08 July 2015

Confirmed: €6m star quits Liverpool. Official statement blasts LFC and reveals why the loan failed

It's official: As expected, Spanish full-back Javier Manquillo has left Liverpool FC after only one season at the club.

In May, Rodgers claimed that €6m-rated Manquillo still had a future at Anfield, and insisted that he'd be given the pre-season opportunity to 'work his way back into the squad'.

Well, that isn't going to happen as Atletico Madrid have today confirmed that the loan deal has been cancelled, and the Spanish giants appear to blame Liverpool for the failure of the deal.

A statement on Atletico's official website notes:

"Atlético decided that he [Manquillo] would go to Liverpool for two seasons to enjoy the necessary minutes to continue growing football-wise. However, he has not had all the minutes he and our club consider necessary for that purpose of growth"

The media claim that Liverpool requested permission to cancel the loan deal, but there's no factual evidence to support that. In fact, Rodgers' comments in May appear to support the opposite conclusion, i.e. that he planned to keep Manquillo for the duration of the loan.

To me, it seems clear: Atletico (and Manquillo) decided to pull the plug. In AM's statement, there's no mention of Liverpool's alleged request to cancel the loan, and the emphatic language therein strongly hints at the Spanish club's dissatisfaction with LFC's treatment of the player.

Atletico's decision is hardly surprising. Rodgers' basically ignored Manquillo for five months of the season, and his decision to grant him just 137 minutes of football (from January to May) is, quite frankly, inexcusable. If a Liverpool player suffered a similar fate whilst on-loan, then Rodgers et al would be similarly unimpressed.

And it's not as if Manquillo is a terrible player; in the first half of the season, statistics show that he performed as effectively as any other Liverpool defender, so Rodgers' decision to constantly ignore him is mystifying.

Manquillo is no world-beater, but I submit that he could've done just as good a job as Emre Can on the right side of Liverpool's defence, especially if - like the German - Rodgers gave him a run of 20+ games in a row.

Can was later found-out at right back, yet despite the obvious warning signs, Rodgers persisted with him, and the club suffered the consequences. Manquillo - who is a dedicated right back, and more defensively solid that Can in that position - should've been given a chance.

This is all ancient history now, though. When all is said and done, it's no great loss, but if given a proper chance, Manquillo - labelled (unfairly IMO) as 'poor' by Jamie Redknapp - may have developed into a solid squad player for Liverpool.

Instead, amongst some fans and the media, Manquillo will probably go down as another transfer flop, but the real blame lies with Brendan Rodgers, who has once again maintained his pitiful 100% failure rate in the loan market.

Author: Jaimie K

07 July 2015

Replace Moreno? Liverpool still pushing to sign 'unhappy' £15m international. Contact made already

Liverpool have signed six players since the end of the recent train-wreck of a season, and new reports suggest that the Reds are still considering a summer move for Paris St. Germain left-back Lucas Digne.

In June, French newspaper L'Equipe claimed that:

* Liverpool made an official 'enquiry' about Digne's availability.

* Roma are also interested in the 21-year old, who is allegedly valued at €20m [£15m] by PSG.

According to Monday's edition of the Daily Express:

* Liverpool are still monitoring Digne, who is struggling to hold down a first team place at PSG.

* Roma and Atletico Madrid are also interested, but PSG will not sell unless they sign Napoli defender Faouzi Ghoulam as a replacement.

In December, Digne's agent, Mikkel Beck, blasted PSG for condemning the youngster to constant bench duty. He told Le 10 Sport:

"I know he is unhappy on the bench, and he wants to play more. However, his anger and frustration give him the strength to try even harder in training, or when he has the chance to be on the field"

Some info about Digne, hailed as an 'immense hope of French football' by PSG president Nasser Al Khelaifi:

* Left-back who can also play left-midfield.

* A measly 44 appearances in 2 seasons for PSG (average of 22 apps per year)

* 8 apps for the France national team.

* 2013: Helped France win the U20 World Cup.

* Recently lost his place in the France team as a result of reduced playing time at PSG.

