For Liverpool fans the depressing thought is that it’s most likely to be the latter, certainly until the two cowboys from across the pond disappear over the horizon.
The club currently have their hands tied in the transfer market until this situation is resolved and the management team are thus able to know what funds are going to be in place for squad strengthening.
Are the Americans actually going to allocate funds now for new players when they are planning to sell-up? In all honesty, you can argue it matters little. Since their arrival in February 2007, you’d be hard pushed to find a time when they have actually dipped into their own, albeit now shallow, pockets to fund the signing of a new recruit.
The soon-to-be-announced signing of Danny Wilson, a surprise at this early stage of the summer, will no doubt be due in part to another £4 million loan from the banks.
However, if the prayers of Liverpool fans are answered, myself included, and new responsible owners are found within the next few weeks, importantly with plenty of money, then who will Liverpool have their eye on?
As became obvious during the last campaign, Liverpool are frighteningly short in the attacking department for a so-called top four club. Liverpool, perhaps surprisingly, only conceded 35 goals in the Premier League last season, compared to title winners Chelsea’s 32 goals. In goals scored however, Liverpool paled in comparison, 61 goals to Chelsea’s 103.
The Red’s attacking players simply did not contribute enough or, more accurately, the squad does not have the required strength to back them up. The only striker of note on the books is Fernando Torres. Many would argue, Dirk Kuyt could be included in this list also. However, so long now has he been removed from the striker’s berth and made to play on the right-side of midfield, that at times it appears as if he has forgotten how to be a striker, reluctant to take the initiative and instead preferring to look to team-mates.
Although a dangerous policy, but one most football fans like to adopt, is to take a look at the current internet YouTube videos available showcasing the skills of any new signings. I invite you all to take a peek at the Dirk Kuyt compilation pieces from his time at Feyenoord. Where has that player gone…? In fairness to Kuyt, he has contributed very important goals at times and many fans are reluctant to judge him too harshly because of his tireless work-rate and obvious devotion to the shirt. Compare him to fellow Dutchman Ryan Babel and the chasm is huge.
A central cause behind the potential downfall of Rafa Benitez has been his disregard of the forward positions, when it was obvious to all supporters before the season began that it was a massive risk to enter into it with only one fully recognised, experienced striker. Benitez argued we were in good hands as Voronin was to return from his loan spell at Hertha Berlin. We breathed a collective sigh of relief. The joy………
When that ‘saviour’ didn’t work out we were once again straining to see where the goals were going to come from and praying Torres enjoyed an injury free campaign. As one might have guessed, Torres and the treatment table became as strong a partnership as Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish. One can only imagine how the season may have changed had Torres been fit but this is part of football. Clubs of the size and stature of Liverpool should have players to fill the void for the time necessary.
The last couple of years have seen strikers such as Peter Crouch, Craig Bellamy and Robbie Keane exit Anfield. Even harder to stomach for the Liverpool fans is that both Crouch and Bellamy are playing fantastically well, and in teams which finished above Liverpool. Of course hindsight is a wonderful thing and Bellamy, in truth, certainly didn’t swing into life during his time at Anfield, except in a certain golf club incident involving John Arne Riise…
Whilst Benitez can possibly be forgiven for allowing them to move on, Crouch had publicly declared his preference to leave, Rafa had to make sure he replaced the players with ones of equal or better quality. David Ngog and Nabil El Zhar were not what fans had in mind. Compare that to the Spurs quartet of Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch, Roman Pavlychenko, Eidur Gudjohnsen and City’s Carlos Tevez, Craig Bellamy, Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz and it’s easy to spot one reason why Liverpool have fallen so short. Both opposing forward lines have been built with a great amount of money it must be noted, but there are surely better and certainly more experienced players available than Ngog and El Zhar, aged 21 and 23 respectively.
In a perfect world, we all can only dream of a signing in the form of David Villa. We must all accept, however, this is never going to happen. Perhaps more achievable targets are Villa’s Valencia team-mates David Silva or Juan Mata. Although both players are not standard strikers, they are forward thinking and creative, adding the craft that Liverpool obviously lack. The general play of the Reds has become painfully predictable, and players such as Silva and Mata would add the technique and guile required.
Yossi Benayoun, although having not enjoyed his best season this year, is well thought of amongst the fans as the one player, along with Steven Gerrard, who can deliver the unexpected, spot a pass and make the difference. The Reds interest in Silva last summer saw negotiations opened with Valencia until the Spanish club leaked to the media to try and instigate a bidding war for the player. Liverpool, in no position to compete, backed off. Juan Mata has also been regularly linked, although this is one that’s yet to have gone any further than mere speculation.
Benitez will certainly have to draw on all of his Spanish connections to lure one of them to Anfield. The signing of Silva may be particularly difficult due to the reported interest of Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid. All able to offer Champions League football, Liverpool may soon learn the cost of their league failure.
Both players would come with big price tags, around the £20 million mark each at least. Without new owners, these figures are impossible to reach. Benitez will be very aware of both players however and with new custodians, it is likely he will return to his old club for negotiations. As Fernando Torres has previously stated, these are the kind of players Liverpool need to acquire in order to reach the next level.
If Liverpool are forced to lower their sights, in terms of transfer fees at least, it may be worth making a move for Chelsea’s Joe Cole. As free transfers go, there will not be many around this summer with the quality and experience that Cole can offer. Similar to Silva and Mata, Cole can play out wide or in a more central role, behind the main strikers. Another British player to add to the squad will also be welcome and aged 28, has still many years left in him.
Liverpool’s management staff and the Liverpool fans are most likely preparing two ‘means dictated’ shopping lists, filled with targets ready to be pursued once the future of the club is decided. If the new owners and the money required do not come calling, then there may be two or more new positions on each particular list that need urgent attention. Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres et al are not used to shopping in Poundstretcher.
In terms of their futures with the football club, they’ll be seeing each other at the checkout.
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