10/24/2014 07:55:00 am

'He's like Xavi': €15m 'God' who loves Liverpool confirms transfer 'visits'. Anfield-bound?

Liverpool continue to be linked with a move for €15m-rated Norwegian starlet Martin Odegaard, and this week, the coveted young attacker has confirmed that he is actively seeking a move to a top club.

In July, multiple reports claimed that:

* Brendan Rodgers sent scouts to watch the youngster in action.

* Liverpool then contacted Stromsgodset to negotiate a possible transfer.

When asked on Wednesday about interest from Liverpool, and Manchester United, Odegaard told reporters:

"It is correct. There might be some club visits after the season. It is because I want to be sure about an eventual choice in the future. Then you got to visit them and get a feeling about them. In case I shall leave, it should be to play on a higher level".

Odegaard is a self-confessed Liverpool fan, and so the chances are that one of the 'visits' he speaks of will be to Anfield. Indeed, when asked recently about speculation linking him with a move to Anfield, he told Dagbladet:

“Liverpool is my favourite club. That is not to say that I dream to play for them. I’m thriving at Stromsgodset and feel that I can develop myself right here.”

Odegaard is one of Europe's most coveted young players, and his father confirmed this in September, when he told Verdens Gang:

"I can't name the clubs, but almost regardless of who you name, they have been in contact with us"

Some info about Odegaard:

* Trained with Man United and Bayern Munich last year.
* Current contract expires in 2015.
* 5 goals/3 assists in 20 apps for Stromsgodset.
* Turns 16 in December.
* Real Madrid reportedly made a €15m bid over the summer.

* 2014: Broke 104-year old record to become the youngster player to ever feature for the Norway national team (15 years and 253 days).

* Broke another record recently when he became the youngest player to ever feature in a European Championship game.

On Sunday, Odegaard showed why he's so coveted by scoring scored in Stromsgodset's 2-1 league victory over Lillestrom.



Over the weekend, Scandinavian football expert and scout Fabrizio Bertuzzi hailed Odegaard as 'a talented and creative midfielder' with 'impressive maturity', and made another bold claim about the youngster's ability:

"I am not surprised Barcelona are interested. He is like Xavi and Andres Iniesta, and features a mix of both players. Despite being an adolescent he is almost a semi-god of football."

As is usually the case with most promising young attacking players, Odegaard is often compared to Lionel Messi (and risibly referred to as the 'Norwegian Messi'), but in a recent interview, he dismissed the comparisons:

“It’s very flattering to get so much praise, but one shouldn’t compare himself with players as good as that. However I do look up to a lot of footballers and try to improve by looking at what they do, and Messi is one of them.”

Maybe it's just me, but from the footage above, there something 'David Beckham' about the way Odegaard moves around the field. He seems unbelievably confident and assured for someone so young, and he definitely looks older than 15 (!)

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10/24/2014 01:56:00 am

Mega-Deal: LFC close to signing 'lethal' striker after FSG approve huge €40m offer

Earlier this month, reports in Italy claimed that Liverpool put in a €28m summer bid for Napoli star Gonzalo Higuain. The Serie A club rejected the offer, but with the Reds struggling to replace Luis Suarez's goals, Brendan Rodgers is seemingly determined to sign the Argentina striker.

According to several reports today:

* Liverpool have put in a new €40m (£31.2m) bid for Higuain.

* The Reds are 'close' to sealing the deal.

* Rodgers is confident he Higuain will sign for LFC ahead of Arsenal.

Reports in Italy suggest that Higuain - described by Andrea Pirlo as a 'lethal' striker - is unsettled at the club, and Rafa Benitez dropped him from the starting line-up for Thursday's Europa League clash with Young Boys.

When asked about Benitez decision, Napoli sporting director Riccardo Bigon denied that ongoing transfer talk had anything to do with the decision. He told Italian newspaper Tutto Mercato:

"There's no tension with Higuain - he is a great professional. The decision today is simply a matter of squad rotation."

Club President Aurelio De Laurentis recently confirmed that Higuain has €100m buyout clause in his contract, but no club is ever going to meet that, and €40m should be enough to persuade the Serie A club to sell...unless, of course, Liverpool get outbid.

It's unclear whether Liverpool put in the initial summer offer before or after the signing of Mario Balotelli, but given how late in the window the deal happened, the probability is that it came before the Reds splashed £16m on the controversial striker.

I doubt there are many Reds fans who'd take Balotelli over Higuain. With his always-in-motion mobility, work ethic, and ability to get in behind defences, the Argentine is far more suited to Liverpool's style of play thanBalotelli, though it's still early days for the Italian, and over time, he may prove to be a great signing.

Higuain's stats for Napoli so far are pretty formidable:

* 26 goals/13 assists in 53 appearances.
* Goal/assist every 1.3 games.

The Argentine's stats at Real Madrid were also excellent:

* 122 goals/56 assists in 264 apps.
* Goal/assist every 1.4 games.

Anfield legends John Aldridge and John Barnes are massively in favour of signing Higuain. Last season, Barnes told TalkSport:

"Liverpool need someone like Gonzalo Higuain. If you get the ball in the box he can score, he can play outside the box and he’s the kind of player that Liverpool should be going for".

In a recent column for the Liverpool Echo, Aldo noted:

"I like the look of Gonzalo Higuain. He would be brilliant for us, but would he come? And how much would be cost?"