* Only one significant injury so far (sprained ankle last season)

Liverpool were linked with Digne back in 2013, and when asked in May if he regretted his decision to reject the Reds, he told reporters:

"No. I showed that I was ready to tackle a huge project at age 20, which shows I have the character to succeed at the highest level"

If Rodgers is genuinely interested in Digne, then it suggests a lack of confidence in Alberto Moreno's ability to be Liverpool's long-term solution at left-back, which, if true, is totally understandable.

One great goal aside, Moreno did little to distinguish himself last season, and like Glen Johnson, he is prone to costly errors that lead directly to opposition goals.

Jose Enrique the only real alternative to Moreno, which basically means Liverpool have no alternatives (!). As such, Digne - for the right price - is an enticing option.

Will he leave PSG, though? Digne has 7 trophies to his name in two years, including two league titles, and there's little chance of him replicating that success at Liverpool (under Rodgers).

Worth pursuing?

Author: Jaimie K

Next Transfer? Liverpool free to sign 'fantastic' £23m playmaker who loves Anfield idea

The Asier Illarramendi transfer saga continues! In June, the Telegraph claimed that Liverpool were willing to 'match Real Madrid's valuation' of the midfielder, and new reports this week suggest that the 'fantastic' Spaniard is definitely for sale this summer.

According to Spanish newspaper Marca:

* Madrid boss Rafa Benitez is willing to sell Illarramendi, who cost Madrid €32m [£23m] in 2013.

* Liverpool and Arsenal remain interested in signing the 23-year old midfielder.

2015 Transfer timeline

Jan: When asked about his future, Illarramendi told reporters: "I want to stay at Real Madrid. I'm very happy at this club and in this city [and] I'm only looking towards [Madrid]"

March: Multiple reports claimed that Anfield hero Xabi Alonso tried to convince Real Madrid midfielder Asier Illarramendi to sign for LFC.

April: Marca claimed that Illarramendi 'loves the idea' of signing for Liverpool.

May: The Telegraph claimed that Liverpool submitted an official offer for the Spaniard.

May: After Benitez's appointment, Marca claimed: "Illarramendi [is] staying. [He] is excited at Benítez's arrival, and Benítez will want to keep Illarra"

June: The Telegraph further claimed that the Reds were on the verge of agreeing a deal for Illarramendi.

Ancelotti's treatment of Illarramendi leaves a lot to be desired, especially in light of the following:

* Madrid won 12 and lost only ONE of the 13 games Illarramendi started this past season.

* Dec 02-Dec 16: Illarramendi started five games in a row. Madrid won all five, scoring 24 goals and conceding only ONE.

* After that amazing run, Ancelotti dropped Illarramendi for the next 7 games, three of which ended in defeat.

If a team wins five games in a row, and scores 24 goals (with 4 clean sheets along the way) what possible justification is there to dump the midfielder at the heart of the team?

Illarramendi clearly has what it takes to cut it at the highest level, but I just can't see where he fits in:

* James Milner has all but confirmed that he'll be a regular starter in a central role, and with Henderson also certain to start most games, there's no room for another 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? 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 unhealthy, and if Liverpool sign Illarramendi, and keep Lucas, the fight for places in midfield will (arguably) be counter-productive.

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 that he'll play in 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.

If someone can explain how Rodgers can regularly fit Henderson, Milner, and Illarramendi into the same team without sacrificing bona-fide attacking players, then I'm listening.

Author: Jaimie K

Triple Transfer: Liverpool agree loan deals for 'dynamic' winger, 'fantastic' defender, and ex-Spurs starlet

With very few exceptions, Liverpool's youth policy is (IMO) an abject failure, and the latest evidence of this is the imminent triple-loan of three of the academy's brightest prospects.

According to the BBC on Monday:

* Swindon Town are to complete a triple loan deal for Liverpool defender/midfielder Jordan Williams; right-back/midfielder Kevin Stewart and winger Ryan Kent.

* All three are set for season-long moves to the County Ground.

Clearly, the signings of Joe Gomez, Bobby Adakanye, are replacements in the youth set-up for Williams, and Kent:

* 'Fantastic' Williams is a central defender, as is Gomez.

* 'Dynamic' Kent is an attacking wide player. Ditto Adekanye.

