UNLESS you’ve been living under a rock for the two or three weeks, you will be all too aware that the transfer window officially opened on 1st July. Hence forth, the window eased open and clubs across Europe are able to negotiate and horse-trade, in an attempt to ensure that they capture their targets and bolster their squads for the upcoming season.
The papers and the internet have been awash with rumour for the last month, linking just about every player with just about any club.
Liverpool Football Club are no different and, with our situation this summer i.e: with a new manager and new staff, on the coaching, PR and business sides, we’ve been involved with more than our fair share of rumour, gossip and hypotheses. As ever, some of the talk may be based in fact, most will be downright scurrilous and, while it’s fun and exciting (up to a point) to debate and discuss who may or may not be coming or going, it’s best not to get too caught up in things. Nothing is real until the club announces it officially.
Amongst the many names and faces of players that Liverpool have been associated with is, former Chelsea player, Salomon Kalou. The former Feyenoord man is available on a free transfer from the West London club, after being told that his contract will not be renewed and the Reds, along with Lille and several other clubs, have been strongly touted to sign the man from the Ivory Coast.
Salomon Kalou arrived at Chelsea in the summer of 2006 for £9 million by Jose Mourinho. He came to England after failing repeatedly to be granted Dutch Citizenship despite recommendations by Marco van Basten and Johan Cruyff. Kalou’s desire to play in the Premier League was solidified by his idolisation of former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry, a player whose skills he reportedly tries to perfect in his free time. Mourinho was very impressed with Kalou’s work ethic and praised him, for his versatility, eagerness to improve and for being comfortable with the physical side of the game.
For Kalou himself, his transfer to Chelsea was something more than he could ever have imagined and the following quote shows more than a touch of humility.
“This was the dream moment of my life and I did not want to wake up and find that it was not real.”
Under Jose Mourinho, Kalou began life at Chelsea brightly featuring regularly for the Blues in the second half of the 06/07 season and becoming a regular Premier League starter the following year. After Mourinho’s departure, Kalou remained a firm fixture in Avram Grant’s side which came oh so close to winning three competitions, yet missed out on all of them. Kalou played an integral part in that “nearly season”, weighing in with important goals and frequent assists. In fact, you may remember, that it was Kalou’s cross in injury time at Anfield which led to Jon Arne Riise’s own goal in the Champions’ League semi-final first-leg that year.
Since then, Kalou has been in and out, suffering at the whims of the numerous managers that have passed through the changing room doors at Stamford Bridge over the last three or four seasons. Not fancied by Scolari, Kalou was recalled to the side and became a firm favourite of then interim manager Guus Hiddink. Regularly used by Ancelotti , the Italian brought him in from his wide berth and used him more in tandem with Didier Drogba, a move which worked well with Kalou bagging 15 goals in 31 appearances during one stretch. The arrival of Torres made it more difficult to maintain a starting place and when AVB arrived at the club last summer Kalou was frozen out almost completely, making only four starts in seven months.
Roberto di Matteo’s appointment as interim manager re-ignited Kalou’s stop-start Chelsea career once more and, enthused with the confidence shown in him by the Italian, Kalou played a starring role in the Blues’ remarkable turnaround during the second half of last season, scoring a vital goal, against Benfica, away in Lisbon in the Champions League knock-out stages. Despite this upturn in his fortunes at Chelsea, both parties have agreed that the player will be released from the club officially on June 30th.
So, would Liverpool FC benefit from signing Salomon Kalou? There are several things to consider here. First-up, Liverpool need bodies. With a small squad already, shown up by injuries last year, the Reds are in need of bolstering their numbers. Kalou is a hard-working player, not afraid to get stuck in, gives a hundred per cent and, whilst not necessarily a “world-beater”, a more than decent Premier League standard player with over 250 appearances for Chelsea and great European experience to boot.
Second thing to think about, do we need to replace Dirk Kuyt? Our very own hard-working, striker come right midfielder left Merseyside for the last time at the end of last season and set sail for the shores of the Bosphorus to join Fenerbahce. He will be sorely missed, but there is an argument, a fairly convincing one at that, that Kalou would be the ideal replacement. Capable both as a striker and a wide player, Kalou actually partnered Kuyt when they were together at Feyenoord. As a double act they were known as K2 as, though very similar in ways, they formed a potent attacking combination.
Third point to consider, would Kalou fit into a Brendan Rodgers style team? It has been proven that Kalou is versatile having played in several positions during his time at Chelsea, so on that aspect he would suit Rodgers. The Northern Irishman is known to favour playing with a front three, more often than not, and Kalou has had plenty of experience of that at Chelsea having played from the right and the left and, very occasionally, through the middle when they employed a 4-3-3 system. Brendan Rodgers likes to “educate”, Kalou has a reputation for wanting to learn and for humility, other key attributes. Hard work and the will to put it in, a philosophy that the new boss lives by, is also one of Kalou’s major assets; add to that pace and strength and you’d have to say that all round, Kalou certainly ticks all the boxes.
So, why are Chelsea willing to let him go? The truth is, it has been on the cards for a while. Kalou has always been the “third man” at Chelsea, never as glamorous as a Drogba or an Anelka, without the high profile of a Shevchenko or a Torres and, as such, has become fed up of being shunted around and underappreciated by a host of bosses. He made this decision during last season apparently and, at 26 it seems that it’s the perfect time to move on.
Liverpool have been burnt by free transfers before. Either they come in with big reputations and fall flat or they seem to have recurring injury nightmares which blight their stays at Anfield. Degen, Zenden, Jovanovic, Joe Cole, Pelligrino and Voronin, from recent years, all fall in to one or other of those categories and some, the likes of Joe Cole in particular end up costing the club a fortune while contributing next to nothing (although that may change for Cole this season, we’ll have to wait and see).
However it’s easy to forget that we have had some luck with freebies down the last few years. Maxi, for example, came on a free from Athletico Madrid and has become a cult hero and fan favourite at Anfield during his time at the club. Doni arrived on a free not long ago and, although he’s not had too much football, looks like a decent capture, whilst Craig Bellamy and Fabio Aurelio (the first time) are both examples of players who’ve come for nothing and proved their worth, even if injuries got the better of Aurelio in the end.
Whether the Kalou to Liverpool link has any actual substance to it remains to be seen. As I’ve said, there’s so much rumour around at this time of year that it’s impossible to tell fact from fiction sometimes. However, if it doesn’t it probably should and if it does, then I would support a move for the attacker. His overall stats at Chelsea show that he averaged a goal roughly every four Premier League games, often playing from wide and this ratio improved when playing under managers who valued him and utilised his strengths correctly and he always contributed plenty of assists.
Lille are reportedly highly interested too and PSG, under former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti, could weigh in with an offer before the story ends. Whilst Lille won’t necessarily have too much to offer in the way of wages, PSG certainly will, but with the lack of a transfer fee and Kalou being of prime age for a footballer, Liverpool should also have the capacity to make the player an attractive offer. A move to France for Champions League football may just tempt the former Chelsea man to leave England, however, with a lifetime ambition to emulate some of the success that his idol Thierry Henry had in the Premier League, a move to a club like Liverpool may hold more sway.
You can catch Neil on Twitter @Neil1980 or on his blog http://itsallinthegameblog.wordpress.com/
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