£8.5m? For Reto Ziegler? Both seem unlikely considering the lack of money Liverpool have to spend and reputation that the Swiss international had while he was in England with Spurs and Wigan. A Premier League flop who would cost an arm and the leg just to bring in doesn’t bode for well Liverpool’s transfer prospects this summer, but are we being fair to the 24 year old?
If we look at his early career, Ziegler was certainly a much in demand figure. Back in 2004 when he was with Grasshoppers Zurich, there was big hype over the players ability and the Sporting Director at Tottenham at the time Frank Arnesen moved quickly for the then 18 year old. You would have expected the young Swiss player to struggle initially as he was young and had moved to playing in one of the most demanding leagues in the world, but his first season was surprisingly consistent. Under both Jaques Santini and Martin Jol he played regularly as he chalked up 31 appearances in all competitions.
He actually became a favourite among Spurs fans during his first season as he played in a more advanced role on the left wing, picking out crosses and passing intelligently. He interchanged well with Timothee Atouba on the left hand side, rotating the left back position. He even scored his first goal in senior football in a 5-2 win over Everton on New Year’s Day and his performances in the season were rewarded by a young player of the year award, awarded to him by Tottenham fans.
His Spurs career however nosedived after his first season in the Premier League and he was loaned out to Hamburg for 2005/06 season. He hardly played in his six month spell though and returned to Spurs in January 2006 after Hamburg manager Thomas Doll criticised his poor attitude. Wigan however gave him a chance to finish the season playing first team football and although he started five times, he never impressed and returned to Spurs for the 2006/07 campaign. He rarely featured for the team and he was loaned to Sampdoria half way through the season. It was a move that was made permanent after Gareth Bale was signed by Spurs as an additional left back in the summer of 2007.
Again, Ziegler struggled to settle in Italy and for his first two seasons, he was restricted to substitute appearances but this season, under Luigi Del Neri, he has had a change in fortunes and has been a regular at left back, scoring 2 goals and assisting 5 others, as Sampdoria finished fourth and sealed the last Champions League position. Del Neri has subsequently moved to Juventus as manager and the Old Lady are rumoured to be fighting it out with Fiorentina and Atletico Madrid for the 24 year old’s signature.
According to the Daily Mail, Ziegler is now the subject of interest from Liverpool too, so would he be a good signing? Rafa Benitez has recently been looking at more offensive full backs and no doubt Ziegler fits the bill. Many clubs are looking at Sampdoria’s players after a very successful season but does one good season for Ziegler make him a good player? He certainly showed promise in his first season at Tottenham but that was on the left wing rather than as a left back. Liverpool are looking for defensive solidity and perhaps at 24 years old Ziegler has matured to the stage where he has become a competent defender as well as a midfielder.
Certainly this summer we cannot afford any mistakes in the transfer market with funds as tight as they are and the Reds probably would have to sell players before they bought him anyway. He could well be another John Arne Riise whose attacking abilities were refined into becoming a very safe and reliable full back, who could track back as well as being dangerous in the final third, but he could also be a Andrea Dossena, a flop after moving from Italy who was also very attack minded but less than convincing at the back. As my colleague Alex Hess has mentioned though, although Emiliano Insua is far from the finished product, it maybe more advisable to get a solid experienced player on the left hand side who could not only fill the role expertly in the short term but also take the pressure off Insua and give the Argentine somebody to learn from. Would Ziegler be much different to Insua anyway? Both of a similar age (at 24 for Ziegler and 22 for Insua), they have also had their first season’s playing left back in a top European league.
For me experience and defensive solidity must triumph over youth and attacking flair in this position and the rumoured cost of £8.5m would make the move less than worthwhile for a player who is similar to a player we have already.
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