If you believe the transfer speculation, it hasn't been a good week for Liverpool as they continue to plot a midfield revamp this summer.
Set to miss out on Champions League qualification after a difficult season, the Reds have ultimately found themselves navigating a transitional campaign with an ageing squad. Having overhauled their attack over the past 18 months, their engine-room was always going to be club bosses' next priority.
With Thiago Alcantara the last senior midfielder to arrive at Anfield, back in September 2021, it has been widely agreed that Liverpool's decision not to strengthen their engine-room last summer was the wrong one. And with James Milner, Naby Keita, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all departing the club at the end of their contracts this summer, the club's need for new bodies is now even more obvious.
Yet Liverpool's plans have seemingly been hit by setback after setback. Newly-appointed sporting director Julian Ward announced he would leave the club at the end of the campaign, calling time on his reign as Michael Edwards' successor after just one season.
While the Reds showed faith in their current midfield options this year, they were rewarded with a succession of injuries and declining individual form. On the verge of missing out on the Champions League qualification as a result, the club will miss out on the accompanying riches also in a further dent to their transfer plans.
Meanwhile, their struggles this year have already seen Liverpool withdraw from the race to sign Jude Bellingham, having previously made the long-standing target a transfer priority. With it believed his unavailability on the market last summer was a leading reason why the Reds decided against signing a midfielder at the time in favour of waiting it out for the England international only rubs salt in the wounds.
The club ultimately decided that their engine-room struggles required a number of quality new arrivals rather than just one marquee signing. In truth, such a stance is understandable.
But this change of path hasn't been without its own hurdles as the knock-on effect of no Champions League football continues to stare Liverpool in the face.
Alexis Mac Allister, Mason Mount, and Ryan Gravenberch are believed to be three names at the top of the Reds' wanted list. However, this week alone reports have claimed Man City have joined the race for the Brighton & Hove Albion man, while the Chelsea midfielder favours a move to Manchester United over Liverpool if he can't agree a new deal at Stamford Bridge.
However, given the uncertainty on the Reds side of Merseyside in recent months, Liverpool's list of potential midfield signings has been longer than usual as the club prepared for a variety of scenarios. In turn, they will have transfer alternatives up their sleeve if needed.
Of course, supporters will understandably be left exasperated should the Reds be required to turn to their next wave of targets, if they miss out on Mac Allister, Mount, and Gravenberch after already stepping back from Bellingham.
It is worth noting that Liverpool have at least had success in the past when not signing their first-choice transfer targets. Sadio Mane, Gini Wijnaldum, Andy Robertson, and Diogo Jota were sought after the Reds failed in pursuits of the likes of Alex Teixeira, Mario Gotze, Piotr Zielinski, Ben Chilwell, and Timo Werner.
Meanwhile, Liverpool actually missed out on three players before eventually settling on Mohamed Salah in the summer of 2017.
Having first missed out on the Egyptian in January 2014, the Reds eventually landed him from AS Roma for an initial PS36.9m. Yet the club's recruitment team had to persuade Jurgen Klopp that the forward was the man for Liverpool, after they missed out on Christian Pulisic, Julian Draxler, and Julian Brandt.
At the time, The Times reported that: "Klopp has conceded that it was Dave Fallows, head of scouting and recruitment, Barry Hunter, the chief scout, and Michael Edwards, the sporting director, whose background checks extended to spying missions at training camps as well as matches, who constantly pushed his case."
While Edwards left Liverpool last summer, Fallows and Hunter are still key men behind the scenes and will be central to their upcoming transfer business as the club prepares to bring in Jorg Schmadtke on a short-term basis to replace Ward. As a result, the Reds still have the right men in place who can usually be trusted to find the right alternative signings, even after a number of rebuttals.
With Salah going on to win every major trophy on offer to him at Anfield, scoring 186 goals and counting along the way, the Egyptian will go down as one of Liverpool's greatest-ever players. Not bad for a fourth-choice transfer target.
Now the Reds can only hope they strike such gold once again, should they be forced to dive deeper into their midfield transfer longlist in the weeks and months ahead. Their interest in Mac Allister, Mount, and Gravenberch isn't over yet, but it always helps to have a back-up plan.