Contact Made: Liverpool keen to sign 'fantastic' Euro 2016 powerhouse in cut-price £5m deal

With Martin Skrtel on the verge of leaving Anfield, and Kolo Toure already released, there appears to be a vacancy for a central defender at Liverpool, and the latest name to enter the fray is Iceland centre-half Ragnar Sigurdsson.

According to The Guardian this week:

* Liverpool have 'expressed an interest' in signing £5m-rated Sigurdsson, who currently plays for FC Krasnodar in Russia.

* Sigurdsson wants a move to the Prem, and his representatives have already been 'sounded out' Spurs, Leicester, and LFC.

Some info about Sigurdsson, described recently by Iceland boss Lars Lagerback as 'fantastic':

* 30-year old central defender. Current contract expires: 2018. 60 apps for the Iceland national team.

* Krasnodar: 83 apps in the last 3 seasons (7 goals/assists).

* Suffered just one injury for his entire career. Never missed a game through injury.

* Jun 2016: After beating England at Euro 2016, Sigurdsson poured scorn on England's tactics: "We were just heading away long balls. I wasn't stressed in the second half."

With Matip, Lovren, and Sakho on the books, central defence doesn't appear to be a huge priority for Liverpool right now, but it arguably makes sense to bring in another experienced option to cover injuries and/or a possible ban for Sakho.

Will Sigurdsson be happy with being a bench player, though? He's a regular starter in Russia, but at the age of 30, this may be his last chance to experience the Premier League.

I suspect he'll sign for whatever club gives him the most assurances of regular first-team football, and I doubt that'll be Liverpool. Leicester is his most likely destination, especially with the added bonus of Champions League football on the table.

Deal Close: Liverpool agree transfer for 'outstanding' £75k-a-week international. Boss confirms 'transfer' is imminent

Last month, Martin Skrtel's Agent insisted that the 'outstanding' Reds defender 'will leave Liverpool's this summer, and new developments this week suggest that Skrtel's Anfield exit appears to be imminent.

When asked on Tuesday about possible summer transfers, Fenerbahce president Aziz Yildirim told AMK Spor:

"The transfers for [Gregory] Van der Wiel and [Martin] Skrtel are almost done.”

The Liverpool Echo further adds:

"Liverpool have reached an agreement with [Fenerbahce]. Skrtel is likely to be confirmed as a Fenerbahce player this week"

I'm a big fan of Skrtel and his full-blooded, passionate approach to the game, but with no European football, and a drastically reduced fixture schedule, the team simply cannot support four senior international centre-backs.

Joel Matip is a nailed-on starter, and Klopp appears to favour both Lovren and Sakho, which means there's no room for Skrtel, who will baulk at being a back-up player (and rightly so - he's an international captain).

Additionally, constantly rotating defenders is not conducive to defensive stability, so Jurgen Klopp will probably stick with his core defensive partnership (especially in the league), and that means further frustration for Skrtel (and others on the sidelines).

On a related note: Skrtel did *not* call Klopp a 'di$%head'. This is a spurious myth perpetuated by those who can't be bothered to check the facts and/or deliberately misrepresent the truth in their zeal to create a sensationalised headline. An example from a so-called LFC fan site:

* 'Shocking: Liverpool ace calls Jurgen Klopp a ‘D*ckhead’ on Instragram'.

Pathetic. The actual truth is that Skrtel's friend used the label in relation to Klopp. Skrtel responded, but he did not directly insult Klopp, which is what all the fake headlines proclaim.

^ Reportedly on £75k-a-week

Offer Made: Liverpool want 'explosive' €25m Barcelona attacker who confirmed LFC 'interest' in 2013

Earlier this month, Marca claimed that Liverpool are 'keeping tabs' on Barcelona attacker Cristian Tello (currently on loan at Fiorentina), and new reports this week suggest that the Reds are actively trying to sign the Spanish winger.

According to Italian newspaper Corriere Dello Sport:

"Cristian Tello has turned down offers from Southampton and Liverpool, and he wants to stay at Fiorentina".

Liverpool Transfer Timeline (Most recent links):

* Sep 2013: Tello confirmed: "I knew of Liverpool's interest in me, but I never planned to leave".

* Nov 2015: The Liverpool Echo claimed:"Liverpool are involved in a transfer tug of war for Cristian Tello".

* Jan 2016: The Telegraph claimed: "Liverpool will try and sign Cristian Tello in January".

Tello - who has a €25m buyout clause - may want to stay at Fiorentina, but the club has never spent more than €20m on a single player. As such, unless Barcelona drop their asking price, it's unlikely that 'explosive' Tello will remain in Italy.