As for ex-Spurs youngster Stewart, the signing of Nathaniel Clyne means he's unlikely to get a sniff at the first team this season, and after loans to Cheltenham and Burton last season, he is now a perennial loanee.

With Jon Flanagan out for most of next season, and Javi Manquillo possibly leaving, you'd think there'd be space for an academy player to fill the void, but if Stewart - who is 21 - is being sent out on loan, it must mean that he's not good enough to make the step-up to the first team.

It's a shame for Williams, too. He made the bench seven times last season, and looked like he was on the path to a first-team breakthrough. Now, he probably feels deflated, especially with Gomez - who is one year younger - now in the squad.

This is the reality of the academy: Youngsters constantly arrive, fail to develop to the required level, and then end up on loan and/or replaced by another young player, at which point the cycle continues.

This may sound like a nuclear option, but in my view, Liverpool should scrap the academy altogether, and go back to the reserve team system that served the club so well during its heyday in the 70s and 80s.

* The academy rarely produces first-team regulars. In the Premier League era, only a handful of players have gone on to become senior stalwarts, and the hit-rate is decreasing with each passing year.

* Liverpool rarely make any real money from academy players. The majority of youngsters just disappear into obscurity, usually for a nominal fee (if that).

* Given the cost of running the academy, I don't see how it's financially viable. All the money wasted on 'developing' countless young players (most of whom fail) could be spent on more experienced reserve team players.

Of course, there's much more to this, and I plan to expand on this it at later date, but for now, the question to consider is this: if Liverpool scrapped the academy, what difference would it make?

Author: Jaimie K

Top Transfer? £150k-a-week playmaker reveals 5 'reasons' why he's signing for Liverpool

It's official: James Milner is a Liverpool player. Ever since the Reds announced the deal in June, I've been praying for an 11-hour snag to arise and derail the transfer, but, alas, it wasn't mean to be. Milner rejected a contract extension at Man City to join LFC, and in his first interview for the club, the midfielder explained why he made that decision.

Speaking to the official Liverpool website today, Milner offered five main reasons why he chose Anfield:

* Increased game time: "I just thought it was the right thing for me to hopefully go and get more game time".

* Central midfield: "I want to play more centrally, and that's where the manager said he sees me playing"

* Hunger to succeed: "There is a hunger there [at LFC], I can feel that, and that's why I also wanted to come to the club".

* Trophies: "I'd like a trophy cabinet full of medals, to be honest. That's one of the reasons why I've come here".

* Mentoring: "Hopefully I can bring [my] experience to the squad and help the younger guys along".

So, what can we glean from this:

* Milner seems to see himself as an everpresent for Liverpool. He made 42 appearances for Man City last season, so to get 'more game time', he'll have to exceed that number, which basically means featuring in most, if not all, games.

* Rodgers has clearly promised Milner that he'll be played centrally, which probably puts the stoppers on any further central midfield signings.

* With Henderson almost guaranteed to start most games, it seems likely that Milner will play a holding role for Liverpool. Based on his career to date, that's not his best position, but given Rodgers' penchant for square pegs in round holes, it won't make any difference.

* Re trophies: Milner's contention that he's come to win trophies doesn't ring true. Liverpool rarely win trophies, and he'd have more chance of silverware at Man City.

To add insult to injury, Milner is taking the coveted number-7 shirt, graced in the past by infinitely superior players like Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish, Peter Beardsley, Steve McManaman, and Luis Suarez. Jesus wept.

As a squad player (like he is at Man City), Milner would be an astute acquisition, but it's clear (especially from the alleged £150k salary) that Rodgers sees him as some kind of saviour, and mainstay of the team who - like Gerrard - will play most games.

If Milner is such a major asset, why was he a perennial bit-part player at Manchester City? Simple: he doesn't contribute enough to be a regular starter, and a wily manager like Pellegrini is intelligent enough to know that he won't win the title with huff-and-puff British footballers starting every game.

Milner does not have the game-changing quality, or end product to truly elevate a team, but Rodgers seems to think he's exactly that type of player. Indeed, he suggested as much last season, when he raved: "James is a wonderful player. He's an outstanding footballer, and has been since I saw him at Leeds as a young player".

