerial debut.
Lallana would become an ever-present in Klopp’s preferred starting XIs with his tireless running, quick feet and game intelligence all highly revered by the German but the same old problems remained. Despite his energy, pressing ability and constant willingness to give his all for the team, his end product was non-existent.
Lallana did not register a Premier League goal until January.
The 5-4 win at Norwich essentially reignited the Englishman’s Liverpool career and he’s been on an upward curve ever since. Coming on as a second half substitute, Liverpool had fought hard to reverse a 3-1 deficit and turn it into a 4-4 draw.
With practically the last kick of the game, Lallana thumped a left footed volley into the far corner, sealing a dramatic late 5-4 victory and sparking celebrations that bordered on the ridiculous.
This was what Jürgen Klopp football is all about and Lallana had encapsulated it perfectly.
The next four months saw Lallana take up a regular role on the right hand side of Klopp’s 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-2-1 variants.
There was also a steady but noticeable increase in Lallana’s output, with goals against Manchester City, Sunderland, Newcastle and Villarreal showcasing his fast improving positional sense and providing an indicator of things to come.
2016/17: Turning it around
The 2016/17 season saw Klopp redefine Lallana as a footballer superbly and shift him into a central midfield role.
At first, this move was questioned by many. Lallana was previously recognised as a player who operated as a number 10 or right-sided attacker but the Englishman’s pressing game, intelligent movement, quick feet and newfound finishing touch all quickly saw him recognised as one of the Premier League’s best midfielders.
7 goals and 7 assists by the New Year tells you all you need to know about how quickly Lallana took to his new role and while his output would slow down dramatically during the second half of the season, this was as much to do with constant positional changes, injury interruptions and fatigue as it was anything else.
There were certainly still moments of frustration from Lallana – the most evident being his late miss against Manchester City at the Etihad – but the Englishman had such a fantastic season on a whole that it is hard to begrudge him for one or two errors.
Liverpool’s number 20 finished the season in the same classy style he had on the opening day, with a goalscoring performance against Middlesbrough capping off the 3-0 victory that sealed the club’s top four finish.
His eighth strike of the campaign was a fitting end to a career-redefining season, which saw Lallana go from an important part of Klopp’s squad, to one of the first names on his manager’s team sheet every single week.