Rodgers conference: Firmino not Sterling’s replacement, Bogdan to fight for no.1

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Brendan Rodgers and Adam Lallana today gave a press conference ahead of the two pre-season friendlies set to take place in Australia against Brisbane Roar and Adelaide United.

The manager was asked many questions about Australian football which he answered with relative ease, but was then asked some more telling ones about his current squad and his aims for the season.

Here’s the entirety of the Rodgers’ quotes, along with a few of Lallana’s best quotes.

Do you get a sense of where Australian football is going after the World Cup last year and now with the A-League doing quite well? What’s your sense these days?

I got a feel for it when I was here a few years ago, obviously we played in Melbourne and it was an incredible evening, the whole night and the supporters travelling from all over Australia to be there. I’m sure it’ll be the same tomorrow evening. But I also got a sense of the football; I spoke to the manager at the time, who is now the national manager, and I know the philosophy here now that you’re trying to follow in Australian football. It’s pretty clear the identity of how the teams are playing, very expansive, attacking football with a lot of teams playing 4-3-3. You’ve got very talented players. With the World Cup and each season you see the individual players and teams improving, their idea of football and how they’re playing. It’s great to see.

How important is this game in your pre-season plans?

It’s very important. Pre-season is an important period; ultimately it’s about developing fitness, winning or losing isn’t really the objective, but of course it’s better to win and perform well. This is a very important stage of our pre-season – the players are looking very good and very strong. The game tomorrow night will be another good test for us.

What do you know about Brisbane Roar?

I understand that it will be the manager’s first game. John was an excellent player, came into England and obviously did very well. I’ve looked at his history, I’m always interested in the opponent and manager; he has done his work, he has worked in development football, he has worked with youth, worked with the first team and now comes here. I also saw the young player Jamie Young, the goalkeeper. Jamie was one of the young guys I took from Australia when I was the academy director at Reading. It seemed a long way at the time for him to come over, but he was a wonderful boy to work with, always very hungry to learn. He played a number of games in the English professional leagues and obviously now he’s back in Australia looking to do well here. I’ve looked at the system and the team, they play very good football and we know it will be a good test for us.

There are a lot of new faces in the team and a lot of new faces in the management. This is your fourth season, but it feels like you’re starting from fresh. How do you feel about that and this new season?

I’m really looking forward to it. You’re always looking to improve in every aspect of your team – if you want to be somewhere for a long period of time, then you know there’s going to be change because you’re always looking to improve. In terms of the staff, it was obviously a very difficult decision because morally the two guys that left are really good guys, great professionals; however, I just wanted to change it up and I’ve brought three people into the staff to take it into a different direction. It wasn’t telling in terms of their contribution because I felt it was very good – I just felt the need for change. In terms of players, when you’re looking to improve, that’s something that will always take place. I am really happy with the players we’ve brought in, and really happy with the likes of Adam [Lallana] who has a season under his belt now, has looked really strong in pre-season and now can really push on this season.

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I believe you might be meeting with Mal Meninga [coach of the Queensland State of Origin]. Queensland rugby league has a great culture of winning – do you believe you can learn something from Mal and the way he’s developed a structure and strong culture of winning within his team?

It’s important for any manager. I am the type of coach who learns from all types of people, both in business and in sport. The Springboks are also staying in our hotel as well. We get the chance to meet various people, so it’s nice to exchange various ideas and methods. What you can take to make you better, you’ll always do that.

You have signed Adam Bogdan. How did you select him and will he get an opportunity this pre-season?

Adam has come in and will support Simon Mignolet, who is our number one goalkeeper. But like all goalkeepers, they’re always fighting to improve and be the number one. Adam has been very impressive in his time in England, where he’s done very, very well for Bolton. We just felt he’s got good experience in English football, is a talented ‘keeper and can push Simon all the way to be number one.

You said you’ve strengthened, but so have the other top clubs in England. How tough is it going to be to get back into that top four?

