By Ernie Fox
After the last week of speculation about Raheem Sterling’s contract negotiations, or lack of. It got me thinking whether it really would be a bad thing if he was to leave. If that is the case, which players would I genuinely be gutted to see leave Liverpool? Who do we absolutely need to keep hold of, and which ones should we allow to move on? As a result of my contemplation, I have compiled my own top 5 lists, one for those I think would be a huge blow to the club if they were to walk and one from which maybe their departures would possibly benefit all concerned more than it would hinder.
That is not to say that I do not appreciate the work and effort of some of those on the list for possible leavers, nor does it mean that those players not listed to stay have no future with the club; but sometimes you have to be honest and set priorities in order to move forwards. The list is written in descending order from least important to most. There are no guarantees who we might sign in the summer, as that could seriously impact on who leaves, but I do think that before we start looking around for who we need to buy, we first need to look at what we already have, and who we should be fighting to keep:
This is not a list identifying our best and worst players, but rather which players suit our style best, which ones we need the most and which we don’t:
To Stay – Daniel Sturridge
He’s had an unfortunate time of it this season, with injuries constantly disrupting his progress, but there is no doubting his quality. With a better goal scoring record over his first 50 matches in a Liverpool shirt than Fowler, Rush and Hunt, Sturridge is destined to be a Liverpool great; his pace can cause problems for any defence especially when cutting inside from a wide position, that along with his skill on the ball and willingness to pressurise opponents makes him an ideal component for Rodgers’ front line. Sturridge suits the philosophy perfectly, and next season I’m certain we will see him back to his best and scoring goals that will put us in contention for major trophies once again.
To Go – Steven Gerrard
It’s been known for a while, but the reason to add Gerrard to the list is because in my opinion, his departure at the end of the season is the best option for both club and player. Gerrard will leave with his head held high, he has achieved so much with the club that it’ll be fantastic for the fans to be able to wish him a fond and emotional farewell as opposed to seeing his career fizzling out. Maybe it is time for some of the other players to stand up and take responsibility, someone to score those vital goals when we need them, drive the team forward when under the cosh, and inject a passion into the play that is deserving of being produced in front of the Kop. Whilst at Anfield, Liverpool will always look to Gerrard to be the hero, maybe it is time for someone new to take up that mantle.
To Stay – Alberto Moreno
Throughout the summer, the on-off transfer of Alberto Moreno had a lot of us wondering whether any left back was really worth the aggravation. Having seen him grow over the course of the season, I have to say I believe he was. Not just a left back, but an excellent wing back, and with the quality to play as an attacking winger if necessary, Moreno has so much potential he is well worth hanging on to. He has fantastic pace which can hurt any defence but also occupies opposition wingers and therefore strengthens our own defensive position. He has allowed Rodgers to play additional men in the middle whilst not sacrificing width by working tirelessly both defensively and attacking. Next season he will be older and more experienced in the Premier League, he will be a force to be reckoned with.
To Go – Fabio Borini
Let’s be honest, it just hasn’t worked out for Fabio. You’ve got to admire his desire to stay at the club and fight for his place in the team, but he just hasn’t managed to prove his worth. He is a good player, he has pace and determination, but I’m afraid he just doesn’t quite have the quality needed to occupy one of the forward positions of a club like Liverpool. He has the ability to play and score goals in the Premier League, but I’m afraid not at a consistent level and not for a side that expects to win every game it plays in.
To Stay – Emre Can
The young midfielder has it all; strength, versatility, technique and leadership qualities. Can has the qualities to be instrumental in a Liverpool side that will need to be able to change and adapt to the various challenges we will face. Retaining the services of Can is pivitol to the implementation of Rodgers’s plan, Can offers a platform from which the side can build; his strength and ability on the ball are ideal and he is only going to get better as he develops his tactical awareness.
