04 August 2015

Pirlo: €60m 'maverick' can become one of Europe's 'top forwards' at Liverpool. Agree...?

Mario Balotelli: To many fans, and ex-Reds, the much-maligned striker is persona-non-grata at Anfield, and is barely worty of consideration. The arrival of Christian Benteke, Divock Origi, and Danny Ings seemingly represents the final nail in the coffin of Balotelli's Liverpool career (such as it is), but is it really all over for the 'maverick' forward? Italy legend Andrea Pirlo doesn't think so, and he insists that Balotelli is still capable of turning things around.

In a recent interview with Shortlist, Pirlo mused:

"He [Balotelli] made mistakes when he was younger, But I hope next season goes well for him, because I still believe he has all the attributes to be one of the top forwards in Europe".

Pirlo also poured cold water on the oft-parroted myth that Balotelli is difficult to handle. He enthused:

"Mario is one of the nicest guys you'll meet. I used to walk into training in Italy and even before he said something I would start laughing. There are never boring moments when Mario is around."

Balotelli is currently linked with several clubs in Serie A, but the speculation seems moot, as Balotelli's agent, Mino Raiola has already claimed that the striker 'will stay' at Liverpool next season. Speaking to Sky Sports recently, Raiola, confirmed:

"We have had talks with Liverpool and he will stay. I spoke many times with the club and they were happy with his input as a professional"

It's hard to take seriously anything Raiola says, though. He is, after all, the guy who recently claimed that Balotelli is worth '€60m-€70m' (!)

Brendan Rodgers has also hinted that Balotelli is staying. When asked about the striker's future during a recent pre-season press conference, he told reporters:

“That will be entirely up to Mario. He is training well with a number of other players at Melwood, and working hard to get fit. We will see when the season begins.”

Rather surprisingly, Balotelli still retains support amongst the Liverpool fanbase. I recently conducted a site-poll asking fans is LFC should keep Balotelli next season. 42% of voters wanted him out, but a majority of 58% seemed fine with having Balotelli as one of Liverpool's forward options next season.

With his constant misuse of the player, Brendan Rodgers is heavily complicit in Balotelli's failure at Anfield.

* In the season prior to joining Liverpool, Balotelli grabbed 25 goals/assists in 39 games for Milan, but at LFC, he's suffered a massive 80% reduction in creative output.

* If every other manager under whom Balotelli has played can get him scoring/creating a career average of 1.7 goals per game, the why can't Rodgers do the same?

Ultimately, though, it doesn't matter. If Balotelli leaves, he will not be missed in the slightest, and if that's the case, why keep him? Just cash-in, and use the money to fund a player who'll fit into the team and make a regular impact.

Easier said that done, of course. Balotelli's deal expires at the end of the 2017 season, and he has the option of just riding out his contract and collecting a fat salary every week.

To be fair, it's not Balotelli's fault that he's rarely played. If Liverpool want value for money, then Rodgers shouldgive the striker a run of games in favoured role, but with Benteke, Ings, and Origi now in the squad, that isn't going to happen.

I still can't shake the niggling feeling that Balotelli will flourish under a different Liverpool manager.

Who knows - if the Italian holds out long enough, he might just get that chance.

Author: Jaimie K

Transfer Breakthrough: Liverpool to finally sign 'fantastic' €32m playmaker this week after new offer

Another day, another link to Real Madrid midfielder Asier Illarramendi. In July, Spanish newspaper Marca claimed that Rafa Benitez is 'willing to sell' Illarramendi, and new reports this week suggest that the 'fantastic' Spaniard is close to sealing a move to Anfield.

According to The Telegraph today:

"Asier Illarramendi is set to move to Liverpool after the Anfield club came up with an improved offer. A deal should be completed this week".

Liverpool are un desperate need of a top-quality *dedicated* defensive midfielder, and if the Reds can get Illarramendi for a cut-price fee, it'll be good business. However, I just can't see how or where where the Spaniard fits in:

* James Milner will almost certainly be a regular starter in a central role, and with Henderson - now captain - set to be practically everpresent, there's no room for another starting central midfielder.

* Add-in Can, Allen, and Lucas, and that's SIX players fighting for two midfield places (or three, if Rodgers decides to saturate the team with central midfielders).

* If Milner and Henderson play most games, where does that leave Illarramendi?

* Emre Can has repeatedly made it clear that he wants to play in central midfield, but how is that going to possible, especially with Illarramendi in the squad? Milner and Hendo are not going to be a bench players, so that creates a major problem.

Competition for places is good; excessive competition is counter-productuve, and if Liverpool sign Illarramendi, and keep Lucas, and Allen, the fight for places in midfield will (arguably) be unhealthy.

