Plenty of real change has already taken place during the summer and, with the transfer window remaining open until August 31st, we can expect many more arrivals and departures before squads are settled for the first half of the new season.
Liverpool Football Club are beginning this campaign in what has become a somewhat familiar position over the past few years; with a new manager.
Brendan Rodgers has been in the job for just over two months now and, after impressing most with his handling of the media and the words that he has used, his vision for the new era will soon be put to the test.
There are already rumblings of discontent amongst some Liverpool fans. They perceive the club as being too slow in the transfer market by not acting quickly enough to secure their supposed “targets”, therefore putting the team at risk of having another mediocre year in the Premier League. Not only that, but also as the days draw on and the deadline nears, the number of experienced players that the club has allowed to leave is also becoming a bone of contention for a section of fans.
It is true that at the time of writing, Rodgers and Liverpool have only managed to secure one major new signing, Fabio Borini. It is also true that Liverpool have dispensed with the services of five more senior plays from the squad, Kuyt, Maxi, Fabio Aurelio, Bellamy and Aquilani. A move away for Andy Carroll has been mooted in the last few weeks and Twitter is up in arms about the possibility of Daniel Agger leaving the club.
If we look at those players who have definitely already left the club individually, whilst they were no doubt high quality players with a wealth of experience amongst them, we can certainly see why they have been moved on.
Dirk Kuyt was a fantastic servant to the club. Signed by Rafa Benitez as a striker after scoring 71 league goals in 101 games for Feyenoord, Kuyt went on to score over 50 league goals for the Reds in his six years at Anfield. Despite struggling to hit top form as a main goal-scorer, Kuyt adapted well to a right-midfield berth, chipped in with some crucial goals and, despite not being the most naturally gifted player, more than made up for any shortcomings with his fantastic attitude, game intelligence and commitment.
That said, Kuyt’s form had dropped off, his best years in a Reds’ shirt were behind him, a fact that can be seen by his limited starting opportunities and poor goal return last season. At thirty one years old and reportedly on wages of over £85,000 a week, it seems like sensible business to have let him go to Fenerbahce for his £1m release clause.
Maxi Rodriguez is another who was allowed to leave, for slightly different reasons perhaps, although many factors overlap with Kuyt. Signed on a free in 2010 from Atletico Madrid, Maxi brought with him true world class experience, having played at two World Cups for Argentina. Successive managers at LFC were, however, unsure of how to deploy the Argentine as he wasn’t blessed with great pace in his position. This resulted in Maxi only making 57 league appearances for the Reds over the following two and a half years.
He became a cult hero for Liverpool fans because of his assured touch and his uncanny ability to pop-up unmarked at the back post to score goals. However after 17 goals and 73 appearances in a Reds shirt, Maxi wanted to return home to finish his career and a deal was struck with his first club, Newells Old Boys. At 30 years old, having enjoyed limited first team appearances, with wages similar to that of Kuyt and a desire to return home, it would appear that it was wise for LFC and Rodgers to get Maxi off the payroll in a deal that ultimately suited everybody.
For Kuyt and Maxi, the old Paisley adage of letting your senior players lose their legs on somebody else’s grass has, to a certain extent, been followed. Only time will tell if it was a wise decision, but it seems likely to be.
Fabio Aurelio was a fantastic player when Rafa Benitez signed him. A Brazilian left-back with a wonderful left-foot and the ability to get up and down the flanks, as well as being a dead-ball wizard. Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that he was not the most robust of defenders and the injuries came thick and fast. Originally released by the club due to his injury problems, Roy Hodgson re-signed him – a bizarre decision and one that should never have been taken.
Aurelio made just 87 appearances for the Anfield club in six seasons, a sign of his constant injury lay-offs. He has since returned to Brazil to join Gremio but has been ruled out for the forthcoming season after sustaining ruptured knee ligaments. Another high-earner who, through no fault of his own, couldn’t contribute any further to the LFC cause and, as this latest injury has proved, would have been unlikely to do so in the future.
Alberto Aquilani then; this is a strange one. Signed by Benitez as some kind of replacement for Xabi Alonso, the Italian arrived at Anfield with an injury that kept him out until well into November of his debut season. Aquilani played 26 times for the Reds in that campaign, including a M.o.M. performance vs Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Cup semi-final, however, following Benitez’s dismissal Hodgson sent him to Juventus on loan.
That’s where the mystery begins. He played well at Juve, with a passing accuracy of 80% he was the third best in Serie A, however, the Italians refused to sign him permanently, apparently unwilling to pay the £14m fee. He returned to Liverpool and was sent on loan again, this time to Milan, where again, after playing just shy of the requisite number of games needed to activate the buy-out clause, Milan sent him back to Liverpool. He has since been moved on to Fiorentina for an undisclosed fee.
Taking a look at who’s left the club and why, it would seem to me that the club and Rodgers have made wise choices and been decisive in what they’ve done. Yes they’ve let some quality go, no doubt, but these players were on the fringes, offering little to the club at its current point. People talk about having a good squad and strength in depth, which of course is necessary, but four of the top earners at the club should not be bench-warmers, I’m sure you’ll agree. Freeing up such a large amount from the wage bill (roughly £350k a week) means that the club can re-invest the money, tying down its biggest assets, ie Luis Suarez (as has now been done) and bringing in more players, at a better age, on lower wages to bolster numbers.
As mentioned above, Bellamy is on his way back to Cardiff. Much as I like Bellamy as a player and as an influence, if he wishes to help his hometown club reach the Premier League then so be it. It was clear last year that, despite his ample contribution to the side, he couldn’t play too many games and, more than likely, would not have been guaranteed first team football under Rodgers. He wished to leave to be nearer his family, and we shouldn’t begrudge him that.
