Liverpool FC: 5 Great January Signings and 5 More That Would Lift the Mood
Yesterday I wrote an article detailing five reasons why Liverpool need to buy players in this month's transfer window. Having read the comments on both the article and my Twitter account, it's become clear that the Liverpool fans, or at least those who read my work, are in full agreement that the Reds must bring players into the club.
It occurred to me afterwards that there is indeed a sixth reason why Liverpool should buy players. To lift the mood of the fans.
At the moment, Liverpool fans are feeling down. Down about the poor performances and results so far this season, down about the 3-0 defeat to Manchester City and down about being without Luis Suarez for seven more games.
There is a pocket of the Liverpool support already calling for Kenny Dalglish to be removed as manager, such is the displeasure in some quarters. As a result of this, I thought I'd put together a list of players that would perhaps turn the tide and get the entire fanbase back where they belong, behind Kenny.
Last week, I put forward a list of seven players that the Liverpool fans would love to see the club sign. In order not to repeat myself, what I thought I would do this week is take a look at five of the best signings Liverpool have ever made in January, as well as five potential signings that would really lift the mood of the fans and make them happy.
For the purpose of making the fans happy, I have included no English players on this list. For the purpose of remaining realistic, I am not including any players whose clubs are still involved in the Champions League, or any players likely to cost £25million or more.
I hope you enjoy.
I'm going to start off by cheating and including Emlyn Hughes, who was actually signed in February of 1967. I went back and forth about whether or not I should include him, since he wasn't actually signed in January, and finally decided to include him based on two important facts.
1) There were no transfer windows in 1967.
2) This is my article and the only rules I'm breaking are my own.
So now that I've reached a decision, on to a man who is undoubtedly one of the greatest ever Liverpool players.
Bill Shankly knew a talented player when he saw one, and when he signed Emlyn Hughes from Blackpool, he knew he'd got himself something very special. A famous story in Shankly lore recants that:
Upon being stopped by a police officer on the very night he signed Hughes, who was sitting in the car with the great man, Shankly's response to the officer's enquiry as to where they were going was to ignore him and instead question him with "Don't you know who I've got in this car? The captain of England!". When the poor officer responded that he did not recognise Hughes, Shankly snapped ""No, but you will!"
Hughes would indeed go on to captain both England and Liverpool. During the 12 years he spent at Liverpool, he developed into a truly world-class player and, in all, made 665 appearances for the club.
Hughes was a rarity in that he was world-class in a number of positions. Asked to play in central defence, at full-back or in midfield, Hughes was as good as any player in the league.
His fun-loving personality, coupled with his ability on the pitch and the hard work and dedication he showed towards the club, made him a fan favourite. He was nicknamed "Crazy Horse" as a result of an incident in which he decided to abandon the usual methods of tackling in football and instead rugby tackled Newcastle winger Albert Bennett to the ground.
Hughes left Liverpool in 1979 having won practically every honour possible. He passed away in late 2004 after a year-long battle with a brain tumour. The outpouring of grief from Liverpool fans following his death, as well as his selection at No. 10 in the list of 100 Players Who Shook The Kop, were proof, if any was needed, that Liverpool fans had retained a spot in their hearts for him in the 25 years after he left the club.
It takes a special player to be remembered like that.
RIP Emlyn, look after Gary.
There are few figures who have caused such a swing in emotion among Liverpool fans like Graeme Souness. Universally loved as a player, universally hated as a manager, Souness has never been far from controversy throughout his career in the game.
Signed by Bob Paisley from Middlesbrough in January of 1978 for a figure of £350,000, Souness would construct a legacy at Liverpool that would replicate that of Roy Keane at Manchester United. Souness was everything to the Liverpool teams of the late 70's and early 80's that Keane was to the Manchester United teams of the 90's and 00's.
Regardless of whether it was a crunching tackle, a 60-yard pass to the feet of a teammate or a blockbuster goal from 30 yards, there was little Graeme Souness couldn't do on a football pitch. He made 359 appearances for Liverpool and captained the team to great success.
He left for Sampdoria in the summer of 1984 before returning as manager in April of 1991. We won't talk about his time as manager—it's just too painful and it soiled his name amongst the fans too much.
Instead, we'll acknowledge his legendary play which earned him ninth position on the list of 100 Players Who Shook The Kop and hope that Damien Comolli and Kenny Dalglish can find a modern-day version of him to solidify the current midfield.
I'm sure we can all agree that Rafa Benitez made some terrible signings in his time in charge of Liverpool, but on the same note, we must also acknowledge that when he got it right, he really got it right.
One example of when he got it right came in January of 2006, when he signed a young Danish central defender by the name of Daniel Agger. Agger arrived from Brondby for a fee believed to be in the region of £6 million and has developed into one of Liverpool's best and most important players.
