When Philippe Coutinho left Liverpool in January 2018, supporters feared the club had taken a significant backwards step in their pursuit of Premier League glory.
Two and a half years later and Liverpool are Premier League champions for the first time, while Coutinho’s career remains in limbo after an unspectacular loan move to Bayern Munich.
While celebrating the Reds’ league triumph on Wednesday evening, club legend Graeme Souness identified Liverpool’s use of the windfall received from Barcelona for Coutinho as the best piece of business in the club’s history.
After Coutinho left Merseyside, Liverpool invested the money in two players who shored up their previously unreliable defence.
Towering centre-half Virgil van Dijk arrived just as Coutinho was departing, while goalkeeper Alisson Becker followed six months later.
And Souness believes that Liverpool’s business in that period represents the greatest deal the club ever pulled off.
“The secret of consistency is driven by the manager,” Souness said on Sky Sports, as transcribed by Liverpool Echo.
“I never get fed up of saying this, you can’t be successful unless you have good senior pros. I think the senior pros are driving that consistency.
“‘We can’t drop our standards’, as well as the manager. In terms of recruitment, it’s still the single biggest thing you have to get right at a football club.
“If you’re recruiting well, you’re getting leaders, you’re getting player who are talented, you get the right players in your club.
“That self-perpetuates itself to the marvellous team we have here. I seem to finish every sentence with ‘this team isn’t going anywhere, this team won’t be beaten for a while’.
“When you say what’s the most important signing, I think you can look back to when Liverpool went from a good team to a great team.
“They sold Coutinho and got £160million or whatever it was, they got Alisson and they got Van Dijk and still had change left over.
“That’s got to be the best business this club has ever done.”