Well, thankfully the 2009-10 season is over and we can all look forward to the 2010-11 season with gusto.
2009-10 was a horrendous year for me was as a football fan. I follow Argentina, Liverpool FC and FC Barcelona in that order. All my teams flattered to deceive or deceived completely. Argentina, inspired by El Diego made an impression on WC 2010 only to fall to a rampant Germany. The less said about Liverpool’s season the better. After the highs of the previous campaign, 2009-10 was undone by rumblings off the pitch and insipid performances on it. Granted that injuries played their part, but excuses have never made good bed fellows at Merseyside. Coming to FCB, you must be saying but didn’t they win La Liga! Well, yeah, but I live in India and apart from watching their league games on internet streaming, I was unable to follow their league triumph as no TV broadcaster could agree a deal with the Spanish Fed (Thankfully, it’s back this year). Their CL campaign (of which Messi’s virtuoso performance against the Gooners was certainly the high point) was cut short by a bus-parking, narcissistic Portuguese (Good manager but not a good advert for the game, in a sporting sense or otherwise, IMO).
Let’s now come to the actual point of this post, a look back at Liverpool’s summer and a brief look-ahead. The summer/pre-season began with more board room dramas and manager – board mud-slinging. It was sad to see an institution of the nature of Liverpool FC, which has always prided itself in ‘The Liverpool Way’ brought down to making front page headlines in UK tabloids for reasons far removed from football. As expected, Rafa Benitez was soon shown the Melwood door. This is when I feared the worst, chronologically thus:
1. Rafa to be replaced by a board yes-man,
2. The spine of the team, Mascherano, Stevie G, Torres & possibly Reina to find pastures new.
3. Replaced by B – grade signings with the balance cash gone lining up the Yanks’ coffers
4. We are left with a team far inferior to what Houllier left us with, and
5. God forbid, Brazil to win the WC.
What transpired hence was not as bad as those doomsday predictions. Roy Hodgson came in (my opinion then was that King Kenny was the obvious choice, and that Roy would just be a proxy of the board, kinda like the thumb-mark politicians we have in India). Press rumblings related to a possible takeover (which I will come to later) also began to find steam and some shrewd signings then started to come in.
Our first signing of the summer was a signing made by Rafa, that of a young up-start, Jonjo Shevley from Charlton. I didn’t know much about him (and still don’t), apart from signing him on Fifa 10. If the guys at EA are to be trusted, this won’t be a bad piece of business, although press comparisons with a young Stevie G were obviously exaggerated. This was followed a confirmation of another of Rafa’s deals. Milan Jovanovic (Left-Midfield / Forward) joined us on a free from Standard Liege. I’m unsure how the Belgian Juniper League stands but I believe Milan did win Player of the League twice in a row and his performances for Serbia in the WC were promising. He also replaces Albert Riera, so if he puts in even 70%, surely that’ll top Riera season last term. All in all, another decent signing, check.
Then, came the crown jewel of this transfer silly season. Joe Cole on a free from Chelsea. He replaced Yossi Benayoun who went the other way, presumably to warm the benches at Stamford Bridge, days earlier in an unrelated transfer. I had tweeted at the time that I would take a Cole – Yossi swap any day, and if early impressions are anything to go by and if he can stay off the treatment table, we should see the best of the immense potential Joey has shown over the last decade. The fashion in which Joey Cole was shown to the world dispelled any notions among Kopites that a Dzeko or a Mata would become an Anfield hero this term. A nice footnote to this sub – plot: ‘Yossi sang YNWA at his Chelsea initiation!’ He may have felt belittled by Rafa but you can’t take the Kop out of a faithful servant. Good man, Yossi. YNWA.
Following Cole, we signed another promising youngster, Danny Wilson, a Centre – Back from Rangers. That he is the reigning SPL Young Player of the Year bodes well for the future, but similar to Jonjo, let’s not expect him to bring us title no. 19 this term.
The other points of note of this silly season have been the soap opera surrounding Mascherano and one with our Left-Backs. Masch clearly wanted to leave last summer to Barcalona, and looks like he will this time around, either to Barca or Inter. I have always been a Masch fan (probably due to my Argentine allegiances), but I guess he’s leaving coz his better half can’t stomach neither the North-West English weather nor the Scouser accent. Rafa always used to maintain that Javier was his main – man at Liverpool, so no wonder he wants him at the San Siro. If he can get that Mourinho-esque pain in the arse Super Mario out for a cool 30 mil quid, he’ll surely have his man. Sizing the situation, Hodgson has brought in a replacement in the form of Christian Poulsen, a Dane almost as well travelled as Roy himself for less than 5 mil quid. Although Christian was chided by the Juventus faithful at Turin, his style is as combative as Masch’s (if not more) and his experience will help the ever – improving Lucas come along. If he can recapture his form from Schalke or at Sevilla, we won’t miss Masch that much.
The drama at left back is reminiscent of that witnessed on the pitch last season in the same position. Fabio went out, Fabio came back in. Just to prove this is a new beginning, he halved his jersey no., presumably to reflect his reduced monthly income statement. Insua looked gone for all money a month back, but violet money at Florence proved to be a stumbling block. Roy wants him around, so he may end up staying, or will he? It, in most probabilities, will be a case of much ado about nothing. We will end up with the same two-some we had last season. If Insua plays as though he’s a year older and Fabio like he’s 6 (or 12 :D) years younger, that can’t be all that bad.
Next, is the question about where the balance money, presumably around 15 mil pounds after deducting 4.5 for Poulsen, from the Masch sale will go. Will we get a 15 mil pound striker (who, we so badly need) or will this be the final act of pilferage of those bloody Yanks? This 15 million question will probably define our season. If we do get a Crouch or a Remy or a Huntelaar as Torres’ deputy (and they perform as they ought to), I think 4th place is certainly not out of reach, but if this money goes back to the States (or Caymen Islands or wherever), it’ll be my long face in front of the telly again this year.
Talking of those bloody Yanks, looks like their End Zone has arrived at Anfield, and isn’t it about time! Laurel & Hardy seem to have had enough of us (and the creditors) shouting in their ear and seem to be finally on their bike. Who’ll replace them is the 400 million question. Will it be the Chinese take-away guy or the Syrian pizza guy (Syrian pizza, what’s that, I hear!!..LOL) or the Kuwaiti Gulf Oil spill guy. Unfortunately, for us Indians, it seems unlikely that Chicken Tikka Masala will be served at the Kop anytime soon, which looked possible for a while, if reports in the S*n were accurate (As we know, they never are!). The answer to that question lies in the hands of a certain Chelsea season ticket holder. This will probably be the most pivotal moment in Liverpool’s ownership history, and if you care enough about Liverpool to come this far in this article you’ll join me in my prayers that the proverbial ‘fit and proper’ owners, with the pot-ful of money, who when cut bleed Liverpool Red are found. We don’t ask for much, now, do we?
Signing off, I hope these columns will soon be filled more with discussions around formations and Howard Webb’s ludicrous penalty call rather than with those regarding which ‘food’ will be served on the Kop. How Liverpool’s season will pan out is thus, aptly a 15 million and a 400 million question!