Example XI (4231)

------------------- Mignolet

Clyne ------- Skrtel ---- Sakho ------ Moreno

--------- Illarramendi - Milner

---- Hendo ------- Coutinho ------ Firmino

----------------- Sturridge

* Right-midfield is not Henderson's best position, and he'd be wasted out there. Milner could take that spot, but he expects to play centrally, and he probably has a gentleman's agreement with Rodgers re that role.

* Plus, a dedicated attacking midfielder should play on the right of midfield (i.e. Ibe/Markovic), not a centre-mid.

* Additionally, there's no room for Can, Ibe, Lallana et al in this line-up.

Example XI (433)

------------------- Mignolet

Clyne ------- Skrtel ---- Sakho ------ Moreno

----------------- Illarramendi

--------- Milner ------------- Hendo

--------- Coutinho ------ Firmino

----------------- Benteke

* Again, there's no room for Lallana, Ibe, Can, Origi, Ings etc, and when Sturridge returns, it'll become even more difficult to fit everyone in.

Example XI (442 - Diamond)

------------------- Mignolet

Clyne ------- Skrtel ---- Sakho ------ Moreno

----------------- Illarramendi

--------- Milner ------------- Hendo

----------------- Coutinho

------------ Benteke --- Sturridge

* Things get even worse now, as the inclusion of Illarramendi (or a any dedicated DM) means that one of either Coutinho or Firmino will have to miss out.

In his three years at the club, Rodgers hasn't show any great appetite to consistently play with a dedicated defensive midfielder, and it's probable that he'll rely on Milner and Henderson to do the job between them (which will, in all likelihood, fail).

I strongly maintain the view that Liverpool do no need Milner. A DM IS a priority, but by recruiting Milner, Rodgers has made a rod for his own back, and basically ensured that the Reds will once again go into the season with an unbalanced squad

Mark my words: the conflict between having two box-to-box midfielders (Henderson and Milner) over a dedicated holding player will create ongoing problems for Liverpool throughout the upcoming season.

The solution to this problem was to sign a dedicated DM/Holding player instead of another box-to-box midfielder (Milner); many fans could see this, but as usual, Rodgers chose to complicate things (just as has in central defence).

That said, if someone can explain how Rodgers can regularly fit Henderson, Milner, and Illarramendi (or indeed any other DM) into the same team without sacrificing bona-fide attacking players, then I'm listening.

Author: Jaimie K

Double-Transfer: Liverpool agree deals for 'nightmare' winger and 'excellent' 'keeper. Medical today for Vigoroux

In July, Liverpool shipped out Kevin Stewart, Ryan Kent, and Jordan Williams on loan, and with competition for places increasingly intense at Anfield, Liverpool are on the verge of farming out two more of the club's academy prospects.

The latest youngsters to discarded on loan are 18-year old Sheyi Ojo and 'excellent' 21-year old Lawrence Vigoroux.

* According to the Daily Mail: "Ojo is to join Wolves for the season on loan...and is expected to undergo a medical on Tuesday".

* The BBC reports: "Swindon Town have signed Liverpool goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux on a season-long loan"

After sealing the transfer, Vigoroux - who put in an impressive performance for Swindon during Sunday's 2-1 defeat to Liverpool - told the club's official website:

"I thought I did well last season and hopefully I'll kick on again this season at Swindon. I need some games out in the real world - that's what I need to do and I'm happy to do it"

Ojo also had some good moments on Sunday, and scored his first senior goal for Liverpool, though that seemingly isn't enough to persuade Brendan Rodgers to keep him in the first team squad this season.

The official LFC website describes Ojo as follows:

"[Ojo] is a pacey winger who can play on the left or right flank, he can be a nightmare for opposing defenders to play against".

Last season, Ojo spent a few months on loan at Wigan, but didn't register a goal or an assist in 11 appearances for the club.

That's hardly an concern, though. Last season, Ibe - Rodgers' current flavour-of-the-month - grabbed only 1 assist (no goals) in 14 appearances for Liverpool.

On the surface, Loans are generally a good thing, but the reality is that if an attacking player is good enough he'll skip the loan process and go straight into the first team.

Raheem Sterling proved that, as did Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, Steven Gerrard et al, and it's the same for every young attacking player over the last 25 years who made it through the academy to become a first-team regular.

Jordon Ibe may be about to finally buck that trend, though. If Ibe becomes a first-team regular for Liverpool over the next year, he'll be the first academy attacker in the club's history to achieve the feat of going out on loan and then returning to prominently feature in the senior side.

That's the size of the task facing Ojo, and unfortunately for the youngster, history suggests that he won't make it as a first-teamer at Anfield.

Good luck, though!