To Go – Glenn Johnson
Johnson has had some great times at Liverpool, possibly one of the best attacking right backs the club has ever had, but sadly times move on. He isn’t the player he used to be, the pace has gone and with it the attacking threat he once posed. I think we are all aware that Johnson is due to leave this summer, and although I appreciate what he has provided us in the past, it is time he moved on. I’m afraid I can’t see how he will fit into the side next season, possibly there is an unrealistic expectation for him to recreate moments from his past, maybe it is time to let go of the past and look to the future.
To Stay – Jordan Henderson
Over the last year we have seen very good reason why I have prioritised Henderson so highly in the future of the club. He opitimises so much of what this club needs to be great again; Henderson arrived at Anfield at a huge price for his age and struggled at first, but his hard work and determination to succeed have seen him not only break into the first 11, but become an integral part of the side. He has shown an ability to break into the box to score from midfield, but also scoring high quality strikes from distance as well, he maintains possession well, works hard to link the defence to attack and covers huge areas of ground every game. His dedication to the cause has been undeniable, but he has ability to match, and a quite apparent desire to continually improve. With just over 12 months left on his remaining contract, we can only hope that the club makes sure that the captain elect is signed up in time to lead us into the new season.
To Go – Mario Balotelli
He is a player with undoubted quality, there is no question about that, he can produce moments of sublime brilliance; but his ability to adapt and develop his game have been brought into question whilst at Anfield. His place at no.2 To Go has nothing to do with his disciplinary record or attitude, nor do I have any concerns about his online persona. The fact is that when he plays, we look disjointed and unbalanced. He doesn’t press the opposition when they have the ball, he doesn’t threaten to break through the back line with devastating pace or incisive passing. The fact is, he is an expense we don’t need; he occupies a position that could be better utilisied by a more suited player, he allows the opposition too much time on the ball and freedom to pressurise our own midfield. He has the ability to do something amazing in a game, but unless he shows a capability of doing so a lot more frequently, I’m afraid he is far more of a detriment than he is a benefit.
To Stay – Philippe Coutinho
Players like Coutinho don’t come around often, and when they do they normally cost a great deal more than the Brazilian magician cost us. For me, he is the one player who is irreplaceable in the Liverpool squad. His vision and technical ability are second to none, and this season he has started to add goals to his game, then consider also, the fact he is only 22 years old but already has 2 years of experience in the Premier League. He is constantly showing development to his game, last year there was a clear lack in power to his strikes on goal, judging from some of the goals he has scored this season, that is no longer the case. If we are to become a great side that wins trophies we will need a player of Coutinho’s quality – maybe it would be a smart move to ensure we keep a player like Coutinho, or better still, the player himself.
To Go – Raheem Sterling
Here’s the controversial one, so much opinion has come from the press in the last couple of weeks that I don’t want to labour the point. I’ve refrained from writing too much on this because I think the issues are quite clear. Sterling is decent young player with a lot of potential, he has stood up to the pressures of leading the line this season and overall done very well, but he is far from the finished article. My placement of Sterling at no.1 comes with a qualifying element, what does the player want? If he doesn’t want to play for Liverpool, let him go. At this moment in time we can demand a high price for such a talented and promising youngster, keep hold of him for another year and not only will his value depreciate with his contract, but we will be effectively developing a player in order for him to play his best football for somebody else. Even if he does agree a new contract extension in the summer, who’s to say this won’t happen again in the future? In five years time he could be pivitol to the side’s playing style, and therefore hold the club to ransom; if he is willing to do so now, why not in the future? Sterling could become an amazing player, he has so many attributes akin to a world class forward it would seem crazy to let him go, but nothing is certain in football. If Sterling wants to go elsewhere, there are a number of players around who could replace what he currently offers the side at a fragment of what we would be able to demand for his transfer. Do I want him to go? No. But the club is bigger than any one player, if he doesn’t appreciate that, then he is possibly lacking that one attribute that would make him a Liverpool legend.
By Ernie Fox