Even with Sadio Mane in the squad, Liverpool arguably still need another attacking player capable of providing genuine width. Tello is a decent option, but his stats at Fiorentina and Porto (his last two loan clubs) are merely passable (12 goals/17 assists in 72 apps), and there are more prolific options out there (i.e. Andriy Yarmolenko).

I see Mane as a replacement for Adam Lallana, who will hopefully have a reduced starting role in the upcoming season. That leaves Jordon Ibe as the only other genuine wide-man, and replacing him with Yarmolenko (or even Andros Townsend) will represent another significant upgrade to the squad. For a cut-price fee (£10m-£12m), Tello is also in the conversation, may, but €25m? Forget it.

Liverpool MegaDeal: Klopp keen to sign 'outstanding' €40m playmaker who wants transfer to the Prem

Liverpool are reportedly considering a summer move for Zenit St. Petersburg midfielder Axel Witsel, who is currently on international duty with Belgium at Euro 2016.

According to an alleged exclusive this week from Italian newspaper Tutto Mercato:

"Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool are all interested in signing Alex Witsel, who is currently on €4m a year [€77k-a-week] net".

When asked on June 13th about Witsel's future, his agent told reporters:

"So far there have been no official offers. Witsel is worth more than €40m for Zenit".

Soon after, Witsel confirmed that he wants to leave Zenit:

"I'd like to play next season in the Premier League or Italy. I hope to move up a level and play in a big European club".

Some info about 27-year old Witsel, hailed this week by Belgium boss Marc Wilmots for his 'outstanding' performances at Euro 2016:

* Central midfielder, who plays most often as a defensive midfielder for Zenit St. Petersburg (60% of games). Current contract expires: 2017.

* Zenit: 31 goals/assists in 156 games (One every 430 mins). 73 apps for the Belgium national team (7 goals).

* Missed only 6 games through injury for his entire career. Averaged 54 games a season for the last five years.

* Apr 2015: On his idols: "Zidane, with his control and skill. I also love Andrea Pirlo. He’s pure class. They've inspired me to keep working on my game, especially with my left foot and my long passing".

* Apr 2015: On his strengths: "I’m the one who’s always calm and relaxed. I think my biggest attribute is the way I shield the ball, and that I don’t tend to give it away".

In my view, this is a no-brainer. Witsel is arguably a clear upgrade on Can, Allen, Lucas, and possibly even Henderson, and his fantastic injury history is a massive positive.

According to his agent, Witsel is worth '€40m', but Zenit's bargaining position is significantly weakened due to Witsel having only one year left on his contract, so that should (in theory) bring the price down.

Worth pursuing?

I Want Out: 'Brilliant' Liverpool star confirms he wants to quit Anfield 'ASAP'.

After the recruitment of Mainz star Lorius Karius, Adam Bogdan is now Liverpool's fourth choice goalkeeper, which is, in effect, career suicide for any player with a modicum of ambition. After a torrid time at Anfield, Bogdan is desperate to rebuild his career, and the Hungarian 'stopper has now made it clear that he wants to quit Anfield ASAP.

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo this week, Bogdan admitted that he doesn't see the point in going on Liverpool's pre-season tour of the USA, and admitted that he wants out of Liverpool. He explained:

“My goal is to get a loan deal ASAP. The new arrival of a goalkeeper shows that they don’t count on me. I can get out of this situation by performing well somewhere else. I need to go to prove my worth.”

With Ward, Mignolet, and Karius on the books, there's absolutely no compelling reason to force Bogdan to stay. Just let him leave, and give him the chance to resurrect his career elsewhere.

Bogdan's struggles at Anfield are hardly surprising - what did Liverpool expect when signing a goalkeeper who struggled to be first-choice at Bolton? On the day Liverpool signed Bogdan, I posted the following:

"Bogdan doesn't have the stature, experience, or ability to permanently relegate Mignolet to the bench, which (arguably) makes his signing a retrograde step for Liverpool".

I also posted an article detailing nine reasons why Liverpool erred in signing Bogdan. Now, I feel compelled to clarify a tedious misconception: I (and others) regularly called for Bogdan to be given a chance ahead of Mignolet, and I stand by that, for the following reasons:

* Once he signed, Bogdan became Liverpool's back-up goalkeeper, and there's obviously nothing I could do about that (!) I may have been against the signing, but there's always a possibility that an unfancied player may step-up and do the business.