So, what exactly will Milner bring to the team? Industry, stamina, running, tackling, physicality, and fight. These are all well and good, but that description applies to Jordan Henderson (who scores even fewer goals than Milner), and even with those aforementioned qualities, Liverpool still only limped into sixth place in the league.

Just consider this: Man City paid £26m for Milner, and this is what they got for that money:

* 19 goals/45 assists in 203 games.

* Goal every 11 games | Assist every 4.5 games.

Objectively, and without bias, did Man City get value for money in any way, shape, or form? Adam Lallana also cost £26m, and if he ends his Liverpool career with only 19 goals in 5 years, will you be happy with that?

If so, then it just shows how low your standards have fallen.

Of course, I'm happy to be proven wrong, and I hope I am, as it means Liverpool will be doing well. I just can't see it, though.

Author: Jaimie K

06 July 2015

Transfer Update: 'Exciting' £29m attacker passes medical and will officially join Liverpool after holiday

After starring at the recent Copa America, 'exciting' new £29m signing Roberto Firmino is edging closer to being officially unveiled by Liverpool.

According to the Daily Mail today:

* Firmino - who has signed a five-year contract worth more than £100,000 per week - has passed his Liverpool medical.

* The 23-year-old Brazilian completed the medical in Sao Paulo, and will report for pre-season training after his holiday.

To be honest, this is only transfer so far that I'm actually excited about, and of all signings so, Firmino is arguably the only player who represents a significant upgrade on players already at the club.

The £29m fee means Firmino is the club's second most expensive signing of all time, but that aside, it's still one of the most exciting deals in years.

Firmino's recent stats:

* 2013-14: 22 goals/16 assists (38) in 37 apps (Goal/Assist every 0.9 games)

* 2014-15: 10 goals/12 assists (22) in 36 apps (Goal/assist every 1.6 games)

* TOTALS: 32 goals/28 assists (60) in 73 apps (Goal/assist every 1.2 games).

60 goals/assists in 73 games? That's a great achievement in one of Europe's best leagues, and it's clear that Firmino is currently proving himself to be one of Europe's most prolific attacking players.

The question is, where will Firmino play? At Hoffenheim, he's been most effective playing out wide, and that's where he spent most of his time during the 2013-14 season, when he smashed in 38 goals/assists in 37 games.

Coutinho's best position for Liverpool is the number-10 role, so both he and Firmino can slot easily into the same team. However, knowing Rodgers, I fully expect both players to be played out of position during various parts of the season.

It won't surprise me to see Firmino played on the right of a front-three, or as a false-9, and Coutinho will probably be forced to play wide left at some stage (which curtails his effectiveness).

One thing's for sure: with Ings, Sturridge, and Origi in the squad (and another striker almost certain to join), there's no real excuse to play Firmino as a lone striker.

I wouldn't put it past Rodgers to try it out, though...

Author: Jaimie K

Anfield-bound? Lawro claims 'world-class' £32m attacker wants Liverpool transfer. LFC odds-on favourites to seal the deal

Of all the strikers currently linked with Liverpool, Aston Villa's Christian Benteke seems to be the most polarising option, and from what I've seen, many Reds fans a dead-seat against the move. Last week, an alleged Anfield 'insider' claimed that Liverpool are 'very close' to signing Benteke, and Anfield legend Mark Lawrenson has today insisted that the big Belgian is capable of fitting in at LFC.

According to Sky Sports, Benteke - who has a £32m buyout clause in his contract - is 'odds-on' favourite to sign for Liverpool.

For some fans, this is extremely bad news, with many fans insisting that Benteke - like Andy Carroll, and Rickie Lambert - is a bog-standard target-man, who isn't capable of fitting into Liverpool's fluid, high intensity pressing game.

Lawro disagrees with this, though, and in his column for the Liverpool Echo today, he claimed that Benteke 'fancies the move' to Liverpool, and outlined why the striker will fit into Rodgers' preferred style of play:

"We all know that his strength is in the air, and he could play on his own up front and operate in a 4-3-3. It’s all about different options, not just from game-to-game, but changing within matches now, which seems to be a big thing within the Premier League".

