By Zak Forster @zaforster
It’s silly season. Every Premier League club has already been “linked” to over fifty different targets and the media are having a field day with big stories for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez. We all know that only a measly one percent of these rumours are true and that the rest are dreamt up by greedy agents and mischievous reporters – but what happens when some of these rumours bear fruit?
A random club ends up with a random new player and the pubs are then lined with supporters of every allegiance, trying to demean or justify the signing. The obvious questions are always the same. Is he value for money? Is he past it? How many shots did he hit on target whilst riding a unicycle during the 2010-2011 season? You know the story.
This article will look to discover whether or not some of Liverpool’s apparent “targets” will or will not fit into Brendan Rodgers’ team. I’ve picked ten rumours at random and attempted to look into their current situations to try and decide if they could ever be successes at Anfield.
So, are any of these “targets” potential successes for the Reds?
6. Christian Atsu
Christian Atsu has recently been mooted to be heading to Anfield in a £3 million deal by a number of newspapers, such as The Guardian, with Brendan Rodgers apparently keen on the winger’s “attacking prowess”.
Atsu certainly has a number of good characteristics on his CV. He’s won the Portuguese title in his only season with Porto (to date) and has blistering pace which is always a useful weapon in the Premier League. In his 17 league appearances for Porto last season he managed only a single goal which suggests he still has a lot to do to fine tune his game – not that this is a problem as yet because the winger is 21 years old and therefore he has a long time before he will expected to reach his peak – this is something FSG will be particularly interested in, if the rumour has any truth to it, because this means he will probably be able to command a higher selling on fee should the player and the club part ways in the future.
Would he fit?
Probably not – Although Atsu has a few good attributes going for him, I cannot see this transfer rumour going anywhere in reality. Liverpool have just signed Iago Aspas and already have a whole host of wingers such as Fabio Borini (can play wide of a front three), Phillipe Coutinho (often played wide left last season), Raheem Sterling, Stewart Downing (admittedly he could be on his way out), Oussama Assaidi and Jordan Ibe – with Sterling and Ibe particularly key because you don’t want to stunt their growth by signing more experienced foreign players.
Plus Atsu would most likely be seen a bit part player by BR – much like Assaidi – who would only really make significant contributions in the cups.
5. Henrikh Mkhitaryan
The Mkhitaryan to Liverpool story is fast becoming a transfer saga and we’re not even into July yet! The story first emerged about 3 weeks ago that Brendan Rodgers and the rest of the Liverpool transfer committee were keen on the Armenian international. And since then, the pin up boy of Armenian football has had 6 medicals at Melwood, been spotted with Ian Ayre (the Managing Director of LFC – for any non-Liverpool supporters) 9 times and has been on about 19 different flights to England – clocking up some serious air mileage!
This ongoing story is one of the reasons I hate the transfer window – I’m an impatient guy and when I read the same stories every single day I get bored of the window really quickly. However, this story is one of the reasons I love the window – your team being linked to a true talent is really exciting and at times it gives you real hope that your club is moving forward in terms of playing staff.
He is a great player though and a lot of Liverpool fans are really eager for Ian Ayre to wrap this deal up. Mkhitaryan has a lot of strengths that Brendan Rodgers is looking to add to Liverpool’s squad. First of all he’s a goalscoring midfielder, he completed a Ukrainian league record by scoring 25 goals in one campaign – since Steven Gerrard is now playing slightly deeper under BR it is vital that more midfield goals are added to the team, Mkhitaryan will do this just like Lampard does the same job for Chelsea.
Secondly, he has great movement in and around the box which is another part of Liverpool’s attack that needed improvement prior to the arrivals of Coutinho and Sturridge. Borini has always been said to have great movement in the box but Reds supporters didn’t get to see much of it last season. With Borini back from injury and Mkhitaryan hopefully on the way, Liverpool’s attack is potentially looking excellent – even if Suarez decides enough is enough and departs for mainland Europe.
Would he fit?
Yes – with Liverpool’s desperate need for midfield based goals it certainly seems that Mkhitaryan and Liverpool are a match made in heaven. Henrikh also has vital Champions League experience and this makes him an incredibly valuable target – Liverpool have limited Champions League experience beyond the obvious Gerrard, Reina, Suarez and Agger. Others have tiny experience such as Coutinho and Sturridge so it is clear that Liverpool need a player of this calibre.
In a situation where Liverpool are to lose Luis Suarez the potential for Mkhitaryan grows larger. With Sturridge up top and Coutinho drifting in from the left. Mkhitaryan could easily slot into his preferred role in behind the striker. The right is then open for either Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas, Fabio Borini, Raheem Sterling or even Jordan Ibe. I only mentioned those three because I firmly believe Stewart Downing will be sold this summer – despite his improved form.
Couple this with Mkhitaryan’s good age and potential for resale value and you have a great asset.
4. Christian Eriksen
This rumour has all but died now after the Mkhitaryan story started to develop. Everyone was saying that he had an offer from everyone’s favourite second team: Borussia Dortmund. In all honesty, Dortmund would probably be a better destination for Eriksen right now. He’s only 21 and he doesn’t need all of Liverpool’s hopes and dreams pinned on him at such a tender age. He actually has bags of experience already – he’s a Champions League regular with Ajax and he already has 34 Danish caps. But the pressure of Anfield might be a step to much for his light shoulders.