I don't currently see the incentive for Higuain to join Liverpool. The club is struggling this season, and may be out of the Champions League by January. Plus, if Arsenal enter the fray, the lure of London may be prove to be too much of an attraction.

Additionally, after Rodgers basically wasted £120m over the summer, I can't see FSG giving him another €40m in January. That said, the group has to protect its investment, and failure to qualify for the Champions League will be a massive blow, especially with the development of Anfield to pay for.

As such, FSG may gamble, and hope that signing a top class striker will propel Liverpool into the Champions League. If, however, Rodgers signs Higuain, and still fails to qualify, then his job will surely be on the line...

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10/23/2014 09:41:00 pm

Transfer Rip-Off: Ex-Pro blasts LFC for paying 'way too much' for £46m duo. Agree?

Liverpool's poor start to the season continued last night with a 3-0 home defeat to Real Madrid, and once again, none of Brendan Rodgers' new signings made any specific, measurable impact on the tame. So far, the net return on the club's £120m summer investment is three measly goals, which, by any standard, is extremely worrying. Much of that outlay is LFC's standard overpayment on players, and according to Southampton legend Gordon Watson, the Reds grossly overpaid for two specific players.

In a recent interview with the Daily Echo, Watson argued:

“We might have paid too much for Shane [Long], but Liverpool paid way too much for Adam Lallana. They also paid way too much for Lovren"

Prior to signing Lallana, I argued against spending £26m on him, and my view remains the same. Lallana is a very good player, but is really worth more than the likes of Kroos, and Rakitic, both of whom have hit the ground running for their respective teams? To be fair to Lallana, he missed pre-season, so he's still getting up to speed, but his one goal aside, his actual impact on LFC's games so far is negligible.

As for Lovren - it's typical LFC, really. The Croatian was heavily linked with a move to Anfield during the summer 2013 transfer window. The club dragged its feet, and he ended up joining Southampton for £8m. Fast forward a year, and Liverpool splurge £20m on a player they could've got for (comparative) peanuts.

To add insult to injury, LFC dropped £18m on Mamadou Sakho, so overall, the club has (arguably) wasted a combined £30m: £18m on Sakho, and the extra £12m on Lovren.

Abject fee negotiation aside, I genuinely believe that Lallana and Lovren (plus Moreno) are the most likely of all Rodgers' summer signings to be long-term successes at Anfield. Both are enduring tough starts to their Liverpool careers, but when all is said and done, they're quality players, and that will (hopefully) shine through with time.

It's a bit of a cliche now, but Jordan Henderson is a prime example of LFC seemingly overpaying for a player who eventually came good.

Here's hoping Lallana and Lovren follow a similar career trajectory...Rodgers' job may well depend on it.

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10/23/2014 06:30:00 pm

LFC Alert: Owen urges BR to 'pay extra' for €12m 'monster' striker. Replace Balotelli?

In stark contrast to misfiring striker Mario Balotelli, 'monster' €12m summer signing Divock Origi now has 6 goals/assists in 11 appearances for Lille, and ex-Red Michael Owen insists that Liverpool should do everything possible to cut short the Belgian's loan deal in January.

After Liverpool's 3-0 defeat to Real Madrid last night, Owen tweeted:

"If I was Brendan Rodgers I would pay an extra few million and try to get Origi to the club six months earlier than originally agreed".

According to recent reports, this is precisely what Rodgers is trying to do, with the Liverpool Echo claiming that the manager is willing to pay a 'big fee' to make it happen.

For me, recalling Origi - a 19 year old with zero experience of the Premier League - is tantamount to an admission of total and utter transfer failure on Rodgers' part, and after spending over £200m in two years, the Reds should not be hoping that a comparatively untested teenager can come in save the club's season (!)

Brendan Rodgers recently claimed that Origi 'will be world class' at some point in the future, but right now, he's proven very little. Scoring goals in (leisurely-paced) Ligue One is easier than consistently making a mark in the Premier League, and there's no guarantee that Origi will be able to replicate his current form in England.

Taking everything into consideration, though, I can see the logic in bringing Origi back early.

* Sturridge will inevitably get injured again, and for every spell on the sidelines, he'll need time to get back up to full match-fitness. Having a young, fit, pacy striker to pick up the slack during Sturridge's downtime is clearly a benefit.

* Balotelli, Borini, and Lambert have ONE goal between them all season. This is a disaster of epic proportions, and if it continues over the next couple of months, then Liverpool will be in real trouble.

* After spending £120 in the summer, it's doubtful that FSG will hand Rodgers another £30m-£40m in January for another striker, especially given his poor judgement in the transfer market. Liverpool already own Origi, so it makes sense to focus on the cheaper option, which is to pay a fee and bring him in early.

If Liverpool had Origi from the beginning of the season instead of, and/or alongside Balotelli, it's possible he may have made a bigger impact. The Belgian is far more suited to playing as a lone-striker, and with his pace and movement, he's capable of getting-in behind defences, which is not Balotelli's forte.

I'd still prefer to see the Reds sign a proven goalscorer in January, but beggars can't be choosers, and Origi is looking like the most realistic option right now.

Author:

10/23/2014 06:26:00 am

Anfield Exit: Boss confirms CL giants 'need' to sign exciting £6m LFC star. Sell?