Author: Jaimie K

Transfer Update: Liverpool 5/4 favourites to sign £16m 'box-to-box' powerhouse. Contact made back in 2012

Liverpool continue to be linked with a move for Newcastle United enforcer Moussa Sissoko, and new reports today suggest that the Reds are in a two-way fight to sign the combative midfielder.

In July, Foot Mercato claimed that Liverpool are interested in signing Sissoko( who is allegedly available for £16m), and according to reports in the UK today:

* Liverpool and Manchester City are fighting it out to sign Sissoko.

* The Reds are currently 5/4 favourites to sign the France midfielder.

Sissoko recently hinted that a move may be on the cards. He told Eurosport:

“With a year until the Euros, I shouldn’t change club, but I want to play for one of the biggest clubs...in the Champions League. My time will come. But in any case I see myself staying in England."

When asked in January who Liverpool should sign to replace Steven Gerrard, Ex-Red Danny Murphy told the Daily Star:

“Moussa Sissoko and Morgan Schneiderlin are the two players Liverpool should go for. Sissoko is a box-to-box midfielder, who has looked absolutely terrific since going centrally".

Schneiderlin is off the table now, but Sissoko is still a possibility, and if Rodgers had made different choices in 2012, the Frenchman would already be a Liverpool player.

Prior to his move to Newcastle, Sissoko was heavily linked with a move to Anfield:

Jul 2011: Sissoko revealed that he was flattered to be linked with Liverpool.

Apr 2012: Speaking to reporters after Toulouse's defeat to Montpellier, Sissoko told reporters: "I've had contact with English clubs, notably Liverpool"

Aug 2012: Sissoko issued a 'come and get me' plea to Premier League clubs: "I want to grow, and the English Premier league attracts me first. My profile might interest some clubs, but I know I still have to work for it"

Sissoko cost Newcastle United a sickening £1.5m. The same season, Liverpool signed Joe Allen for £15m. Yes, you read that right: Liverpool ignored Sissoko and spent £15m on Joseph Michael Allen.

Urgh. It's insane, really, But I digress...

£16m seems a bit steep, but comparatively speaking, it's probably a fair fee for an experienced, international, who's Premier League-proven, and rarely injured. Right now, though, Liverpool are oversubscribed in the central midfield department, and if he signs, Sissoko may struggle for game time at Anfield.

Milner and Henderson will almost certainly play most games; Joe Allen is in-talks over a new deal, and if Lucas stays, Sissoko will face unhealthy competition for a place in the team, which isn't conducive to his stated goal of making the France squad for the Euros.

That aside, I don't see the logic in spending £16m on yet another box-to-box midfielder. Henderson and (in some respects) Milner fill that role in the team, and knowing Brendan Rodgers, Sissoko will probably end up playing out wide, which is where he regularly played under Alan Pardew.

Ulimately, Sissoko is not a dedicated defensive midfielder, which is what Liverpool need (especially with a consistently suspect defensive unit at Anfield), and if £16m+ is to be spent on another midfielder, it should (IMO) go on a specialist DM.

Author: Jaimie K

03 August 2015

Legend blasts: Liverpool must dump 'struggling' €15m misfit and replace him with a 'new left-back'

After only one year on Merseyside, Liverpool defender Alberto Moreno is currently linked with an improbable move to Spanish champions Barcelona. Roma are also reportedly interested in signing Moreno, and Reds legend Mark Lawrenson has urged his old club replace the €15m-rated Spaniard in the first team.

In his Sunday column for the Liverpool Echo, Lawro dismissed the Barcelona speculation; insisted that Liverpool 'need a new left-back', and urged Brendan Rodgers to relegate Moreno to the bench. He further noted:

"Since the New Year, he [Moreno] has been really struggling for form. It all fell apart in the second half of the season. Worryingly, quite often he has looked a little boy lost in the big games"

What do fans think? Last week, I ran a poll on the site asking fans whether Liverpool should sell Moreno:

* 49% of fans votes YES to a sale.

* A slim majority of 51% voted NO to a deal.

Fans are split right down the middle, which (arguably) shows that there's no great confidence in Moreno as Liverpool's long-term option at left-back.

That's hardly surprising, though. One great goal aside, Moreno - who, according to ex-Red Neil Mello, has 'incredible energy' - did little to distinguish himself last season, and like Glen Johnson, the Spaniard is prone to costly errors that lead directly to opposition goals.

As such, if the chance arises, I'd have no problem with Liverpool selling Moreno, for the following reasons:

* Premier League: 4 errors that led directly to opposition goals, including one on his debut against Manchester City, which helped condemn the Reds to a 3-1 defeat.

* Failed to record a single assist in 28 league games.

* Atrocious performance in the 6-1 defeat against Stoke, which prompted Rodgers to remove him at half-time.