In my case, Lawro is preaching to the converted as I'm convinced that Benteke is capable of being a smash-hit at Anfield...but only if he remains consistently fit.

In the last two seasons, Benteke has suffered four separate injuries, and spent a grand total of 214 days on the sidelines, and with Daniel Sturridge repeatedly injured, it's arguably irresponsible to spend £30m+ on another striker with a patchy recent injury history.

Why take the risk?

Are we to believe that Liverpool's scouting network is incapable of finding a top-class striker without a concerning injury history? If that's the case, the entire network needs to be sacked as it's clearly not fit for purpose.

If Liverpool pursue Benteke - dubiously described by ex-Villa boss Paul Lambert as 'absolutely world-class' - then the transfer fee should be no more than £25m (IMO) to compensate for the recent injury worries.

Of course, I'd rather see Liverpool sign Alexander Lacazette, but there doesn't appear to be much hope of landing the coveted French striker.

As such, Liverpool fans should probably get used to the fact that Benteke will be the next striker to sign for Liverpool, and it'll probably be for an extortionate transfer fee.

Again, though, if Benteke remains fit, I believe he's capable of being a 20-goal a season striker for the Reds.

Author: Jaimie K

Done Deal: 'Very happy' midfielder confirms he's signed for Liverpool after rejecting Arsenal

In recent weeks, Liverpool have signed a whole host of teenagers, including defender Joe Gomez, striker Brooks Lennon, and attacking midfielder Bobby Adekanye, and the latest child to sign on at Anfield is Arsenal midfielder Elijah Dixon-Bonner.

Yes, I've never heard of him either, but according to the Daily Express:

* 16-year old Dixon-Bonner has signed for Liverpool.

* He rejected a youth scholarship at Arsenal to sign for the Reds.

After putting pen to paper, Bonner tweeted confirmation of the transfer:

"I am very happy to announce my signing with Liverpool FC on a long term deal"

Bonner also posted the following photo:

Finally! Liverpool beat Arsenal in the transfer market!

After the disappointment of losing out on Alexis Sanchez last summer, it's heartening to see that the Reds can still attract the cream of the crop.

I'm sure that Dixon-Bonner will follow Sanchez's lead and become an integral part of the first-team...in about six years.

It seems like like a long way off, but I for one will be waiting with bated-breath to see the likes of Adekanye, Dixon-Bonner, and Lennon strutting their stuff as regulars for the first-team.

Author: Jaimie K

05 July 2015

Transfer Surprise: Liverpool chase 'excellent' £16m World Cup winner with 37 goals/assists in 90 games for Juve

Liverpool are once again being linked with a surprise move for Juventus striker Fernando Llorente, who was heavily linked with a move to Anfield throughout 2012.

According were last linked with £16m-rated Llorente in March, and according to the Liverpool Echo today:

* Liverpool remain interested in Llorente as a potential alternative for overpriced Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke.

* Villa are reportedly refusing to lower their asking price, and Llorente - nicknamed 'El Rey León' (The Lion King)in Spain - is one of Rodgers' top alternatives.

The Reds were (previously) long-term admirers of Llorente, who confirmed in January 2012 that representatives from Anfield 'came to Bilbao' to negotiate a possible transfer.

Then, in June of that year, Llorente revealed he'd sought advice from ex Reds Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres about moving to England. He told Reporters:

"I might end up playing in England. Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres have told me about the great respect that the fans have for the players there"

At the age of 31, Llorente's best days are clearly behind him, but his overall record since moving to Juve is creditable, though not worth £16m:

* 27 goals/10 assists in 90 apps.
* Goal every 3 games.
* Goal/assist every 2.4 games.

Everton boss Roberto Martinez is convinced that Llorente has what it takes to flourish in the Premier League, and around the time of Liverpool's prior interest, he told reporters:

"Whatever price you can afford to pay for Llorente you will have to double it. Otherwise they [Bilbao] won't sell him. He would be a great Premier League player".