Andy Carroll has been linked with Newcastle and West Ham, however the striker has ruled out a move away from LFC and things have gone quiet on that front. Liverpool will reportedly only accept £20m or more for the 6ft 4” Geordie and, now that the Hammers have been blown out of the water, it seems that any further bid from Newcastle could be left until deadline day. I think Carroll can work in Rodgers’ system and would be behind him staying at the club. However if Rodgers decides he’d rather have the money and a bid of £20m comes in, then I’d have to support the manager as he knows the situation better than I do and £20m is a lot of money for a striker who hasn’t yet fired.
Carrying on from the last point, Twitter is going mad over a proposed bid from Manchester City to take Daniel Agger to Eastlands. Liverpool’s quoted asking price of £25m is believed to have already scared off Barcelona, however City are expected to make another approach. Again here I’m philosophical. Agger says he does not want to leave and he doesn’t appear to be a player motivated by money. He has stated his pride and love for the club on many occasions and at the same time, whilst Rodgers has said that “every player has a price”, I don’t interpret that as being a sign of Agger’s imminent departure.
Rodgers has also said that he is not in a position where he is being forced to move anybody out and that Agger is a player that he’d love to keep, so there is nothing really to suggest that Agger wants to move, nor that Rodgers wishes him to go, especially to a rival club. If, on the other hand City bid in excess of £25m for him, and Agger decides that a move might be favourable, then I’d have to concede that selling would be in the club’s best interests, provided the money can all be re-invested in the squad.
Agger’s age and injury record mean that he will never command a transfer fee like this again, however, there is an argument to say that the worst of his injury problems are behind him and that he can now be relied upon to play a full season. Nobody at the club (I would hope anyway) would force Agger out so if a bid was accepted, as West Ham’s reportedly was for Carroll, in the end it would be up to the player to accept or reject the move.
To sum up on these last two players, who have been heavily involved in the media merry go round this summer: I don’t wish either to be sold, however, if it happens it will be down to the players themselves. Worst case scenario and both are moved on, then recouping £45m for the pair of them could work in the club’s favour in terms of strengthening the squad long-term. They are big players I know, especially Agger, however, many clubs (including Liverpool) have sold big players before and come back stronger.
So rumour aside, at this stage the club has let five players go and has brought one in. All five that have gone were on large wages, two were on the fringes, two were practically write-offs (Aurelio & Aquilani) and all were over the age of twenty-eight. Conversely, Rodgers first signing Fabio Borini played 24 league games for Roma last season scoring 9 goals, is 21 years old, is a current Italian international and has signed a contract believed to be worth around £30k a week. Good business! Jonjo Shelvey and Luis Suarez have both signed new long-term contracts which will keep them at the club and Martin Skrtel is likely to do so in the coming days. All these things bode well for the health and the future of Liverpool Football Club.
What about other arrivals though? Well, Joe Allen we know about and have done for a long time. I wrote a piece on Allen for live4liverpool.com explaining why he is a must buy for the club, especially for the new system, which is likely to comprise of three central midfielders, with complimentary attributes, playing almost in a vertical line through the middle. The transfer has rolled on as Swansea looked to raise the price ever higher. The player’s release clause has now been met and will join up with the Reds imminently.
Clint Dempsey is another target that most of us know about. The American has been ordered to train on his own after opting out of Fulham’s pre-season tour (causing a heated argument with Martin Jol) and has become a full blown contract rebel, with his current club refusing to lower their £10m valuation.
Dempsey is important because he can play across the front three or in the Steven Gerrard position, as the furthest advanced of the midfield three, just in behind the attack. Like Allen his versatility and prowess in numerous positions are major factors in Rodgers desire to sign the American. Sources again seem confident that a deal will be struck as both Dempsey and Liverpool remain dead-set on making the move happen. Reports that Charlie Adam may go the other way in any deal are gathering credence, although just what the final terms may be are anyone’s guess.
In recent days Nuri Sahin from Real Madrid and Tello from Barcelona have been linked heavily with moves to the club. Liverpool have of course been linked with many players but these two hold more weight than many others, as normally reliable sources have confirmed the legitimacy of LFCs interest. It is believed that Tello may arrive on loan with an option to buy and that Sahin may be signed, but with a buy-back clause written into his contract.
Many will be upset and worried by the impermanence of such deals but it is worth remembering that acquiring a player on loan can be good for all involved. Players wish to showcase their talents for a permanent move or for first team football at their parent club, so they apply themselves fully. As far as LFC are concerned, the club is in a big transition period and Rodgers isn’t going to be able to do it all this summer, so bringing in players on a temporary basis, provided they are good enough, buys time until next summer when the next phase can begin. Added to which, if a loan goes well for a player at a club, then a deal is likely to be struck and if it doesn’t, the player can be sent back. We’ve seen it backfire on us twice with Aquilani, it’s about time Liverpool were on the right side of such an agreement.
On the whole, I don’t think there is any need to be unduly concerned about what has happened this summer yet. Yes, things may be moving slowly but very often it isn’t until the last week of the window that the real action happens. The middle of the window is not the best time to negotiate good deals, there’s no pressure on any party to get the deal done and if anything, at this time, it’s a seller’s market.
I would certainly expect to see the club sign Dempsey, Allen and one or two more before August 31st and I’m not too concerned by the players that have left the club, provided reinforcements come in time. Bellamy has left for family reasons but I am hopeful that he is the final departure. Now is not the time to panic, to question perhaps, but not to panic. Let us wait and see what the next few weeks have in store and then assess things come August 31st. This is undoubtedly a big three weeks for everybody involved at the club, in terms of whether they’re steering the ship in the right direction; let’s not judge things prematurely, everything takes time.
You can catch Neil on Twitter @Neil1980 or on his blog http://itsallinthegameblog.wordpress.com/