* As last season proved yet again, Mignolet is error-prone, and needed to be replaced. Like every player, Bogdan deserved a chance to stake his claim. I (and many others) called for him to be given that chance (just as I called for Teixiera to be given a chance).

* Bogdan had the opportunity to put some serious pressure on Mignolet, but, unfortunately, he didn't take it. That's life. Some players triumph under the pressure, and others (like Rooney and his fellow England POMMMs) fold. The key point here is that you'll never know unless the player is given a chance.

Calling for Bogdan to be given a chance is not retrospectively wrong just because he failed, and the possibility of failure should never be a reason to keep a player on the bench. This applies to Bogdan, Teixeira, and a whole host of youngsters currently toiling away in the Academy.

The prevailing view is that Bogdan failed at Liverpool, but in my view, that's an overstatement. Yes, he made a couple of mistakes, but Mignolet made more, but the difference is that he - like Lallana - got endless chances to make amends and/or play his way into form.

Like Bogdan, Mignolet's time is up, and with any luck, Klopp will replace him from day one with Karius.

^ Hailed by Klopp as 'brilliant' last season.

'Bang Average': Hamann (indirectly) slates £67m Liverpool trio and makes Sturridge Barcelona claim

England's ignominious ejection from Euro 2016 is the gift that just keeps on giving. The Brexit jokes write themselves, the tabloid barracking is comedy gold, and the covetous cadre of Pampered, Overpaid, Metrosexually Meek Millenials (POMMMs) masquerading as footballers are being deservedly lambasted for yet another calamitous tournament catastrophe. England's humiliation also shines a light on regressing standards of the the Premier League, and according to Reds legend Dietmar Hamann, the quality of England's top division leaves a lot to be desired.

Speaking to TalkSport on Tuesday, Hamann pulled no punches in his assessment of England's failure, and indirectly slated England's Liverpool contingent. He scathed:

"Can you see anyone [from the England squad] play for the likes of Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern? Maybe Stones and Barkley. You could make a case for Sturridge and Rashford [but] apart from that, it’s bang average".

Bar Stones, Sturridge, Rashford, and Barkley, Hamann has basically called every player in England's squad - including Reds players Clyne, Henderson, Lallana, and Milner^ - 'bang average', and as a collective, it's hard to disagree.

To be fair, Clyne, Hendo, Lallana, and Milner weren't selected for England's glorious 2-1 defeat to Iceland (something for which they're massively grateful, I'm sure!) but overall, these players are just not good enough to make a serious impact on the international stage.

They're also not good enough (it seems) to push Liverpool above 8th place in the league, but that's hardly surprising. As I've argued many times over the years, a team stacked with English players is destined for abject failure, which (partly) explains why Liverpool have crashed and burned in the league over the last two seasons.

As for England - it's the same old story:

* Players with big reputations from prestige clubs (i.e. Rooney, Hart etc) continually shoehorned into the team irrespective of form, fitness, or suitability.

* Overhyped POMMMs (like Wilshere) included at the expense of those who actually deserve to there (i.e. Drinkwater, who, unlike Wilshere, earned his way into the squad last season).

* Players wasted in the wrong positions (Sturridge and Vardy on the wings, for example), instead of having aces in their places.

* My personal favourite: The mind-bendingly stupid decision to have England's main striker taking free kicks and corners (!)

As Euro 2016 showed *again*, the England team is filled with gutless POMMMs who continually fold under the pressure...and as a proud Scot, all I can say is...long may it continue! ;-D

^ Henderson: £29m-rated. Clyne: Cost £12m. Lallana: Cost £26m. Milner: Free transfer. Combined cost/worth = £67m

Offer Made: Liverpool pushing to sign 'fantastic' €20m sensation who's 'like Benzema and Ronaldo'

With Sadio Mane in the bag, Liverpool are still in the market for another attacking midfielder, and new reports this week suggest that €20m-rated Croatian sensation Marko Pjaca is next on Jurgen Klopp's transfer wish-list.

According to Italian newspaper Gazetta Dello Sport today:

* Inter, AC Milan, and Liverpool are all interested in signing 'fantastic' Pjaca from Dynamo Zagreb.

* Liverpool are already in contact with Zagreb, who have rejected the Reds' initial €15m offer.

Some info about Pjaca:

* 21-year old left-winger, who can also play on the right, or as a number-10.

* Zagreb: 38 goals/assists in 89 apps (One every 161 mins)

* Last Season: 18 goals/assists in 42 apps (One every 162 mins)

* Aug 2015: Dynamo boss Zoran Mamic raved: "Marko is a fantastic player with great potential and when focused and in the right mood he can do great things".