In September, Italian newspaper Tutto Mercato claimed that Liverpool have agreed to sell to AC Milan, with the Italian giants offering the marginalised attacker a 4-year deal worth €1m a year. Suso is constantly ignored by Brendan Rodgers, so a move clearly makes sense, but is there any truth to this particular rumour?

When asked this week about the club's alleged interest in Suso, Milan Chief Adriano Galliani told reporters:

“We need to strengthen. Suso is out of contract and will tell us if he wants to change his team or stay where he is".

This is tacit confirmation that Milan are interested in Suso, and with the 'top class' youngster soon to be out of contract, he's in a strong position to make the right decision about the future.

The treatment of Suso is disappointing, but it's nothing new. In November 2012, Rodgers substituted him in the 38th minute of LFC's home game with Wigan, which seemed unduly harsh. Subbing players off in the first half of games is always embarrassing, and as I argued at the time, Rodgers cold've just waited a measly 7 minutes until half-time. It's not as if LFC were in danger of losing the game.

£6m-rated Suso - hailed by John Aldridge as 'magnificent', and 'a joy to watch' - clearly has a lot of talent, and with the right coaching/development, he could become a top class player. Alas, Rodgers doesn't seem interested in committing to the attacker's first-team development, and that may ultimately lead to Suso quitting the club.

Suso has stuck it out over the last four years; he's been loyal, and patiently waited for his chance. Well, for the sake of his career, he should (IMO) leave Anfield ASAP. Rodgers clearly doesn't rate him, and the £20m purchase of Lazar Markovic is yet another indirect vote of no-confidence.

As such, why stay? Rodgers is unlikely to suddenly change his approach and start playing Suso regularly, so there's no point hanging around...right?

Author:

10/23/2014 01:12:00 am

Urgent Deal: BR desperate to sign 'explosive' Brazil star to replace £9m LFC misfit

Another day, another defensive horror show from Liverpool. Real Madrid tore the Reds a proverbial 'new one' at Anfield last night, and once again, Simon Mignolet (who cost LFC £9m in 2013) made a mistake that led to an opposition goal. The sooner he is replaced, the better, and with the Victor Valdes deal apparently dead in the water, Brendan Rodgers has reportedly highlighted an alternative option.

This week, The Mirror reports that:

* Rodgers is 'frantically' searching for a replacement for Mignolet.

* Liverpool are now planning to make a move for Norberto Murara Neto, aka 'Neto'.

* The Brazilian is allegedly willing to accept £20,000-per-week and could be available at a bargain price.

When asked this week about his future, Neto seemed to rule out a move away from Serie A. He told reporters:

"I am not thinking about the renewal. I’m just concentrating on my work and being in good form. The club would like me to renew straight away but we haven’t reached an agreement yet. Fiorentina remains my first choice.”

Neto's Stats:

* 2014-15: Played 7
* Goals conceded: 5 (1 every 1.4 games)
* Clean Sheets: 4

* 2013-14: Played 49
* Goals conceded: 51 (1 every 1.04 games)
* Clean Sheets: 16 (1 every 3 games)

* TOTALS: (Fiorentina) - Played 70
* Goals conceded: 72
* Clean Sheets: 25 (1 every 2.8 games)

Neto's clean sheet record is quite impressive, but over his career, his goals-conceded per-game ratio is not the greatest. However, last season, he conceded fewer goals (51 in 49 games) than Mignolet (53 in 40 games), so at a basic level, the Brazilian is clearly an upgrade.

Former Fiorentina goalkeeper Sébastien Frey certainly believes that Neto is a top-class 'keeper. In an interview earlier this year, he raved:

“I trained for a few months with Neto and he his is naturally explosive, and I think the Italian school helped him grow even more. He can become one of the best goalkeepers in Serie A.”

Is Neto the answer, or should Liverpool try and sign a proven, world-class goalkeeper (like Iker Casillas, for example, who is currently being linked with a move to Anfield)?

Author:

10/22/2014 09:13:00 pm

Photo: Furious BR subs Balotelli for HT shirt-swap with Real Madrid star. Embarrassment?

Balotelli puts his foot in it again (!) The increasingly maligned striker reportedly swapped shirts with Real Madrid's Pepe at half-time, which prompted angry Reds boss Brendan Rodgers to pull him out of the game for the second half. You couldn't make it up!

According to Phil Neville on BBC 5 Live:

"There are some things you don't do, when you are 3-0 down in the Champions League. You don't go swapping shirts in full view."

Photo of the alleged shirt-swap with £20m-rated Pepe.



Rodgers angry reaction comes as absolutely no surprise.

In December, Sakho and Coutinho swapped shirts with Samuel Eto'o and Oscar at half-time during LFC's 2-1 defeat to Chelsea, a needlessly reverent gesture towards two players who cynically scythed down Reds' stars Jordan Henderson and Lucas Leiva at different points in the game.

When told of the shirt-swap after the game, Rodgers barked:

"Well one, I didn’t know that, and two, thanks for telling me because I don’t like that.”

I've defended Balotelli this season, but he's made a silly mistake here. A Champions League game is an adversarial contest; it's supposed to be competitive, and for the duration of the game, the players are - for all intents and purposes - enemies, and should be fighting hard to to retain the competitive spirit for a full ninety minutes.

Swapping shirts at half-time is an absolute joke, and (arguably) gives the opposition team a psychological advantage. It's also a tacit admission of defeat - players should be fired up to win the game; they should be angry about losing, and thinking about ways to get back into the game.