Italian legend Gianluca Vialli also believes that Llorente still has a lot to offer. In a recent interview, he enthused:

“Llorente is an excellent striker that every coach would like to have. He is a striker that can give you lots of options, as a starter or the twelfth player onto the pitch to change the match.”

Llorente - who received a World Cup winner's medal with Spain - is an upgrade on Balotelli, Borini, and Lambert, but he is most definitely not the prolific striker Liverpool need to fill the Suarez void.

Worth pursuing?

Author: Jaimie K

Deluded? Owen claims 'dominant' Liverpool star is 'world-class' and better than £50m striker

After his most productive season yet, Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson is finally receiving the credit he deserves for his massive improvement over the last two years. Arsenal legend Thierry Henry recently hailed Hendo as an 'unbelievable player', but ex-Red Michael Owen has gone one further, and claimed that LFC's captain-elect is 'world-class'.

Speaking to the Daily Mail on Friday, Owen raved:

"Everybody's talking about Harry Kane [reported value: £50m], but in the last season he [Henderson] really has developed into a world-class player. I think he's going to be Liverpool and England's dominant midfield player for years to come"

Own is entitled to his opinion, but in my view, Henderson is nowhere near 'world-class', and it's damaging to label him as such as it just increases the already massive pressure on him to perform.

The only way to fairly judge 'world-class' ability is to apply - where possible - objective criteria. Subjective analysis is based on emotion, and biased, experiential interpretation, and is, therefore, of questionable merit.

The subjective formula is basically: "I see, therefore he is...World Class". Subjectively, any player can be anointed 'world class', but it has no meaning unless the label can be persuasively justified with objective facts.

As such, before Henderson can be considered 'World Class', he'll have to excel at all three levels of football:

* DOMESTIC: National Leagues.

* EUROPEAN: Elite European Competitions (Champions League, or equivalent)

* WORLD: International Tournaments (Qualifying and finals)

In my view, a player cannot be considered World Class unless and until he:

* Excels - i.e. has a specific, measurable impact (SMI) - at all three levels of football.

* Dominates games and pushes his team to relative success at all three levels.

With regards to relative success, the following are vital:

* The team's relative strength in comparison to other teams in the league/group.

* The team's Optimum Achievement Level (OAL)

* Causation: The player's causal contribution to his team's OAL.

Key questions

* What is the OAL of this team in a given competition? In other words, considering the overall quality of players available, what is the absolute best this team can realistically expect to achieve?

* To what extend did the player in question help the team to meet its OAL?

* But for the player under consideration, would the team still have achieved its OAL?

Issues to Consider

* SMI at all three levels is required.

* A variety of objective, position-specific statistical criteria should be used when assessing the SMI of players. For example, for attacking players: Goals; assists; conversion rate; key passes; shot-assists; passing accuracy etc. For defenders: goals conceded; blocks; aerial duels won; tackle success rate etc.

* A player's individual SMI is all important. How far did the player contribute to the team achieving its OAL? If you remove the player's SMI from the equation, would the team still achieve its OAL? If so, then that player is probably not world class. Truly world class players are absolutely integral to their team's success, to the extent that, without that player, the team would not achieve its OAL.

In Henderson's case, he's clearly had the requisite impact for LFC at domestic level, but if he's to achieve world-class status he'll need to excel for Liverpool in European competition, and dominate for England at international level.

Henderson may be capable of helping Liverpool achieve its OAL in Europe, but he failed to influence the team in Europe last season, and it remains to be seen whether he can consistently reproduce his domestic form on the international stage.

Labelling developing players 'world-class' (and Hendo IS still developing) is arguably irresponsible.

World-Class: A New Definition (Full Article)

Author: Jaimie K

Transfer Boost: 'Outstanding' £10m 'warrior' to sign 3-year Liverpool deal on Monday

In June, 'Outstanding' Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel blasted Liverpool for making him an 'unacceptable' new contract offer, but it seems that Skrtel and the club have resolved their differences as the Slovakian is reportedly set to sign a new long-term contract.

According to the Liverpool Echo:

"Martin Skrtel will put pen to paper on a new three-year contract at Liverpool.

"The defender has already agreed the deal in principle, with the details set to be finalised on Monday".