* Mar 2016: Pjaca confirmed: "The interest us coming in. There are a number of big clubs in Italy, Germany and other countries who want to sign me".

* May 2016: Tomislav Ivković, Pjaca's former coach at Lokomotiva, enthused: "He is like a mixture of Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo. He has the physique of the French player and something of Ronaldo's style of play."

May 2016Revealed that his football role model is Cristiano Ronaldo: "I was forever trying to learn some of his skills and tricks".

* Jun 2016: Named the Croatian League's 'Best Player' at the PFA's 'Football Oscars'. Also made the 'Best XI' of the year.

Liverpool are also linked with fellow Croatian youngster Ante Coric, but if the focus has shifted to Pjaca, it suggests that Coric is now off the table. Of the two, who is the better option?

£30m MegaDeal: Legend insists 'Liverpool' have signed another 'top player' who can 'play anywhere'

It's official: Liverpool have signed Southampton attacker Sadio Mane, and although the Reds have been screwed yet again on the transfer fee (Between £30m and £36m, depending on the source) many fans (myself included) are quietly optimistic about his ability to make an impact at Anfield. If nothing else, Mane is a proven Premier League performer, and according to Arsenal legend Ray Parlour, the Senegalese international is a great signing for the Reds.

Speaking to TalkSport today, Parlour raved:

“Mane is a top player. He can play anywhere in the three behind. I think Liverpool have got a really good player there.”

There are obvious concerns about the fee, but price tag aside, the key question to ask is this: Is Mane an upgrade on any of Liverpool's current attacking players? In my view, the answer is a resounding YES. Last season, for example, Mane outperformed all of LFC's senior attacking mids:

* Ibe: 8 G/A in 43 apps (Goal 561 mins. G/A every 280 mins)

* Lallana: 15 G/A in 49 apps (Goal every 509 mins. G/A every 237 mins.

* Coutinho: 19 G/A in 43 apps (Goal every 267 mins. G/A every 169 mins)

* Firmino: 22 G/A in 49 apps (Goal every 302 mins. G/A every 151 mins)

* Mane: G/A in 43 apps (Goal every 207 mins/G/A every 129 mins)

Mane's total career stats are also superior:

* Lallana: 130 G/A in 353 apps (Goal every 375 mins. G/A every 208 mins)

* Coutinho: 74 G/A in 227 apps (Goal every 397 mins. G/A every 203 mins)

* Firmino: 115 G/A in 240 apps (Goal every 358 mins. G/A every 153 mins)

* Mane: 118 G/A in 182 apps (Goal every 191 mins. G/A every 115 mins).

When it comes to fulfilling his primary role (i.e. scoring and creating goals) Mane is a clear upgrade on Coutinho, Lallana and Firmino, and in theory, he should be able to replicate his goals/assists record at Anfield. Alas, it never seems to work out that way with Liverpool signings, but perhaps things will change under Jurgen Klopp.

Mane has all the attributes to be a success: Premier League proven; blistering pace; brute strength; a history of scoring/creating goals to the extent that he is more prolific than Firmino, Coutinho, and Lallana.

There is no compelling reason why Mane shouldn't perform at Anfield (especially operating alongside superior players), but if, heaven forbid, he fails to produce, it will be Klopp's fault, and the reason will be simple: he'll force Mane to prioritise pressing/running over scoring/creating goals.

People think I exaggerate when I argue that Klopp is obsessed with pressing, but whether fans choose to accept it or not, it's true. For example, consider Pedro Chirivella's comments last week:

"He [Klopp] says that I have to improve without the ball. He wants me to press without the ball even more".

Great. Another talented young player being directed to subjugate their natural creative instincts to 'press' more. I want to hear Chirivella saying 'Klopp wants me to be more creative, and dictate play more in the middle', but this is the reality, and I fear that Klopp will take the same approach with Mane.

Instead of encouraging his creativity and individual expression, Klopp will probably urge Mane to 'improve without the ball and 'press more', and this may end up having a detrimental impact on his creative stats.

Obviously, I hope I'm wrong.

Another Transfer? After Mane, Liverpool free to sign 'extraordinary' £15m star who wants LFC move

In January, Jurgen Klopp reportedly discussed with Borussia Dortmund the possibility of signing Serbian defender Neven Subotic, and based on the defender's latest comments, Liverpool now have a great chance of sealing a deal this summer.

Over the weekend, Subotic's agent told Kicker magazine:

"He [Subotic] does not want to earn his money on the bench. We are currently scouting the market."