To be honest, it's an embarrassment. That said, Coutinho and Sakho made the same mistake, and neither received the hysterical barracking that Balotelli is almost certain to endure after the game. Yes, he made a mistake, but it shouldn't be blown out of proportion.

As for the first-half - in my view, the Balotelli had a few good moments in the first half, but once again, Rodgers ridiculously played him as a lone-striker, which just doesn't work!

Why can't Rodgers see that?! The manager deserves all the criticism coming his way after the Madrid game, and if he persists in playing Balotelli up-front on his own, then he only has himself to blame if his job comes under threat.

Author:

10/22/2014 06:53:00 pm

LFC 0-3 Madrid: Abject £136m fail at Anfield as BR blows it in the Champions League.

Rumours of Mario Balotelli's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Despite calls for Brendan Rodgers to drop Balotelli, the Italian is - as expected - in the starting line-up for tonight's titanic clash with Real Madrid.

FULL TEAM: Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno, Allen, Gerrard, Hendo, Coutinho, Sterling, Balotelli

SUBS: Toure, Manquillo, Can, Lallana, Markovic, Lambert, Jones

MADRID: Casillas, Arbeloa, Varane, Pepe, Marcelo, Kroos, Modric, Rodriguez, Isco, Ronaldo, Benzema

SUBS: Navas, Khedira, Chicharito, Carvajal, Nacho, Illarra, Medran

That is a seriously frightening Madrid team (!)

As for Liverpool - £36m duo Adam Lallana and Emre Can have seemingly paid the price for Sunday's lacklustre performance against QPR, which is fair enough, as neither player made much impact during the game.

Jose Enrique doesn't even make the match-day squad, which comes as no surprise after his long-ball, 58% passing-accuracy horror show against QPR.

The (welcome) inclusion of Coutinho hopefully means that Rodgers will go with a 422 diamond, with Sterling playing alongside Balotelli; Gerrard playing further forward, and Allen taking the defensive midfield role.

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

Johnson ----- Skrtel --- Lovren ---- Moreno

-------------------- Allen

------------ Gerrard ---- Hendo

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

----------- Sterling ---- Balotelli

Rodgers may also decide to go with 4231, which will be surprising considering that formation has failed for Liverpool this season. Plus, it will mean Balotelli playing up-front on his own, which also doesn't work.

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

Johnson ----- Skrtel --- Lovren ---- Moreno

---------------- Allen - Gerrard

-------- Hendo --- Coutinho ---- Sterling

------------------ Balotelli

My prediction is a still 3-1 to Madrid, but that's being conservative...

EDIT: 23:30PM

A sobering thought: £136m worth of Rodgers' signings on display against Madrid, and Liverpool looked like they'd *regressed* from last season...

Author:

10/22/2014 06:51:00 am

Possible XI vs. Madrid: Huge pre-game boost for LFC; BR to shock with €20m surprise?

After struggling to beat the bottom club in the Premier League at the weekend, Liverpool now face the prospect of trying to overcome Real Madrid, the reigning Champions of Europe. With the club's defence leaking goals like there's no tomorrow, it doesn't get much tougher than this.

On the injury front, Daniel Sturridge remains on the sidelines, and it remains to be seen whether Alberto Moreno will return to the squad.

The Spaniard missed Liverpool's trip to QPR, but it's unclear whether he is injured, or simply rested by Reds boss Brendan Rodgers.

On the plus side, Madrid will be without Gareth Bale, and Sergio Ramos, with is great news for LFC. Alas, with the likes of Ronaldo, and James Rodriguez in the squad, Real have more than enough quality to make up for the loss of Bale.

The big question of the day is Mario Balotelli: will LFC's €20m signing start the game, or will Rodgers spring a major surprise and drop the Italian for Rickie Lambert, or Fabio Borini?

In a post yesterday, I argued that it's a mistake to drop Balotelli for such a big, prestigious game, and I maintain that view. The Italian has plenty of big game experience, and that may come in handy against a team like Madrid. I'd like to see the following line-up:

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

Manquillo ----- Skrtel --- Lovren ---- Moreno

-------------------- Allen

------------ Gerrard ---- Hendo

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

----------- Sterling ---- Balotelli

* Emre Can didn't make much of an impression at QPR, so I don't see him retaining his place in the starting line-up.

* Coutinho deserves to start after his excellent goal at the weekend. He's been struggling recently, and there's no point curtailing his momentum. Rodgers will probably decide to go with Adam Lallana, though.

* Due to his experience, I suspect Johnson will ultimately get the nod over Manquillo.

There's also the possibility that Rodgers will revert to 4231, and play with two holding midfielders in a bid to counteract the attacking threat of Ronaldo, Rodriguez et al:

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

Manquillo ----- Skrtel --- Lovren ---- Moreno

---------------- Allen -- Gerrard

-------------------- Hendo

------ Sterling ------------- Lallana

------------------ Balotelli

Reds icon Jamie Carragher insists that Rodgers should drop Balotelli for the game, speaking to Sky Sports this week, he suggested the following 4231 line-up:

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

Johnson ---------- Skrtel ----- Lovren ---- Moreno

------------------ Gerrard --- Allen

-------- Henderson ----- Lallana ----- Coutinho

----------------------- Sterling

Carra explained:

"I wouldn’t play Balotelli - I would play Raheem Sterling [as a] centre forward or a false nine. I think it’s important Liverpool have three players [in front of Gerrard] who work and get after Real Madrid and I’d have Coutinho in a wide area".

