By Ernie Fox
There are still three matches remaining this season, and still a glimmer of hope that we might salvage something from our efforts by clinching an unlikely fourth qualifying place in next seasons Champions League. Perhaps I’m being somewhat premature, but I’ve chosen to look to the future, to what the summer may bring and our subsequent 2015/16 league campaign.
It’s not that I’m a pessimist, there is always hope, no matter how unlikely. But whether we finish fourth or not, there can be no denying that this campaign has been hugely disappointing; performances have been poor at times and the fast flowing, attacking football of the season before seems almost a distant memory. And so I look to the summer because that is where the real hope lies for Liverpool FC. And in one man in particular.
The press are already getting excited about Memphis Depay and the two way battle between ourselves and United for the talented Dutchman. And why not? He’s an incredibly talented youngster, the top scorer in PSV’s title winning side, he has pace, fantastic control, an eye for goal and the ability to run through opposing defenders as if they’re not there. The one thing we never managed to do last summer was replace Luis Suarez, of all the available strikers in Europe, Depay is the obvious solution. So if he’s that good do we even have a chance in signing him?
Not only is Depay the perfect fit for our lacklustre forward line, but it is imperative we do what we can to sign him quickly. Winning the battle for Depay’s signature right at the beginning of the transfer window would first of all show Utd and their fans that we are still a force to be reckoned with, that there is more to this game than simply throwing money at a problem; but more importantly it would display an intent to the rest of the world of our ambitions.
So how do we make him a Liverpool player? By doing whatever it takes. No prolonged haggling over fees, no protracted negotiations whilst attempting to line up alternative options; we show Depay and his representatives how important he is to our plans and how much we want to see him in the famous red jersey. That is not to say we allow ourselves to be blackmailed by crafty agents, if the fee is unsustainable then the deal is off, but let’s not quibble over small figures of cash when he could hold the key to many years of success.
There is the issue of Champions League football, or lack of. Depay is young, if we can show how his influence will return us to the top competition in Europe, then I’m sure one season out of the competition will not deter him. Although we may not have scored so many goals this term, we’ve created plenty of opportunities; if, from our remaining matches we can demonstrate an attacking, free flowing style of play that is attractive to watch, it would be an exciting prospect for any ambitious, young forward to show their talents and provide the end product to the team’s efforts. After all, Suarez made a name for himself as one of Europe’s most prolific forwards by leading our strike force, why not Depay next year?
Of course he has other options, least of all Utd, but who’s to say they would necessarily be his first choice? With the likes of Van Gaal, Depay will be required to conform to an incredibly strict game plan. Under the management of Rodgers, Depay will be allowed to flourish, develop his skills and improve as a player. Of course there are requirements for Depay to work hard for his place in the team at Liverpool, to press the opposition when not in possession, but that wouldn’t restrict his development. Depay has worked with Van Gaal before, unlike the general belief that it gives Utd an advantage, I suggest it could work in the opposite way. Van Gaal maybe highly regarded as a coach, but there aren’t that many players who have come out as saying how much they enjoyed playing under his leadership, or that they would dearly love to repeat the experience. Depay has his own first hand experience of this; it is interesting that not once has he given any indication that he would like to team up with his former national coach again.
But, for all of this to succeed we have to strike quickly and effectively. As soon as we turn it into a battle of finances, Utd will win, as soon as we show hesitation in bringing in the talented forward, he may look for a future elsewhere – therefore we have to take those options out of the equation. Make money no object, this is the one position we have to fill, we do what it takes and therefore the negotiations will be around how we will be able to develop him as a player. He will be a vital part of our starting eleven, Utd, with all their multi million pound signings won’t be able to offer that.
Utd fans will scoff at the suggestion that any player would choose us over them, most seem convinced that they have already won the race thanks to their trump card of Champions league football – it’s funny how they didn’t feel it so important last summer when they didn’t have it to offer. Football isn’t that simple.
However, in the last 24 hours, there have been rumours suggesting that interest in Depay has cooled owing to further injury concerns with Daniel Sturridge and a shift in transfer priorities. Last season did we have a recognised centre forward? No. We had a three pronged attacking line up, Suarez may have been top socrer but he was so much more than just a traditional number 9. Cavani is a great player, but there is no guarantee that he will fit into the side any better than Mario Balotelli, there is no point having a big name centre forward if the rest of the team are unable to create the chances he needs to make his mark. Falcao didn’t become rubbish overnight, he hasn’t been used to the best of his abilities at Utd and as a result has been a complete failure, just like Soldado at Spurs. Signing a great goal scorer doesn’t guarantee you more goals unless you can be certain he will fit into the team’s structure.
Am I exaggerating Depay’s likely influence? After all, the Dutch league is hardly the finest league in the world. But then, who was the last player we signed from Eredivisie? Mr Suarez had a fairly impressive impact didn’t he? There is no point making a marquee signing if he doesn’t fit into the game plan but everything we’ve seen from Depay so far says he does fit, perfectly. I’m not saying that he, by himself, will make all the difference, we need much more than just one new signing this summer; but it would be the perfect start if we are to bring in he types of players we need to make us title contenders again.
Making an early signing of such a huge, recognised talent would give a huge indication to the world of the club’s intent. Trying to convince any further world class players may prove to be difficult without Champions League footall unless we can show ambition. Signing Depay would be an indication of that, whereas suddenly having cold feet on the deal could give completly the opposite impression.
We need Depay and all the early indications and noises coming from Holland suggest we could actually make this deal happen. This could be the big test for Fenway Sports Group, either make a huge transfer coup that would make all our rivals have to sit up and take notice, or instead stutter over yet another golden opportunity and watch as others take advantage and spend a further decade dreaming of success as opposed to achieving it.
Written by Ernie Fox