Rodgers is already dropping hints that Moreno could be relegated to bench duty this season. After Liverpool's 2-1 victory over Brisbane Roar, he told reporters:

"I’ve seen him [Gomez] at centre-half and at right-back, but I wanted to see him at left-back, and I thought he was outstanding. Seeing him play at left-back for the first time, he looked...a really good footballer".

The Agent of Lucas Digne has also confirmed recently that Liverpool 'are tracking' the 21-year old left-back, and if that's true, then it shows that Brendan Rodgers is also not convinced that Moreno is the answer.

That said, left-back is clearly not a priority position to fill, though. Moreno is young, and may improve this season, and there are several other players at the club capable of filling-in.

The time to look at a change is (arguably) January - if Moreno is still making mistakes by, then it'll be clear that he isn't improving. Until then, there are other areas of the team in greater need of reinforcement.

Author: Jaimie K

Medical Today: Exciting €15m attacker flying-in to sign for Liverpool. Done deal this week?

Liverpool continue to be linked with a move for Barcelona B attacker Adama Traore, and new reports today suggest the Reds are close to concluding yet another summer transfer.

Last week, Catalan Radio station RAC 1 claimed that:

* Liverpool 'representatives' flew to Barcelona to 'negotiate' a deal for 19-year old Traore.

* Rodgers in interested in a loan deal for Traore, who is also reportedly wanted by German giants Bayern Munich.

According to Spanish newspaper Sport today:

* Traore is 'on the verge of becoming a Liverpool player.

* He is due to fly to Merseyside 'today' for a medical.

Traore is a regular for Barcelona B, but his chances of promotion to the first team are slim after the Bs recent relegation to the third-tier of Spanish football.

Barca boss Luis Enrique confirmed as much last week, when he told reporters:

"I'm not happy with the performances of the youth players this past season. I expected a lot more from them."

Mundo Deportivo claims, however, that the plan is to promote Traore to the senior team for the 2015-16 season, so on that basis, a one-year loan deal seems to make sense.

Some info about Traore:

* Right-sided attacking midfielder who can also play on the left.

* Current contract expires in June 2018.

* 8 goals/18 assists in 63 games for Barcelona B.

* 4 appearances for the Barcelona first-team.

* 18 appearances for various Spain youth teams.

* Has a €15m release clause in his contract.

* Nicknamed 'The Arrow' due to his lighting pace.

* On his development at Barcelona: "I think a lot of the reason for my progression lies with the coaches I have had here at Barca as they have told me how to improve, which is what I try to do."

Do Liverpool need Traore? At first glance, the answer appears to be no. Bringing Traore may potentially stunt Jordon Ibe's development, and will be (another) slap in the face to similar players toiling away in Liverpool's academy.

That said, perhaps Rodgers is bringing him in as a replacement for the woeful Lazar Markovic? The Serb delivered another poor performance against Swindon on Sunday, and perhaps Rodgers has seen the writing on the wall?

On that basis, a deal for Traore seems to make sense, though there's no real point if it's just for a year, as it could turn into another Victor Moses situation.

The former Chelsea man clearly had no real interest in Liverpool, and barely broke a sweat during his loan spell as his heart was in London, not Merseyside. For Moses, LFC was just a placeholder.

On the other hand, with Sergi Canos, and Joao Teixeira at the club, it's debatable whether Traore is a priority, even with Markovic failing to make an impact.

picture polls

Author: Jaimie K

Done Deal #8: After £77m transfer bonanza, Liverpool sign exciting South-American attacker

After spending £77m already this summer, Liverpool's transfer business appeared to be over, but over the weekend, the club officially confirmed the signing of yet another midfielder.

In July, The Times reported:

"Liverpool hoping to sign Allan Rodrigues de Souza [aka 'Allan'] an 18 year old midfielder, for £500,000 from Brazilian club Internacional. [Transfer] Talks to bring the player [Allan] from Porto Alegre to Anfield are under way"

Allan was then pictured training alongside Coutinho and Firmino:

Then, on Saturday, the following message appeared on Liverpool's official twitter account:

“LFC have secured Allan for the future and he’s currently spending time with the Reds with the permission of his club, Internacional.”

Liverpool have already spent £77m this summer, and according to the Liverpool Echo:

* The transfer fee is a (comparatively) modest £500k.

* Allan will join the club's academy, with first-team action 'some way off'.

* A loan spell later this season is 'possible'.

Some further information about Allan:

* Attacking midfielder, who can play centrally, or as a number 10.

* Captain of SC Internacional's U18 team.

* Jan 2015: Featured at the Frenz International Cup (FIC) held in Indonesia and Kuala Lumpur earlier this year, where he reportedly 'impressed' Liverpool coaches.