Ronaldo is obviously going to be a massive threat, but in his Tuesday column for the Liverpool Echo, Liverpool legend John Aldridge dismissed the possibility of Rodgers deploying a man-marker. He argued:

"Brendan Rodgers will not sacrifice a player to man mark Ronaldo or Modric. That is not his style. The Reds will look to play their own game but they know they cannot allow themselves to be exposed in certain areas when they lose the ball".

Surprisingly, Real Madrid have never scored a competitive goal against Liverpool, so here's hoping the Reds can extend that amazing record tonight. It's highly unlikely, but you never know...

My prediction: 3-1 to Madrid (Sorry, but the defence is a shambles, and I can't see that changing tonight)

Author:

10/21/2014 11:15:00 pm

'He's like Busquets': BR fighting to sign record-breaking €40m Porto star. Replace Lucas?

Liverpool are reportedly going head-to-head with a number of different clubs for Porto starlet Rúben Neves, yet another untested young player.

According to The Mirror today:

"Liverpool have joined the chase for teenage midfielder Ruben Neves, [who] has been watched three times by the Reds this season"

Some info about Neves:

* 17 years old. Turns 18 in March.
* Plays as a defensive midfielder.
* 1 goal in 10 games for Porto.

* 46 apps for various Portugal youth teams.
* 3 apps for the Portugal U21 team (1 goal)
* 2014: Captained Portugal's U17s to the European Championship SF.
* Selected as one of the 10 'Talents of the tournament'.

* Youngest goalscorer in Porto's history. After scoring on his debut against Maritimo, Neves told reporters: "It was a dream debut, not only for my performance and goal but also for the win. I'm going to keep this forever and I hope it will be the beginning of a very successful career."

A profile on UEFA.com describes Neves' playing style as follows:

"Neves impresses with his passing precision, vision and astute positioning, showing great maturity for his age. Although commonly employed as a defensive midfielder, he shows no fear in getting forward, leading attacks and trying to score with his powerful right foot".

Barcelona attacker Cristian Tello is currently on-loan at Porto, and in a recent interview, he waxed lyrical about Neves' talent, and compared him to one of Barcelona's best players. He raved:

"Neves is fantastic with the ball, has great positioning on the field, and is aggressive, with a good job. With some small differences' he plays very much like Sergio Busquets"

Porto are seemingly aware of the growing interest in Neves, and the club has moved quickly to ensure that he won't leave on the cheap. This week, the Portuguese giants confirmed that Neves has signed a new deal:

"Rúben Neves [has] renewed his contracts with FC Porto this Friday. The Portuguese youngster will stay until June 2017, with a release fee of 40 million euros".

Liverpool have dozens of promising youngster at the academy, but very few quality defensive midfielders are on the verge of breaking through, so increasing the club's option in that area could be a good thing.

The Reds could also benefit from grooming a long-term successor for Lucas Leiva...



Author:

10/21/2014 07:30:00 pm

Done Deal? BR set to sign 'world class' €12m 'leader' who dreams of LFC transfer

Marseille star Andre Ayew has been linked with a move to Liverpool many times in the past, and new reports this week claim that the Reds are moving closer to sealing a deal for Ayew, who reportedly 'dreams' of a move to Anfield.

According to reports this week:

* Liverpool are 'set to sign' Ayew, who has refused to sign a new deal with Marseille.

* The move is being prompted by Rodgers' alleged frustration with Mario Balotelli,

* Rodgers is considering a 'cut-price' deal during the January transfer window.

€12m-rated Ayew has preference for Liverpool, and when interviewed last season on French TV show Telefoot, he enthused:

"It [The Premier league] is a league I always think of. I am Ghanaian and an English speaker, and I have a strong preference for England. As for Liverpool - I followed them as a child"

When asked about his future recently, Ayew told reporters:

"Everything is possible. I'm under contract and proud to wear this jersey. I could have left it two years ago, but I stayed, had finished second. We'll see"

Ayew's versatility probably makes him an appealing option for Brendan Rodgers. He can play as a winger, or a striker, but is he prolific enough, though? Stats for the last few years:

* 2010-11: 13 goals/3 assists in 51 appearances.
* 2011-12: 16 goals/4 assists in 39 apps.
* 2012-13: 13 goals/5 assists in 45 apps.
* 2013-14: 8 goals/3 assists in 29 apps.
* Goal/Assist every 2.5 games.

When your joint top-scorer is 'own goals' (3 so far, with Gerrard and Sterling also on 3 goals) then it's clear that there's a problem up-front. As such, bringing in another goalscorer is arguably a priority (!)

Former Ghana head coach Kwesi Appiah is convinced that Ayew is the real deal, and earlier this year, he outlined what makes the striker such a special player:

“Ayew is a player of world-class level and tactically he is good. He is also a leader. When the team is in trouble he pushes all his companions to fight and not give up.”

Sounds like just the type of player Liverpool need, and the polar opposite of Balotelli. There's a world of difference, though, between scoring goals in France, and doing the business in the Premier League, and Ayew's goalscoring stats are not that great to begin with.