It will be very difficult. As you say, we as a squad have improved – but other teams are as equally looking to do that as well. What is going to be important for us is the team. I’ve been particularly pleased with the players we’ve brought in – their profiles fit how we want to work. Add that to the players we’ve already got, we can have a very, very good season. But we’re under no illusions – it’s going to be difficult. We go into this season and expect to do well because of the type of mentality we have.

You’ve said you don’t want to talk in public about who you want to buy. You’re also saying you’re happy with the new signings you’ve made. How do you see your squad in terms of balance and numbers because you have the Europa League as well this season?

You need a good squad for all the competitions we’re in. We’ve got our two domestic cup competitions, the Europa League and the Premier League, so if we want to fight on all fronts – and that’s the nature of a club like Liverpool – then we have to have a strong squad. I believe we are building a very strong squad.

This is the first time we’ve seen you since Raheem’s deal was completed. He’s spoken about you and the contribution you’ve made to his career. Now he’s gone, what would you say about him?

I said it the other night, there were lots of reports about he and I not speaking and falling out, and nothing could be further from the truth. This is a kid I put into the team at 17 years of age. A wonderful talent. From that point, he and I worked very, very closely. There are obviously stories and things that went about which were unfortunate towards the end, and I was probably one of a number of reasons why he was supposedly wanting to go. It’s done with now. We were on text yesterday, so our communication is fine and we had a long chat about his journey before we left on Sunday in the office because I thought by the time we came back, he’d probably be gone. He’s a wonderful young kid, played really well – a young player out of the youth team who became a fully-fledged international footballer. We can all hold our heads up high at Liverpool knowing we put absolutely everything into him and his development. The supporters gave him all the support and nurtured him through. He decided to move on and, for now, he’s a Manchester City player and for us now it’s about focusing on the players we have.

Obviously there’s some anxiety from the supporters to see a player like him go – how do you assure them that Liverpool are still a big draw and can hold onto players of his talent going forward?

Players are always going to want to come to Liverpool, I’ve said it before and I’ve said it many times. I think it’s such an iconic club, it’s a great club, but the modern game and the market now means that players will move on. Unfortunately, it’s what you have to accept, you have to fight and as long as you do everything you possibly can to keep the player, then that is all that you can ever do. If the player moves on, you thank him for their contribution and you look to develop and improve the next player that comes in, as well as the team. But you can’t deny the size of Liverpool as a football club. The challenge for us is to get back in amongst the top teams in this division and hopefully that continues to attract players.

Do you need to replace Raheem? Or is Firmino already a replacement?

It’s not so much [about] a direct replacement for Raheem, it’s just about improving the squad. We’ve brought in a number of really good players and you add that to what we’ve already got and the balance in the team looks strong. There’s not a need, I didn’t feel, for a direct replacement for Raheem.

How long had you been tracking Firmino and can you explain where you see him fitting in?

The flexibility of the player is important. He’s an outstanding talent. He’s got a wonderful touch and appreciation for the game, but the key when you watch him is the determination, how hard he works. So he can play on either one of the sides, he can play through the middle, or he can play in behind. He’s accustomed to European football so that should make the transition a little bit easier for him. But he’s a talented player who wants to score a goal.

Last season, one of the things that took a lot of time was the new signings adapting. Have you seen in the new players already this summer that it’s going to be a quicker process and you can start a little bit better than last season?

I think it’s key for us to start [well]. I think for some players last season, there were reasons behind that. If you look at the likes of Adam [Lallana], [he] was only just in the door and unfortunately picked up an injury that he couldn’t avoid. So that makes it very difficult, he was out for a long time, and then he was just unfortunate to pick up one or two little niggles. In his time that he’s played he’s been absolutely outstanding. I think the players that we’ve brought in are accustomed to the Premier League but it doesn’t matter how good a player you are, it always takes time to adapt and settle into a new club. [With] the likes of James Milner, who is an experienced player, Nathaniel Clyne, who has got experience of the Premier League, of course they’ve got a lot more experience of the nature of the football. But there’s still always an adaptation period.