* Jan 2015: Scored a 40-yard wondergoal for Internacional in the semi-final of the FIC Cup, which sealed the club's advancement to the final.

* After the SF, Allan told Dunia Sukan online: “It will be fatal if we underestimate our opponents. We had very tough matches along the way [and] we will be very serious once on the field.”

* Allan went on to the lead the team to a 3-2 victory over Estudiantes in the final.

I just have one question: How long before Rodgers labels him one or more of the following: outstanding, amazing, brilliant, wonderful, brilliant or, terrific.

I give it one month. After all, it only took three weeks for Rodgers to claim that Joe Gomez is 'outstanding', so I'm probably in the right ball-park.

Author: Jaimie K

'Nice': Benteke reacts to 'incredible' Swindon goal; sends message to Liverpool fans

'What a hit son, what a hit!' Much to the delight of Liverpool fans everywhere, Christian Benteke kicked of his Liverpool career in style on Sunday with a superb volleyed effort against Swindon Town. It's a great start for the Benteke, and instantly dispels the risible myth that the Belgian is just another lolloping lummox like Andy Carroll, a player with whom he's often (ridiculously) compared.

Quite simply, Andy Carroll will never score a goal of this quality:

Brendan Rodgers' response:

"Christian's goal was incredible, whether it was a pre-season friendly or in a league or cup game. It was wonderful technique from the big guy".

Benteke's reaction:

"It's always nice to start with a win and a goal. Looking forward to the season. Thank you for your welcome".

A great goal indeed, but there's absolutely no point getting carried away. Victories against the likes of Swindon and HJK Helsinki is the bare minimum to be expected of Liverpool, and great goals in pre-season mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things.

Additionally, Brendan Rodgers' team is stacked with experienced, elite players, all of whom have every possible fitness, medical, and coaching advantage at their beck and call, so beating comparatively inferior opposition is nothing to get excited about.

That may sound harsh, but let's be serious here. Liverpool's pre-season has been worryingly non-competitive, and in my view, the players shouldn't be excessively praised for basically winning a few practice matches.

Firmino, Benteke et al may perform well against non-competitive teams, but what matters is how they perform in the Premier League, and the Belgian's goal will mean nothing if Liverpool fail to beat Stoke City next weekend.

All I keep hearing about is how James Milner is such a great signing, but it's all grossly premature unless and until he consistently delivers when it matters. Ditto Firmino, Benteke, Ings etc.

On a related note: Rodgers also made the following post-match comment:

"The players have been brilliant, they have travelled all around the world and never complained once, just got on with their work"

The players 'never complained once' about being on a mollycoddling all-expenses paid trip around the world, with first-class travel/accommodation?

What an utterly admirable achievement! It must've been inconceivably difficult for Liverpool's grossly overpaid playboys to put up with such an unbearably gruelling trip, fraught with danger, misfortune, and intolerable hardship.

Rodgers makes it sound like the players did well to refrain from complaining (!), but given the amazing opportunity (which many fans can only dream of), what exactly do they have to moan about?

Ridiculous, and in my view, comments like this are part of the reason Liverpool need a new manager.

Author: Jaimie K

02 August 2015

€22m Offer: Liverpool determined to sign 'super-fast' La Liga 'phenomenon' to replace Sterling

In July, multiple reports claimed that Liverpool were planning an official bid for contacted Real Madrid winger Denis Cheryshev, and with Robert Firmino already in the bag, reports this weekend suggest that the Reds are taking concrete steps to sign the Russian attacker.

According to The Telegraph today:

* Liverpool are 'determined to sign' Cheryshev to replace Raheem Sterling.

* The Reds are planning to submit a €22m (£14.9m) offer.

* The Reds are willing to include a buy-back clause in the deal to secure the transfer.

Some info about Cheryshev:

* Left-winger, who spent last season on loan at Villareal.

* Missed the end of the season with a hamstring injury.

* 5 injuries in the last two years: 3x hamstring, plus a serious muscle injury (out for 122 days), and a fractured toe.

* 39 games missed through in injury in the last two seasons.

* Made only one senior appearance for Madrid before being farmed out on loan.

* 2014-15: 7 goals/11 assists in 40 games for Villareal (Goal/assist every 2.2 games)

* 7 apps for the Russia national team.

* According to Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo: "Cheryshev is powerful, super-fast, and is one of Villareal's most dangerous attackers".

When asked in early-April about whether he'd return to Madrid next season, Cheryshev told Marca:

"Real Madrid haven’t told me anything about coming back yet. The only thing I want to do is play football. Right now I feel very well and after the pre-season tour of Australia, we'll see what will happen".