With Rodgers' signings failing to deliver so far, he needs to get it right with the next deal. Is Ayew the answer?



Author:

10/21/2014 05:15:00 pm

Legend tells BR: Dump Balotelli & replace him with 'dazzling' £31m star. More like Suarez?

After failing to score again at the weekend, the pressure on £16m Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli is building, and with a vital Champions League game against Real Madrid to come on Wednesday, Anfield legend Jamie Carragher has called on Reds boss Brendan Rodgers to take drastic action.

In his Monday column for the Daily Mail, Carra offered several reasons why Rodgers should drop Balotelli for the Madrid game, and play £31m-rated Raheem Sterling up-front instead:

* Balotelli doesn't 'run around enough'
* LFC need Sterling's 'energy', which Balotelli doesn't offer.
* Sterling can 'run in behind' during counter-attacks.
* He can also 'press from the front', and help the midfield.

Carra is spot on about the benefits of playing Sterling up-front, and the youngster is clearly a lot more like Luis Suarez than Balotelli, but in my view, it's a terrible idea to drop the Italian for the Madrid game, for the following reasons:

* If Balotelli is going to deliver for Liverpool, then Rodgers needs to retain his faith in the striker and keep him motivated. Dropping him for one of the biggest games of the season is not the way to do that.

* Champions league football is probably one of the main reasons why Balotelli signed for Liverpool, so losing out on that - especially against Real Madrid - will probably demotivate the striker, which could have a knock-on effect on future performances.

* Sterling is a good player, but like Balotelli, he is not an out-and-out striker. In theory, moving him upfront sounds like a good idea, but there's no guarantee that he'll do any better than Balotelli.

* Whether fans like it or not, Balotelli is Liverpool's problem now, so it's in the club's interested to maximise his potential and try to get the best out of him.

* Balotelli's only goal this season came in the Champions League, so going into the game, that may give him the confidence to push on and score again.

* Unlike Sterling, Lambert, Borini et al, Balotelli has copious big game experience in the Champions League, and at International level, which arguably gives him the edge.

As Balotelli explained over the weekend, he prefers to play as a number 10, but Rodgers keeps deploying him as a lone central striker. If that's the manager's plan for Madrid, then it's (arguably) tactical suicide - the best solution is to play Sterling alongside Balotelli, which will allow the Italian to drop a little deeper without compromising Liverpool's attacking presence up front.

Ultimately, as Winston Churchill once said: "If you're going through hell, keep going", and in Balotelli's case, that's exactly what he needs to do right now: keep going until the goals start to flow.

Author:

10/20/2014 09:45:00 pm

Transfer Truth: BR confirms whether LFC are going to sign 'exceptional' £16m star. Good news?

Last week, Victor Valdes' agent dismissed reports that the £16m-rated goalkeeper had rejected a 4-day fitness trial with Liverpool, and claimed that the Reds have not yet made any official offer for the ex-Barcelona star. The Reds desperately need a commanding goalkeeper at the club, but it appears that Valdes is not not on the transfer agenda.

Speaking to Spanish newspaper Sport recently, Gines Varvajal claimed that reports of a four day trial are wide of the mark. He explained:

"Liverpool have not offered us the chance to train with them for four days.

"And we have not rejected the offer, because it is false. That offer was never made to us by Brendan Rodgers nor by Liverpool at any moment."


In an interview with Spanish newspaper AS over the weekend, Rodgers was asked specifically if he 'planned to sign another another Spanish player in the coming months', to which the Reds' boss simply responded:

'No'.

Of course, Rodgers denial cannot be taken at face-value. There are many past instance of LFC's manager feeding the press misinformation, with the most recent example being his 'categorical' contention that Mario Balotelli 'will not be at Liverpool' (!)

In terms of shot-stopping, Mignolet had a decent game against QPR, but most goalkeepers are good shot-stoppers; that's the main aspect of their job. The Belgian was (arguably) partially culpable again for both QPR goals: suspect positioning for the first, and being beaten (again) at his near-post for the second.

Liverpool's entire defensive unit is an utter shambles right now, and Mignolet is a big part of disorganisation and lack of cohesiveness. The sooner he's replaced, the better.

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10/20/2014 07:13:00 pm

£12m mystery: After QPR fiasco, BR brings 'fantastic' star back to LFC. Injury nightmare, or rested?

For whatever reason, £12m summer signing Alberto Moreno was missing from LFC's squad for Sunday's 3-2 victory over QPR, and (usually), when a player suddenly drops out of sight, it's usually due to an unannounced injury. The plot has thickened today, with the Reds taking steps to provide cover on the left, which suggests that that LFC's injury problems could be about to get worse.

Last week, Spain U21 boss boss Albert Celades dropped Moreno for Spain's Euro qualifier with Serbia, but after the game, he dismissed rumours of an injury. He told Spanish newspaper AS:

"Alberto Moreno has nothing; there was no physical problem or anything preventing him from playing. It was a technical decision, because we thought that, coming into this match, Gaya was better in that position".

Well, after missing the weekend victory over QPR, Liverpool have now recalled teenage left-back Brad Smith. In an official statement on Swindon's website, boss Mark Cooper explained:

“Brad Smith has been recalled by Liverpool...and we can’t do anything about it. He’s very quick, he’s a great lad and I’m sure he will go on to have a fantastic career in the game. Hopefully in the future we’ll have the opportunity to bring him back".