Injuries have obviously affected his time at the club badly, but when Daniel Agger plays, Liverpool are a great team defensively.
It has been the way since he first arrived at the club. His reading of the game, positional play and ability to stay on his feet rather than jumping into tackles make Agger one of the best defenders in the league. His passing, dribbling and shooting ability truly set him apart from the rest.
That Agger is not universally recognised as one of the world's great defenders is down to his injuries and nothing more. His performances and Liverpool's defensive record with him in the team show his immense quality.
Whether or not he will go down as a Reds legend will depend on injuries. If he stays fit, it's certain that he'll be considered a great. If not, he'll still be a fan favourite. One of the main reasons? Maybe it's the way he moves?
In the 2008/2009 season, Liverpool had many outstanding players. Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso got most of the press and the accolades, but for me there was only one LFC player of the season that year—Javier Mascherano. Mascherano was simply on another level that season, and it was his performances and his hard work that allowed Alonso and Gerrard to influence games in the manner they did.
He was originally brought to the club on loan in January of 2007 by Rafa Benitez after West Ham manager Alan Pardew decided he was better off not using one of the world's best defensive midfielders, and instead opted to use such footballing greats as Hayden Mullins and Nigel Reo-Coker in his place.
Mascherano made an instant impact and established himself as a key player in a Liverpool team which qualified for it's second Champions League final in three years. After the deal was made permanent a year later for a fee of £18million, Mascherano would continue to play a central role for Liverpool. He was one of the club's best and most consistent performers during his time at Anfield.
Mascherano left for Barcelona in August of 2010 and has gone on to win a number of honours after having been converted into a central defender by Pep Guardiola. That Mascherano has performed so well in a position for which he is greatly undersized is a tribute to just how good a player he is.
Mascherano dedicated his role in Barcelona's 2011 Champions League final victory over Manchester United to the Liverpool fans, showing that he still has Liverpool in his heart. I don't know about anyone else, but I'd take him back at Anfield in an instant.
What can I say that hasn't already been said about Luis Suarez? He's a magical maverick who has blessed Anfield with his mercurial presence. His flicks and tricks, dribbling ability and outlandish goals have made us all stand and applaud. His love for the game and work rate have made him a true fan favourite.
I wrote an article about a month ago detailing the 10 best moments of his Liverpool career so far, and I really can't add any more to it at the moment, so if you haven't read it, you can do so by following the link.
I'm sure he'll give me plenty more to write about in the years to come, hopefully starting with another great performance against Manchester United in February after he returns from his ban.
Honourable Mention: John Aldridge
Bought in January of 1987 to replace Ian Rush, not only to score goals but also to maintain the important moustache quota within the team, John Aldridge was part of a Liverpool team that should have won back-to-back doubles at the end of the 1980's.
In 1988, it was Aldridge's missed penalty which handed the FA Cup to Wimbledon, and in 1989 Liverpool were foiled by the most dramatic goal in the history of English football when Arsenal came to Anfield and stole the league title from under the Reds' noses.
Aldridge was a great goal scorer—his record of 63 goals in only 104 games for the Reds is evidence of that. His left Liverpool in September of 1989 to join Real Sociedad but returned the Merseyside area when he joined Tranmere Rovers two years later. His last ever act for Liverpool as a player was a cameo appearance on the day he signed for Sociedad, when he was summoned from the bench to convert penalty in a 9-0 hammering of Crystal Palace.
That completes my list of great January signings for the Reds. Now on to five players who would lift the mood among the fans should Liverpool sign them this month.
Klaas Jan Huntelaar
Current Club: Schalke 04
Likely Asking Price: £15 million
Why he would lift the mood: Have a look at that video and tell me that the idea of those two playing alongside each other doesn't give you happy thoughts? Suarez and Huntelaar have played together, they know each other very well and they have a great understanding on the pitch. This is a signing that makes sense.
One of the main arguments Liverpool fans, including myself, have made when calling for the club to sign Edinson Cavani is the existing partnership and understanding between himself and Suarez from their games together for Uruguay. Cavani is not a realistic target at this time, and even if he were, he would cost in excess of £30 million. Huntelaar has a similar understanding with Suarez and is both a realistic and an affordable target.
Klaas Jan Huntelaar would cost less than half what Cavani would likely cost and in terms of scoring goals, would likely score just as many for Liverpool. He's as natural a goal scorer as you'll find and at that price, the best you'll find as well. There's little question that he is compatible with Suarez, and in my opinion, there's little doubt he'd score goals for fun in the Premier League.
Scoring goals wins matches. Goals and wins makes fans happy. Huntelaar would definitely lift the mood, in my opinion.