In May, Villareal vice-president Jose Manuel Llaneza confirmed that the club want to keep Cheryshev:

"We want to have Denis Cheryshev on loan for another season he is a phenomenon, and Villarreal will make an effort to get that done but the outcome is uncertain".

Last month, however, Cheryshev insisted again that he's unsure about his future:

"I have no idea as to what is going to happen. Villarreal hope to have my services next season but that's all. I don't know where I'll be next season."

Cheryshev's goals/assists ratio is only slightly better than Sterling's, and his recent injury history is a massive concern; The last thing Liverpool need is another player who regularly suffers niggling injury issues.

With Firmino now on board, the need for another attacking midfield is seemingly less pressing, though it all depends on how Rodgers plans to deploy the Brazilian. Is he a replacement for Sterling, or Luis Suarez?

If Liverpool are genuinely seeking another attacking midfielder, then Andriy Yarmolenko remains my preferred choice.

Yes, I keep banging this drum, but I can't understand why Liverpool are not pulling out all the stops to sign the consistently prolific attacker, who recently confirmed that he wants to 'change clubs this summer.

Author: Jaimie K

Injury Blow: 'Incredible' £15m Liverpool star off after 12-minutes of Swindon game

Aftr missing 13 games last season through injury, Joe Allen's injury curse has struck again today during Liverpool's pre-season friendly with Swindon Town.

Allen - described by Brendan Rodgers in March as an 'incredible' player - picked up a knock after just 12 minutes, and hobbled off the field to be replaced by Joao Carlos Teixeira.

It's a blow for Allen, who has struggled for consistent fitness over the last couple of years.

Plus, with the intense competition in the squad, Allen may find it hard to break back into the team, especially if the Reds hit the ground running this season.

There's always a silver lining, though.

Allen's injury means Teixeira gets another chance to impress, which he should've had anyway considering his excellent performance in the opening game of Liverpool's pre-season tour.

Despite two assists against Thai All-Stars (and a fantastic goal in a practice game whilst on the tour), Rodgers has ignored Teixeira this pre-season.

The Portuguese attacker wasn't even on today's official team-sheet, which says a lot about the manager's faith (or lack thereof) in the Teixeira.

Alas, it won't matter if Teixeira plays well today. Rodgers clearly doesn't rate him, and he's destined to be farmed out on loan and/or leave the club very soon, just like Suso.

If only Rodgers felt the same about Joe Allen.

In my view, if Allen leaves Liverpool, it won't make a blind bit of difference to the club's forward progress.

That'll never happen, though. According to Rodgers:

"Joe Allen is a very underrated player. He was one of the first players I wanted to bring to Liverpool. He allows other players to receive the ball. 15 million pounds for Joe Allen was great value for us."


Author: Jaimie K

Legend raves: Liverpool have signed an 'intelligent' £32m powerhouse who's 'gifted' and 'strong'

Christian Benteke finally makes his debut for Liverpool today, and Liverpool legend Gary Gillespie is convinced that the £32m striker will score lots of goals for the club.

Ahead of the Reds' pre-season friendly with Swindon Town, Gillespie outlined exactly what he expects of Benteke, and refuted suggestions that Benteke is merely a target man.

He told LFC.com:

"He [Benteke] is big and strong, and technically gifted. He takes off very good positions. Peels off the centre-backs. He’s intelligent, powerful, and strong, and he’ll do well for Liverpool, and score goals"

My only opposition to this deal is the transfer fee, and Benteke's recent injury history.

£32.5m is simply too much for Benteke, especially in light of his recent injury problems, and such a massive outlay means that the big Belgian will be under intolerable pressure to justify the fee.

However, I have no doubt that Benteke will fit-in at Anfield, and the idea that he isn't suited to Liverpool's style of play is a risible myth without any factual basis.

Fans and the media perpetuate this myth - the cornerstone of which is that Benteke needs constant crosses to thrive - but the stats show that it's nonsense:

Last Season

* Goals scored: 15 (Headed goals: 4 [36%] | Non-headed goals: 11 [74%])

Villa Total

* Goals scored: 49 (Headed goals: 13 [26%] | Non-headed goals: 36 [74%]

Strikers should utilise all their strengths, and with Benteke, he's tall and strong, so obviously he's going to score goals with his head.

That said, as the stats show, Benteke scores far more goals on the ground than he does in the air, and a well-rounded striker with his attributes arguably *should* be scoring a quarter of his goals via headers.

If Benteke - recently described by Steven Gerrard as 'unplayable' - didn't score many goals with his head, he'd be failing as a striker (IMO), and by that, I mean he'd be wasting his height and strength, which are two of his best attributes.

Thankfully, Brendan Rodgers clearly sees Benteke as much more than a mere target man. Describing the striker this week, he told reporters:

"He's not just a guy who you chuck the ball up to. He can play football...and counter-attack. He's surprised people at Liverpool with that mobility and the quickness of his feet - and his natural power and strength is there to see."