Skrtel has been heavily linked with moves to Wolfsburg and Inter Milan this year, and when asked recently about the transfer speculation, his agent, Karel Csontso confirmed:

“The interest from Inter was real. The deal did not go ahead, but there was contact made.

"The player had been thinking about his future and eventually opted to remain at Liverpool."

Like last season, £10m-rated Skrtel - hailed this past season as a 'warrior' by Rodgers - is Liverpool's most consistent defender, which is impressive considering his defensive partners are constantly changing.

Additionally, with Gerrard gone, Skrtel is now the club's most experienced first-team regular, and with the club severely lacking players with consistent top-level experience, it would've been a mistake to let Skrtel leave this summer.

At this stage, Skrtel - when fit - probably remains the first defensive name on the team-sheet, and unless Rodgers signs another central defender this summer, I can't see that changing:

* Sakho is a good defender, with excellent passing range, but like Daniel Sturridge, he is totally unreliable when it comes to fitness. Last season, for example, the Frenchman missed 30 games through injury, and Liverpool cannot build a consistent defensive unit around a perpetual sicknote.

* Lovren had a disappointing debut season at Anfield, and (IMO) he has neither the confidence nor the stature to be the main main at the heart of Liverpool's defence. The Croatian may come good next season, but he needs a rock solid, dependable defender alongside him, and Skrtel fits the bill.

Can Liverpool do better than Skrtel? Absolutely, but after splurging £45m on central defenders since 2013 (including breaking the club's transfer record for a centre-half), it's doubtful that FSG will sanction another £20m+ bid for a defender, which is what it will take for the Reds to sign a truly top-class player in that position.

In any event, throwing money at the problem is arguably not the answer. Whatever their failings at Anfield, Lovren and Sakho are international-class defenders, and Rodgers simply needs to find a way to get the best out of them.

Can he do that, though, without a dedicated defensive coach?

Author: Jaimie K

Done Deal #8? Transfer for 'talented' £7m attacker to be confirmed in 'the next few days'

In 2013, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers inexplicably splurged £15m on Spanish duo Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto, both of whom were swiftly farmed out on loan after failing to make any kind of impact. Aspas has already left the club this summer (with Liverpool making a financial loss in the proces), and it appears that Alberto is also on his way out of Anfield.

On Friday, The Guardian claimed:

"Deportivo La Coruña [are] interested in signing [Alberto]. The Liverpool manager [Rodgers] does not consider Alberto part of his plans for next season".

Further reports claim that a deal will be confirmed 'in the next few days'.

Alberto made just 20 appearances Malaga during the past season, and he has now suffered the ignominy of having a 2-year loan deal cancelled after only one year (a fate which is also set to befall fellow Spaniard Javi Manquillo).

So, what went wrong at Malaga?

According to the club's boss, Javi Gracia, Alberto simply failed to 'demonstrate what a good player he is', and couldn't displace 'other' [i.e. better] 'options' in the team.

Garcia still seems to rate Alberto, though, and in a recent interview, he enthused:

"He [Alberto] is talented, finishes well and scores goals. He has a promising future. It is hard for a player to go on loan because he wants to play. I can only be fair and pick the players I think can help us most.”

The Alberto deal is a prime example of Liverpool's failed attempt to emulate the likes of Chelsea by signing young players and then sending them on loan in the hope of making a profit.

Alberto's value has probably *decreased* over the last two years, and at this stage, it's highly unlikely that the club will recoup the £7m outlay.

The same applies to the likes of Tiago Ilori, Sebastian Coates, and a whole host of other young, non-British players signed over the last 10 years.

Liverpool rarely make a profit from selling young players, and in my view, the system is failing so badly that FSG should launch an internal enquiry into why these failures keep happening.

Alberto is still only 22 years old, and as Garcia suggests, he is still capable of having a 'promising future'. One thing is certain, though: it won't be at Anfield.

Author: Jaimie K

04 July 2015

Transfer 8? After Firmino, Liverpool desperate to 'sign' another exciting Brazilian playmaker

Liverpool FC: Rise of the Brazilians! With Lucas, Coutinho, and Roberto Firminho already at the club, Brendan Rodgers is reportedly 'desperate' to sign yet another Samba star this summer.