In terms of talent there are few to match him at that age. He has a fantastic eye for a pass which makes him similar to Coutinho and he also has the ability to score goals from the wings or in behind the striker. Unsurprisingly he is young and therefore he represents a way in which FSG can make a profit on the playing staff at LFC – hopefully this profit is meant to be used to upgrade the squad each time a resale is made.
Would he fit?
Yes – in terms of playing style I believe he would fit into Liverpool’s team but in terms of his career I do not. If he could replace Mario Götze at Dortmund as the rumour suggests then I believe he could become a real European star and move onto one of the REALLY big boys like Real Madrid or Barcelona – even Bayern Munich, who seem to enjoy poaching all the Bundesliga’s best talents. Still, a great player and one I’d love to see at Liverpool however, this rumour has disappeared for the time being and I don’t expect to see it resurface for a while.
3. Ivan Rakitić
Ivan Rakitić is a Swiss born, Croatian international who has come on leaps and bounds in the last couple of seasons over in Seville. He’s a player that is just as important to Croatian football as Luka Modrić. Ivan’s main strengths come from his passing and vision and therefore it is of no surprise that Rodgers would find this player interesting.
Last year Rakitić clocked up a rather impressive 11 goals in 40 appearances – completely from the wing. In the 34 league appearances he made in La Liga last year, Rakitić created an amazing 10 assists – a stat which completely eclipses fellow 2012/13 Sevilla player Jeuss Navas (Navas created 6 assists last season).
Would he fit?
Yes – I’m pretty confident that Ivan Rakitić would comfortably suit Brendan Rodgers’ style of play because he enjoys receiving the ball in tight areas and he uses the ball very well when passing at long and short distances – add this to his adept skills at dead ball situations and Liverpool could have themselves a real asset. The case for signing Rakitić is strengthened further when you realise that Sevilla are in a real need for cash injection and are willing to sell all of their stars in a bid to avoid going bust. Navas has already departed to the riches of Manchester City and Negredo is widely tipped to leave the club in the near future – with a £15 million price tag being touted, one team apparently in the running is actually the other team across Stanley Park. This means Rakitić could be available for a real bargain this summer – thus, the potential for resale profit is heightened.
2. Kevin Strootman
Kevin Strootman appears to be the latest pin-up boy emerging from the Netherlands to follow in the footsteps of the ever depreciating Wesley Sneijder. Strootman is a real box to box midfielder and has many similar qualities to the Steven Gerrard of a the mid noughties. He is aggressive, strong and an excellent passer of the ball. He is left footed and a little slower than Gerrard but he does share many of the Captain’s main traits. He enjoys both attacking and defending and would be very well suited to playing Steven Gerrard’s role in Brendan Rodgers’ 4-3-3 formation.
With Lucas being the solid, defensive lynch pin, Allen playing slightly further forward (he isn’t a defensive midfielder as he was playing this year during Lucas’ injury spell) and Gerrard being the shuttle runner who moves backwards and forwards. At times Liverpool lacked a bit of midfield steel and grit last season and Strootman could add these qualities – too many times were Liverpool bullied out of games, for example, away at Stoke City and Southampton.
Would he fit?
Yes – Strootman is another player comfortable with the ball at his feet and he enjoys running games to his tempo. At the tender age of just 23, Strootman has already achieved a lot. The Dutchman has already collected 18 international caps and has at times captained the side in the recent FIFA World Cup qualifying matches. Captaining a team at just 22/23 is a great skill especially in the face of some much more experienced professionals who have won Champions Leagues and league titles – remind you of anyone?
The transfer could be made more difficult – that is if Liverpool really are interested – because Manchester United apparently hold a great deal of admiration for the player. With Champions League football and major trophies on offer I’m guessing Strootman would choose United if the choice became reality. If the move was possible he’d certainly be welcomed by all Red supporters once they got a thorough look at this exceptional talent. One piece of advice would be to snap the player up early because in two or three seasons this player will be well out of Liverpool’s price bracket – without immediate on pitch improvement.
1. Kyriakos Papadopoulos
This is a rumour that surfaced some weeks ago but seems to have slightly quietened down in recent days. The young man certainly commands a very big reputation and is regarded as a real prospect both in Greece and Germany. There are stories aplenty about the behaviour of this young man which say a lot about his confidence and potential. At EURO 2012, the day before Greece played Poland in the opening game of the tournament. Papadopoulos lost his temper when he found out he wasn’t in the starting XI and claimed the Greeks would lose without him! At just 20 years old you can imagine that a lot of the more experienced players were laughing at his claims – they were apparently met with a fierce and burning stare. He made his Olympiakos debut at the tender age of 15 too – a league record in the Greek top flight.
I’m also guessing you’ve all seen the video of Papadopoulos staring down Samaras like a potential murderer. If you haven’t watched it before then watch it right now – it’s hilarious.
Would he fit?
Yes – Although Papa is not the quickest defender in the world he is extremely strong and would cope well with buffeting strikers such as Kenwyne Jones and Andy Carroll. Something else that Papa isn’t is tall – he stands at just 6ft, not exactly a giant for a centre back, even I’m 6ft! But he makes up for this lack of height with a great amount of power in his jumping. Papa’s biggest strengths are his aggression, strength and power. At 21, he is still inexperienced at the very top level despite his forays into the international scene and top flight Greek and German football – although one could counter this by suggesting his Champions League experience makes him quite well off for a 21 year old defender.
All in all Papa is one of the most highly sought after centre backs in Europe and Liverpool signing him would be a real coup. Particularly as he’s only 21 and making a profit on him in the future shouldn’t be too difficult if he continues his current rate of improvement.