Current Club: Bologna
Likely Asking Price: £15 million
Why he would lift the mood: Gaston Ramirez is one of the most talented young attacking midfielders in world football. He is constantly overlooked because people wish to talk about Mario Gotze, Eden Hazard and Lucas Moura, and while it would be fantastic for Liverpool if they could sign one of those players, they would not be doing too badly if they signed Ramirez.
Blessed with a fantastic left foot, great vision and fantastic dribbling skills, Gaston Ramirez is, in my opinion, a better player than Nico Gaitan, who Manchester United are apparently trailing. Liverpool have been linked with Ramirez quite a bit of late, and it really is a deal that Damien Comolli should be working extra hard to make happen.
It also helps that he's Uruguayan and a good friend of Luis Suarez.
Current Club: Rennes
Likely Asking Price: £20 million
Why he would lift the mood: As I mentioned in the Graeme Souness slide, it is my hope that Damien Comolli and Kenny Dalglish are working hard to bring to Liverpool a player who can be a modern-day version of Souness. In my view, this is the man they should be targeting.
Yann M'Vila is the best young defensive midfielder in the world, and within the next two years, will be the best of all. He's a magnificent player who can take over and dominate a game in a manner that only the very best can manage. He's only 21 and has already cemented his position in the French national team and will remain there for the next decade.
Liverpool fans don't know it yet, but if M'Vila were to arrive they would be truly delighted because he's the type of player a great team can be built around.
Current Club: Independiente
Likely Asking Price: £12 million
Why he would lift the mood? Players like Patricio Rodriguez are few and far between. Players who can get the crowd on their feet every single time they get the ball. Rodriguez may very well be the best dribbler in the world not named Lionel Messi.
A true phenom with the ball at his feet, the man known as Patito doesn't know the meaning of too many opponents and has a propensity for making would-be tacklers look very silly. Liverpool are desperately in need of someone to fill the right-sided midfield role and, in my view, he'd be perfect for the job—and affordable too.
Current Club: Schalke
Why he would lift the mood: One of the things that worries Liverpool fans the most is who will replace Steven Gerrard when Liverpool's legendary captain calls it a day or can no longer be called on every week. For many years, Gerrard has been the heartbeat of the team, the man who has carried the team while those around him have struggled, and the man who can always be relied on to give the crowd a lift.
Age and injuries have slowed Gerrard and few can deny that he is at the back end of his career. Those who believe he will play regularly for five or six more years are fooling themselves or simply don't understand the toll that his career and the injuries he has suffered have taken on his body. Gerrard has, at best, two to three good years left as a starter.
That's not to say he couldn't play on after that in a reduced role with his game time carefully managed ala Ryan Giggs or Paul Scholes, but as a week-in and week-out starter, two to three years maximum.
So who can replace him? Henderson and Shelvey have been touted as possibilities, but in truth, while both will become good—possibly even very good—players, neither are going to be truly great like Gerrard. To find a replacement for Gerrard, Liverpool will have to look outside of England, ideally towards Germany.
Julian Draxler is the next Mario Gotze, and more. He might be the most promising of all the great young players coming out of Germany right now. His build, style of play and the way he carries himself are all reminiscent of a young Steven Gerrard. For me, there's no question that Draxler is better now than Gerrard was at the same age.
Liverpool would need to move quickly to secure Draxler, as he's going to be wanted by all the big guns after they've shared Gotze, Hazard, Moura and Eriksen amongst themselves. While Draxler is more than affordable right now, his price is only going to go up and up.
Germany is a country where players tend to be valued more on what they've done rather than potential or simply nationality as they are in England, and Draxler could be grabbed for a bargain price.
Draxler and M'Vila are two players Liverpool should do everything to secure. They are players who will become two of the world's best and they are players around whom great teams can be built. If Liverpool signs only two players in January, it really should be those two.
Honourable Mentions: Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba
Current Club: Manchester United
Likely Asking Price: Tribunal Set—Both out of Contract in the Summer
Why they would lift the mood: I've cheated for a second time because neither of these players can be signed until the summer, but the reason they would make Liverpool fans happy is simple. What better way to stick it to Salford's finest and their fans than by stealing their two biggest talents away from them for peanuts?
Neither player seems keen to renew their current contracts and could walk away from United in the same manner that Daniel Sturridge did from Manchester City.
Here's a video of Pogba for those that haven't seen him play.
So there you have it readers, five of the greatest ever January signings made by Liverpool, along with five potential signings that would lift the mood around Anfield.
Thanks for reading. Please feel free to comment below.
I'd like to thank you again for taking the time to read this article; feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below. And if you've got a minute to spare, don't forget to vote for who YOU believe is the greatest Liverpool goalkeeper of all time. I've decided to make the greatest-ever articles a fortnightly feature, rather than a weekly one, so you've still got a couple days left to vote.