Hopefully, fans will see these qualities in action today.

Oh, and no injuries, please....

Author: Jaimie K

01 August 2015

'The Arrow' to Anfield? Liverpool 'representatives' fly-out to sign €15m Barcelona attacker

With seven players already signed, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is still seemingly working to bring in more players, and new reports this week suggest that the Reds are reportedly close to sealing a (pointless) deal for Barcelona B attacker Adama Traore.

According to Catalan Radio station RAC 1:

* Liverpool 'representatives' are in Barcelona to 'negotiate' a deal for 19-year old Traore.

* Rodgers in interested in a loan deal for Traore, who is also reportedly wanted by German giants Bayern Munich.

This is a confusing story as there are two players in Europe named Adama Traore (!):

* Traore #1: Malian attacking midfielder who recently signed for Monaco from Lille.

* Traore #2: Attacking midfielder who plays for Barcelona B.

* To make things just a little more confusing: the Barcelona Traore recently switched international allegiance from Spain...to Mali.

Traore #2 is a regular for Barcelona B, but his chances of promotion to the first team are slim after the Bs recent relegation to the third-tier of Spanish football.

Barca boss Luis Enrique confirmed as much this week, when he told reporters:

"I'm not happy with the performances of the youth players this past season. I expected a lot more from them."

Mundo Deportivo claims, however, that the plan is to promote Traore to the senior team for the 2015-16 season, so on that basis, a one-year loan deal seems to make sense.

Some info about Traore:

* Right-sided attacking midfielder who can also play on the left.

* Current contract expires in June 2018.

* 8 goals/18 assists in 63 games for Barcelona B.

* 4 appearances for the Barcelona first-team.

* 18 appearances for various Spain youth teams.

* Has a €15m release clause in his contract.

* Nicknamed 'The Arrow' due to his lighting pace.

* On his development at Barcelona: "I think a lot of the reason for my progression lies with the coaches I have had here at Barca as they have told me how to improve, which is what I try to do." Gosh, what insight ;-)

I honest don't see the point of this transfer.

* Traore may be talented, but with similarly-aged Jordon Ibe, Divock Origi, and Lazar Markovic in the senior squad, Liverpool clearly don't need him.

* Bringing Traore in will potentially stunt Ibe's development, and will be (another) slap in the face to similar players toiling away in Liverpool's academy.

* What is the point in signing Traore for one year? To even make it worth it, he'll have to play a lot of games, and as noted above, Liverpool are well covered for young players in his position.

* If the deal comes with an option to buy, then that's a different story, but even then, it's doubtful that Traore will get the game-time he'll need to develop.

If Rodgers must have another young winger, why not promote someone from the Academy, specifically a hugely proimising player like Sergi Canos. The Spanish winger bagged a shedload of goals/assists last season, and in a few months, he'll also be 19.

Alternatively, just put Joao Carlos Teixeira in the squad already! Teixeira is 22, and if Rodgers brings in Traore, it will be another giagantic snub for the Portuguese attacker.

Author: Jaimie K

Snubbed: 'Outstanding' £18m Liverpool star set for shock Anfield exit after Helsinki omission?

Last week, reports in Italy claimed that Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho wants to quit the club, a notion that many Reds fans find hard to believe. Sakho himself recently claimed that he's happy at Anfield, but new developments this week add weight to the suggestion that the France defender may not be in Rodgers' plans for the coming season.

On July 21st, an alleged exclusive on La Lazio Siamo Noi - an Italian football website that broadcasts a football show on Italy's T9 TV Network - claimed:

* 'Outstanding' Sakho wants to leave Liverpool, and he's 'asked his agents' to find him a new club.

* The defender is concerned with the unhealthy competition at centre-back, and wants to sign for a team where he will be the main man in defence.

* Lazio are interested in a loan move with an option to buy, and Sakho's agent is already in contact with the Italian club.

Over the last few years, I've repeatedly warned about the dangers of unhealthy competition in defence, but despite that being a very real issue, the story seemed like the usual media pie in the sky.

Until, that is, Brendan Rodgers failed to include Sakho in Liverpool's 16-man squad for the club's pre-season friendly against HJK Helsinki. A few points:

* According to Rodgers, Helsinki are the 'most successful team in Finland', and he'll be approaching the fixture 'like a Premier League game'. Clearly, it's an an important match, so why wouldn't Sakho be included in the squad?

* Sakho is not not injured. As the following photo proves, he trained with the first team on Thursday:

* Bar a few fringe players (Lucas, Allen etc), the bulk of the first team have travelled to Helsinki, so it seems strange that Sakho is not included in the squad, particularly when the club's defence is such a priority.