According to The Times on Friday

"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"

ESPN 'sources' also claim that Liverpool are chasing Allan, so there appears to be some veracity to this particular rumour.

Some info 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.

As I always say, you can never have enough Brazilians in the team!

After all the fake Brazilians at Anfield over the years (Cavalieri, Doni, Aurelio, and Lucas), it's heartening to see Liverpool are now focused on signing proper Brazilian players, i.e. attackers with genuine skill and crowd-pleasing flair.

Additionally, at the age of 18, it's conceivable that Allan - if he's good enough - may get a few chances in the first team this coming season, which will be pleasing to see.

Author: Jaimie K

Blockbuster Transfer: Liverpool contact Barcelona to sign 'special' €30m attacker with £110m buyout clause

Over the last couple of years, Liverpool have been constantly linked with a move for Barcelona star Pedro, and although the 'special' Spaniard recently signed a new contract at the Camp Nou, the Reds are still reportedly interesting in bringing him to Anfield.

Recent transfer timeline:

* March 2015: The Mirror claimed that Barcelona offered Pedro to Liverpool.

* May 2015: According to The Telegraph, 27-year old Pedro was 'ready to quit the Nou Camp' after falling down the attacking pecking order.

* June 2015: Signed a new deal with Barcelona until 2019. Buyout clause: £110m

Contracts mean very little these days, and they're often used as a tool to ensure a commensurate transfer fee. That seems to be the case with Pedro, and according to Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo today:

* Liverpool have contacted Pedro's agent to enquire about the possibility of a transfer.

* Pedro is exploring his options for next season as he doesn't expect to feature that much for Barca.

* Liverpool are allegedly prepared to spend more than Arsenal, who are also interested.

* Despite the buyout clause, Barca are willing to sell for €30m.

Contracts mean very little these days, and it's probable that Barcelona signed-up Pedro simply to ensure a decent transfer fee when he's inevitably sold.

€30m for a player with 20+ major trophies, including 5 league titles, 2 Champions League titles, and a World Cup winner's medal? Sounds about right to me, and I'd love to see Liverpool splash the cash on a player of Pedro's peerless experience.

Despite the ridiculous competition at Barca for attacking places, Pedro has excellent stats over the last six season:

* 98 goals/43 assists (141) in 300 apps (1 Goal/assist every 2 games)

Liverpool fans certainly hold Pedro in high regard. Last summer, I asked fans who they'd rather see LFC sign: Pedro or Lallana.

* 17100 visitors (approx) participated in the poll.
* A gigantic 80% of voters chose Pedro over Lallana.

That's a quite staggering vote of confidence in Pedro, but it's hardly surprising given the Spaniard's experience and pedigree. I also voted in favour of Pedro, for the following reasons:

* Consistent experience at the highest levels of the game, including copious European/international experience.

* Played alongside some of the world's best players for years, including Messi, Xavi, Neymar, and Iniesta.

* A winner, who's won every trophy in the game, and that kind of experience could be invaluable for Liverpool.

* A player who'll come in and give the entire club a lift. He's a marquee signing with an aura about him.

This rumour seems like it's been around forever, yet Pedro is still at Barcelona, and if he decides to leave in the summer, I still can't see him ending up at Liverpool, especially with the club failing to qualify for the Champions League.

With Steven Gerrard gone, there's a distinct lack of world-renowned players at Anfield, and that will make it harder than it is already to attract Europe's elite.

That said, if Liverpool prioritise the signing, and pull out all the stops to make Pedro feel wanted at Anfield, then there may be a possibility of sealing the deal.

I've argued repeatedly that Liverpool need another attacking, goal-scoring midfielder this season. Coutinho and Firmino are top-class, but Ibe is too young (and shouldn't be relied-upon); Markovic is unreliable, and Lallana is too inconsistent.

My top choice is Yarmolenko, but Pedro is a superb option, and with the Spaniard in the team, Liverpool could conceivably field the following forward line-up next season:

----- Firmino ------- Coutinho --------- Pedro

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

I'd buy that for a dollar!

Author: Jaimie K