Then, on Monday, £15m-rated Subotic categorically confirmed that he wants out of Dortmund:

"I am at the best footballing age and want to to further myself and my club. I don't want to [be] on the bench; I want to be an active part of a story".

Klopp's interest in Subotic is also factual, and BVB Director Michael Zorc confirmed: this a few months ago:

“Neven is not happy [at Dortmund], and there are strong indications that he will say his farewells. Klopp wants to take him to Liverpool".

The feeling appears to be mutual. Subotic reportedly wants to follow Klopp to Anfield, but Like so many of Dortmund's big players, he has a patchy injury history:

* 12 injuries in the last four years, including a cruciate ligament injury (351 days on the sidelines/88 games missed).

* Last season: Another 21 games missed (bBack problem/arm injury).

To be fair, ACL injury aside, Subotic has suffered niggling short-term issues rather than a series of long-term problems, but the Premier League is much more physically demanding than the Bundesliga, and given his history, it's probable that he'll sustain further injuries in England.

A loan deal may mitigate the risk somewhat, but if Liverpool are to sign another defender, it surely needs to be someone who is consistently available, not another Sakho, who gets injured 3-4 times a season.

Whether Liverpool actually need Subotic is debatable, though. Even if Skrtel and Toure leave, the Reds will have Lovren, Sakho, Matip, Gomez, Can, and Lucas in the squad, which provides more than enough cover at centre-back.

So: Subotic has issued his clarion call; should Liverpool answer it?

^ hailed by Klopp for his 'extraordinary' performances.

Transfer Agreed: Liverpool to sign 'fantastic' attacker for £34m; Medical passed; announcement today

England are out of Euro 2016, and it's a massive surprise to see such a talented, exciting team suffer the ignominy of yet another early exit from a major international tournament...said no one, ever. After a performance of such embarrassing ineptitude and creative decrepitude, England deserve to be out, and--Oh, wait, sorry - wrong article! My bad (!) I'll start again:

After weeks of speculation, Liverpool are on the verge of signing 'fantastic' Southampton attacker Sadio Mane. According to the BBC:

* Liverpool have agreed a £34m transfer fee for Sadio Mane, which could rise to £36m.

* Man passed a medical on Monday, and the deal is expected to be announced on Tuesday.

Holy rip-off, Batman! Mane is a good Premier League player, but £36m? It's daylight robbery, and proof (IMO) that Jurgen Klopp (and FSG) have learned nothing from the club's profligate transfer spending over the last three years.

* By any comparative/statistical measure, Mane is not worth £34m+.

* As with Carroll, Lallana, Benteke, Lovren, and countless others, Liverpool are overpaying again, and in a year with no European football, it's arguably irresponsible to take yet another massive financial risk.

* As an added bonus, Mane will - unless he's injured - take part in the African Cup of Nations in January/Feb 2017, which means he'll be missing for a month during a crucial part of the season. Superb transfer planning.

For me, the most concerning issue is Liverpool's continued (and counter-productive) financing of Southampton's rise up the table.

* 2013-14: Liverpool finish second in the league, and sign Lambert, Lallana, and Lovren (Combined cost: £50m). Southampton finish 8th on 56 points.

* 2014-15: Despite signing the Saints' best performing players, Liverpool regress to 6th in the league on 62 points. Southampton, meanwhile, improve on the previous season, and finish 7th, just two points behind the Reds.

* 2015-16: Southampton finish 6th (three points and two places above Liverpool), and qualify for Europe.

In the space of two years, Liverpool have basically bankrolled Southampton's resurgence, and engaged in a regression-inducing act of self-sabotage. Handing the Saints another another huge chunk of cash will just make it easier for their new manager to solidify the Saints' position in the top six (probably at LFC's expense).

Many fans (myself included) expected Southampton to crash and burn after losing Lovren, Lallana, and Lambert, who were inarguably their three best players at the time. Unfortunately, the opposite happened, and if the Saints get a half-decent manager this summer, History may repeat itself.

Purely in football terms, Mane is a good signing; he has pace, power, and one crucial quality missing from Adam Lallana's limited repertoire: end product.

Unfortunately, £34m-£36m is just too expensive, and Mane will now arrive at Anfield with the added burden of a massive price tag hanging over his head (which he'll never be able to live up to).

£34m+ for Higuain? Yes please. £30m+ for Marco Reus? Bring it on. £36m for Mane? You're having a laugh, especially when Man United are on the verge of signing Mkhitaryan for just £26m.