* There's another pre-season game on Sunday against Swindon, but with the most of the club's regular starters in Finland, the game hardly has the same level of importance, and it remains to be seen whether Rodgers will even attend the game.

* Of course, there's a possibility that Rodgers has seen enough, and already plans to start Sakho against Stoke, but if that's the case, surely it's prudent to give the first-choice back-four at least one full game together before the season begins?

If Sakho is genuinely thinking of leaving, I can totally understand why he'd make that choice. With the European Championship on the horizon, he needs to be playing week-in, week out, and that hasn't really happened under Rodgers.

Additionally, with Sakho out of the squad for the Helsinki game, Dejan Lovren has a chance to stake his claim for a starting place against Stoke, and I doubt the Frenchman will be happy about that.

Sakho has improved over the last year, and his proactive and positive forward-passing is a particular highlight of his game. However, the question is, will he be missed if/when he leaves?

Arguably, no. Sakho has made only 46 appearances in 2 seasons (23 per year), and the Reds have more than enough options to cover his absence.

With that in mind, is Rodgers right to ignore Sakho for the Helsinki game? Is Lovren now in pole-position to partner Skrtel against Stoke?

Author: Jaimie K

Transfer Stunner: Rodgers wants Liverpool to sign £70m 'superstar' attacker with 189 goals/assists in 247 apps

Last year, Liverpool were linked with an improbable move for Bayern Munich 'superstar' Thomas Muller, and new reports this week suggest that the Reds still retain an interest in the world-class German star.

In May 2014, the Daily Mail claimed:

"Thomas Muller is an option for Liverpool and Arsenal, who have asked to be kept informed should the German champions consider selling".

According to German newspaper SportBild this week:

* Liverpool are interested in signing Muller, who is also a target for Manchester United.

* If Muller becomes available, Brendan Rodgers wants the Reds to put in an offer for coveted attacker.

Prior to Liverpool's alleged interest, Muller publicly complained about playing fewer games under Pep Guardiola:

"I'm unhappy with it [not starting regularly]. Pep and I talk to each other so I knew what was coming, but he knows and is aware that I am a total team player".

Bayern chief exec Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is totally against the sale of Muller (who has reportedly been offered £265k-a-week by Man United), and he made his feelings clear last week, when he told reporters:

“There are some players who just don’t have any price tag. We would be out of our minds to sell Müller.”

Bayern legend Franz Beckenbauer also refuses to countenance a transfer, and in a recent interview, he demanded that Bayern 'fight to win him [Muller] over', adding:

"We must do everything to keep him, and consider letting him go, only if he states categorically that he does not want to stay"

£70m-rated Muller is is a bona-fide world-class footballer (i.e. he's consistently had a specific, measurable impact of at domestic, European, and International level), so it's easy to understand why Beckenbauer and Ruminegge want him to stay.

Just check out his stats over the last 5 years:

* 2014-15: 39 goals/assists in 48 apps.
* 2013-14: 41 goals/assists in 51 apps.
* 2012-13: 40 goals/assists in 47 apps.
* 2011-12: 31 goals/assists in 53 apps.
* 2010-11: 38 goals/assists in 48 apps.

* TOTALS: 189 goals/assists in 247 apps
* Goal/Assist every 1.3 games (1 every 95 mins)

Amazing stats, which display Muller's incredible consistency.

The only other players in Europe who consistently score/create to this level are Messi, Ronaldo, and Suarez.

Additionally, Muller is only 25, which means his prime years are still ahead (!)

I would personally swap any Liverpool player for Muller, including fan-favourite Philippe Coutinho:

* I'm a huge fan of Coutinho, but Muller is on a totally different planet, especially when it comes to creative contribution.

* Coutinho is 23, and he's never scored more than 8 goals in one season for Liverpool, and his personal best is comparatively meagre 13 goals/assists in one season.

* At the same age, Miller contributed an insane number of goals/assists, including 38 at the age of 20.

Muller is a phenomenon, and he's ten levels above the dross brought in by Rodgers over the last three years, but why then would he swap Bayern Munich for Liverpool, a club that struggles to maintain a Champions League presence?

I'd be perfectly happy to see Liverpool spend £70m+ on Muller, and pay him £265k-a-week. He is one of the few players in European football who lives up to the hype, and genuinely deserves the label 'world-class'.

If, hypothetically, Muller came to Liverpool, it would be game over for Adam Lallana, that's for sure, though to be honest, he'd probably end being ruined by Brendan Rodgers, who'd probably play him out of position and/or repeatedly select vastly inferior players (like Lallana) ahead of him.

A player like Muller needs to be managed by a manager of comparative stature, and Rodgers 'aint it.

Author: Jaimie K