As rumours over Benitez’s move to Juventus begin to subside, the club can perhaps start planning for the new season. After the disappointment of last season departures will be inevitable. It is a scary thought that the list of realistic departures from one club stretches nearly into double figures. Choose from, Aurelio, Riera, Babel, Benayoun, Aquilani, Gerrard, Torres, Mascherano. It’s been quite a turnaround when Lucas has become one of the only players confident of his place in the team and at the club.
With regards to possible arrivals, much will depend on which players from this list actually do depart the club and the amount of money their sales generate. Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano are, of course, three players that fans certainly don’t want to see leave even for the £100 million plus their sales would amass.
There is, however, a lot of deadwood within the squad which needs to be moved on. Selling these players could potentially raise £10-20 million for Rafa to add to the transfer budget but it is imperative that this money is given back to him rather than to the bank.
The party line this summer has to be quality over quantity. Rafa Benitez has too often spread his annual budget out too thin. Rather than, for example, spending £18 million on three £6 million players, the majority of the whole £18 million should be assigned to one top quality player. Manchester United, in particular, have followed this method, perhaps only buying the one player each summer but a proven player of great talent.
In terms of the positions that need improving, it is clear that the left-back position is one with little to no strength in depth, especially now with the likely departure of Fabio Aurelio. Emiliano Insua was required to play too many games last season and this subsequently affected his form. The young Argentinean showed great promise early in his Liverpool career but has recently been questioned after a long stint in the team where flaws have become evident.
Also evident was the tactic employed by opposing teams, when facing the Reds, to focus on Insua as the team’s weak link where his lack of height and pace is a problem. A proven, experienced international needs to be found if possible. One name to place on any shortlist perhaps is Eric Abidal at Barcelona. Although having suffered a number of injuries recently, the Frenchman has great quality and his price tag may not be out of the Reds reach.
As discussed in an earlier article, Liverpool have failed for a number of years to find the top quality wingers, which the club were famous for. Both the left and right wing positions have been obvious deficiencies within the team, and Benitez has failed to remedy it. Players such as Harry Kewell, Albert Reira, Ryan Babel, Jermaine Pennant, Mark Gonzalez, Sebastian Leto have all been given an opportunity but lacked the quality to make the position their own.
The money invested would have been better spent on just one world-class individual. In comparison with the other top teams Liverpool’s wingers are hugely lacking. When the manager chooses to play Dirk Kuyt, a striker, on the wing over one of the natural wingers, one can see there are problems. David Silva, Juan Mata, Joe Cole and Rafael Van der Vaart would all be welcome signings this summer, providing the pace and creativity that the side lacks. Real Madrid, it appears, will look to sell a number of players, a few of which have the potential to be great buys for Liverpool and are worth taking a look at.
In the striking department, an affordable target may be Carlton Cole from West Ham United, an improving player with the pace and power to be a potentially great foil for Fernando Torres. Adept also in the air and with the added bonus of being English and thus knowing the Premier League, the striker will certainly welcome a second chance at a top four club after his experience with Chelsea. He is a player whose improvement has been dramatic since his time at Stamford Bridge.
The Brazilian Luis Fabiano could be another interesting target, having declared an intention to leave Sevilla this summer. A member of the recently named Brazilian World Cup squad, Fabiano has maintained a consistent level of performance within one of the top leagues in the world. Linked with a number of the world’s biggest clubs, Fabiano has a great goal scoring record, is blessed with great skill and the Brazilian flair to excite the fans. At 29 years old, he is perhaps not the long-term solution to the Reds troubles but will certainly add the quality to the front line if he can adapt to the Premier League at a later stage in his career. In trying to blend a mixture of youth with experienced players this summer, Luis Suarez at Ajax could be another target and is a player with fantastic potential. This may be one player out of the clubs reach until new owners are found but is certainly one worth keeping an eye on.
Until Liverpool are sold, it is hugely difficult to know the calibre of player the Reds will be able to attract and thus business may not be done until relatively late in the window. In the club’s particular situation the World Cup may have come at the right time for the Reds, with transfer activity on the most part suspended until the end of the tournament. If new owners are not found in this time, then the danger is that targets will impress and values will soar. This will rule Liverpool out of the running and the club will once again be forced to settle for the cheaper alternative.
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