There's no indication here that Smith is injured, and/or being recalled due to lack of game-time/impact, so the obvious answer is that the youngster is being brought back for cover purposes. As such, Moreno may be injured, and Rodgers will probably shed some more light on that in tomorrow's press conference.

Another injury will be a big blow for Liverpool, especially for Moreno, who is one of the Reds' better defensive performers this season (which, admittedly, isn't saying much!)

Even if Moreno is injured, I personally don't see the wisdom in bringing back Smith. Liverpool have Johnson, Manquillo, and Enrique - surely that is enough to cover the full-back positions for a few weeks? Smith will probably sit on the bench, and make the odd sub appearance, but that won't help him as much as playing regularly at Swindon.

That said, Jose Enrique had a nightmare against QPR, and Rodgers will not have been impressed with his long-ball antics. According to OPTA stats, 23% of the Spaniard's passes were long-balls (the highest in the team), and he achieved a pitiful 58% passing accuracy rate.

With that mind, Smith's recall is partially understandable.

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10/20/2014 12:19:00 am

Transfer Fail: Legend blasts BR for wasting £120m on a 'crowd of mediocrity'. Harsh or fair?

Liverpool legend John Aldridge has slammed Brendan Rodgers' summer transfer activity, and singled out £20m signing Lazar Markovic for specific criticism.

In his column for Sunday World, Aldo slammed Rodgers' summer signings as a 'crowd of mediocrity', and assessing Markovic's individual contribution, he barked:

"Lazar Markovic must do a whole lot better. This kid came with a big reputation, but he has looked out of his depth at Liverpool so far this season. You can’t afford to be carrying players and Markovic is a passenger".

Well, today's performance at QPR did nothing to contradict Aldo's 'crowd of mediocrity' assessment. None of the club's new players performed with any kind of distinction against QPR (the Premier League's bottom club!), and that is a real cause for concern. Indeed, Liverpool legend Dietmar Hamann summed it up with this tweet during the game:

"QPR have been excellent, and did all bar score. Dunne superb, can't believe he's not been playing. LFC terrible all round, lucky to still be in it".

Aldo stuck the knife in a little bit more by tweeting that the QPR performance is 'as poor as I've seen for a while', and I don't think many will disagree with that. LFC basically struggled to beat the Premier League's shipping boys, and had to rely on two own goals to win the game. Pretty embarrassing, really.

As for Markovic - he has made zero impact for Liverpool so far, and with a hefty price tag of £20m, the pressure is just going to mushroom until he starts contributing on a regular basis. The Serb can't do that, though, until Rodgers plays him, and he spends most of his time on the bench at the moment, including today for the QPR game.

Some may argue that Markovic is 'one for the future', and that he shouldn't be expected to hit the ground running, but when a club spends £20m, then it's perfectly fair for fans to have a legitimate expectation that the player cocerned is capable of going straight into the team and making a difference.

The manager creates that expectation by spending a massive amount of money, and in this case, it's down to Rodgers to ensure that any £20m players coming into the club are equipped to meet the inevitable expectation.

As such, irrespective of age, 'one for the future' is not an excuse that can credibly be used for any player signed for £20m+. That may sound harsh, but if the manager is spending that amount of cash on players who may or may not come good at some point in the distant future, then there's a serious problem with the transfer policy (IMO)

That said, in this case, a little perspective is needed. Markovic basically missed LFC's entire pre-season schedule with injury, so he's already behind the rest of the squad, but he can't get up to speed unless Rodgers plays him!

I retain hope that Markovic will come good at some point, but right now, the £20m splurged on the young attacker is looking like money well and truly wasted.

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10/19/2014 08:07:00 pm

Great News? £15m 'warrior' desperate for LFC move can leave for £5m. Sign £32m star instead?

Another day, another defensive shambles. Liverpool's error-prone defenders almost cost the club vital points against QPR today, and despite spending almost £60m on defenders over the last year, the Reds are still shipping goals at an alarming rate. It's a serious problem, and it seems increasingly likely that Reds boss Brendan Rodgers will have to bring in yet another central defender in a bid to steady the ship. West Ham defender Winston Reid continues to be linked with a January move to Anfield, and it appears that he may be available for a knockdown fee.

Last week, the Daily Express claimed that:

* Reid is 'confident' of joining Liverpool.

* He allegedly has his 'heart set' on a move to Anfield.
* Reid has rejected offers from Arsenal and Man United because he wants to join LFC.
* West Ham are willing to sell for £15m.

According to the Daily Mail today, West Ham are desperate for Reid to sign a new contract, but:

"The club fear Reid will reject any new deal and line up a move at the end of the season when he becomes a free agent. If that is the case the Hammers could try to offload him in January for £5m"

Liverpool were linked with Reid earlier this year, with The Mirror reporting at the time:

"West Ham centre back Winston Reid is...a summer transfer target [for Liverpool]. Arsenal are monitoring the 25-year-old's situation, but Liverpool are set to be the first to firm up their interest with a bid'"

Some info about Reid:

* Current contract expires in 2015
* Captain of the New Zealand national team.
* Won West Ham's 'Player of the Year' award in 2013.
* 100 appearances for West Ham since 2010.
* Averages 28 appearances per season.
* 6 goals 3 assists.

Ex-Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp rates Reid, and at the end of last season, he named the defender as one of his players of the season. He told the Daily Mail:

"Winston Reid...has been excellent alongside James Collins. Reid is a warrior defender who can look ungainly but rarely makes mistakes"

In my view, Reid is not the answer in any way, shape, or form; he is a solid Premier League defender, but he doesn't have the European experience required to dominate at Anfield.

If Rodgers is to spend big-bucks on another central defender, it should (IMO) go on a proven, world-class player, with international/European experience.

As always, my first choice is Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels, who is reportedly available for £32m.

Hummels is a proven, world class defender, and you get what you pay for. Granted, £32m is a huge amount of money to spend on a central defender, but to offset the fee, Liverpool could sell Sakho and Ilori, and (hopefully) make back £15-£20m.

Of course, there are no guarantees that Hummels is capable of transforming the club's defence. Many fans (myself included) hoped that Lovren would be the answer to LFC's defensive woes. That may well turn out to be the case later down the line, but right now, the reality is that Liverpool are conceding goals at a greater rate than last season.

As noted above, though, you (often) get what you pay for, and I suspect that Hummels will make more of a positive impact on LFC's defence than Reid.



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10/19/2014 12:44:00 pm

Confirmed LFC XI vs. QPR: £12m star dumped from the squad; surprise in midfield?

Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique return to the Liverpool first XI for today's must-win Premier League encounter with QPR.

FULL TEAM: Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Lovren, Enrique, Gerrard, Can, Henderson, Lallana, Sterling, Balotelli

SUBS: Jones, Toure, Manquillo, Coutinho, Allen, Markovic, Lambert

After his recent injury, Emre Can also comes straight back into the team, but for some reason, Javier Manquillo is dropped to the bench, and Alberto Moreno doesn't even make the first-team squad.

Perhaps Rodgers is saving them for the Real Madrid game, but given their comparative lack of experience, it would arguably make more sense to play them today, and start Johnson and Enrique in the Champions League.

Philippe Coutinho is also dropped, which comes as no real surprise given his underwhelming form this season.

They key question is how will Rodgers utilise Can and Gerrard? Hopefully, he'll play LFC's captain further forward, with Can operating in the defensive midfielder role. Possible formation:

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

Johnson --- Skrtel --- Lovren ------- Enrique

----------------- Can

--------- Gerrard --- Hendo

--------------- Lallana

--------- Sterling - Balotelli

Earlier this week, Balotelli complained about playing as a lone striker, so perhaps Rodgers will take that on board and play Sterling up-front alongside the Italian...?

Of course, it's also possible that Rodgers may stubbornly stick to his guns, and play Gerrard at DM, and Balotelli as a lone striker:

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

Johnson --- Skrtel --- Lovren ------- Enrique

----------------- Gerrard

--------- Hendo --------- Can

----- Sterling ----------- Lallana

--------------- Balotelli

I don't like the look of this formation, but it's probably what Rodgers will go with.

My prediction: 2-1 to Liverpool.

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10/18/2014 10:30:00 pm

£8m Coup? LFC want to sign 'sensational' star who smashed Bundesliga goals record

With Daniel Sturridge's ongoing injury woes becoming a major problem for Liverpool, the Reds continue to be linked with moves for various strikers during the January transfer window, and the latest name to enter the fray is FC Mainz star Shinji Okazaki.

According to the Daily Express this week:

* Arsenal, Liverpool & Tottenham are 'monitoring' the 28-year old attacker.

* Liverpool have scouted Okazaki several times this season.

* Mainz value Okazaki at €10m.

With 39 goals in 79 appearances for Japan, Okazaki is an experienced international, and his goal ratio of one every two games is excellent. His clubs stats, however, are not as impressive:

* 79 goals/12 assists in 265 games.
* Bundesliga only: 35 goals in 130 apps.
* Goal every 3.3 games.
* Goal/Assist ever 2.9 games.

Okazaki's record in the Bundesliga doesn't look that great, but after recently breaking Yasuhiko Okudera's goalscoring record, he is officially the most prolific Japanese player ever to grace Germany's top league. After breaking his compatriot's record, Okazaki told reporters:

"It’s a record I’m really proud of. It isn’t easy getting a foothold in Europe. I believe that when I do well, players watching in Japan might get the feeling they can also make the grade, which makes me very happy"

Okudera - the first Japanese player to ply his trade in German football - is impressed with Okazaki's achievement, and in a recent interview, he enthused:

"I’m amazed by his [Okazaki's] achievements. It's safe to assume that today’s generation of football fans are just as impressed by Okazaki’s exploits so far this season"

Okazaki is highly thought-of at Mainz, that's for sure. In September, the German club's boss, Kasper Hjulmand outlined why he believes the Japanese striker is such a top player. He told reporters:

"He [Okazaki] is unbelievable. You can't defend against him because he's always on the move and his finishing is outstanding. He knows exactly where to be. I was watching every match last year and thinking 'Is this guy just lucky?', but now I know he's not lucky, he's just incredibly good."

Mainz goalkeeper Loris Karius added:

"I think everybody could see how important he is for us. How he holds the ball up, how he helps the team - he's sensational. It's hard to fathom how he didn't manage to make it at Stuttgart, but that's a stroke of luck for us."

£8m is a bit of a knockdown price, so the risk is comparatively minimal, but Aspas and Alberto came in for similar fees, and failed, so there's always a chance history could repeat itself.

Worth a bid?



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