Liverpool Transfer Options: 8 Wide Men Who Could Solve the Reds' Wing Woes
I think we can all agree that Liverpool have a number of needs in this transfer window. A new striker is an obvious need given Liverpool's lack of goals this season.
Luis Suarez, as brilliant as he is, simply hasn't been clinical enough. Andy Carroll has been a major disappointment and really hasn't shown anything to suggest he will ever prove good enough for the Reds. Craig Bellamy has been fantastic but his knee issues mean he can only play limited games. And Dirk Kuyt seems to be on a major downturn in his career.
A few weeks back I put together an article listing seven potential strike partners for Luis Suarez, and following on from that I thought I'd compile a list of potential targets for the wide role, which Liverpool desperately need to fill.
Those of you who watched the recent match against Manchester City saw a Liverpool team desperately short of creativity. Liverpool simply must add a creative wide player to their ranks this month, or regardless of what striker they bring in to partner Suarez, they will still struggle to score.
The Reds' current wide options are: Stewart Downing, who has been a major disappointment since arriving and is the type of player more suited to servicing Andy Carroll, rather than Luis Suarez; Jordan Henderson, who is clearly better suited to a central role; Maxi Rodriguez, who doesn't seem to be a favourite of Kenny Dalglish despite his goalscoring record; and the aforementioned Bellamy and Kuyt.
I think it's fair to say that re-enforcements are needed—and quickly.
In this article I've looked at realistic targets not requiring transfer fees in excess of £20 million. Some have been linked with the Reds this month, some have been linked in the past, and one is someone I rate very highly but haven't heard mentioned in connection with Liverpool.
I've written a number of transfer target-related articles over the last couple of months, so rather than repeat myself, I will not list anyone I have already talked about.
I hope you enjoy.
1. Scott Sinclair
Liverpool are alleged to have interest in Swansea winger Scott Sinclair, which could see them make a move for him this month. Sinclair is a creative wideman who knows where the back of the net is and played a huge role in helping his club gain promotion to the Premier League.
Sinclair began his career at Bristol Rovers having graduated through their academy and making his first-team debut at the age of 15. He would make only one further appearance for Rovers before being snapped up by Chelsea in 2005.
He spent five years at Chelsea but managed only a handful of first-team appearances. That five-year spell included six loans at six different clubs as Sinclair began to epitomise the "have boots will travel" journeyman of yesteryear.
In 2010 Swansea bought Sinclair in a deal that was eventually worth £1 million. It turned out to be one of the greatest moves the club ever made, as in his first season with the Welsh club he scored 27 goals, including a hat trick in the play off final that saw the Swans become the first Welsh club to attain EPL promotion.
Sinclair has been in good form for Swansea thus far this season, scoring five goals and adding one assist while helping his club adapt far better than expected to life in the Premier League.
Naturally right-footed, he plays mostly as a left winger but is comfortable on either flank. In my opinion, Sinclair is an underrated footballer (and certainly one of the most underrated English players in the Premier League). At 22 he is the right age for Liverpool to sign and mould whilst helping reach his potential.
He would likely cost less than £10 million and would certainly represent a better piece of business than some of current regime's previous signings.
2. Junior Hoilett
David Wayne Hoilett, better known as Junior, might very well be the most talented footballer ever born in Canada. While that may not impress you given his competition for that title, watch him play and he will likely leave you impressed.
Hoilett is a very talented player who has been one of the few—and by few I mean three—bright lights in a very disappointing Blackburn Rovers team who seem destined for relegation despite their recent victory at Old Trafford.
With his skill on the ball, dribbling ability and vision, Hoilett definitely has a bright future in the game. He is out of contract at the end of the season, and is thus likely to go for a lot less than he's worth if sold this month.
I would imagine that a fee in the region of £8 million would be enough to secure him. Liverpool have been linked but will likely face competition for Hoilett.
Three goals and four assists already this season, on such a poor team, indicate that he has the talent to do very well in the Premier League if surrounded by quality players.
It will be interesting to see where he ends up this month, because I think it's a near certainty he will leave Blackburn.
3, Victor Moses
The third and final English-based inclusion on my list, Victor Moses has been regarded a star-in-waiting for a couple of years now, and in recent months he has given a number of performances that suggest that he might be about to become that star.
Moses made his name with Crystal Palace, where he graduated from a youth academy that has produced a number of talent players over the last decade or so. Many tops clubs were linked with the Nigerian-born winger before he moved, somewhat surprisingly, to Wigan Athletic for a fee of £2.5million in January 2010.
Moses initially struggled to break into the first team at Wigan due to the presence of Charles N'Zogbia. However, when the Frenchman moved to Aston Villa in the summer, Moses was given the chance to stake his claim for a starting position. He has done that and more.
Along with James McCarthy, Moses has helped Wigan punch above their weight on a number of occasions this season and given them a chance to escape relegation once again.
I don't believe Moses is good enough to be starting for Liverpool right now, purely because he does have some issues with consistency. That's not to say Liverpool shouldn't sign him. I think a purchase and loan back for the rest of the season would be a good option here if Liverpool have some extra cash to play with.
Moses has the potential to be an excellent player and is definitely one Liverpool could sign for the future, as Wigan will need him for the remainder of the season in hopes of avoiding the drop. He has been linked recently, so Moses might be one to keep an eye on.
4. Xherdan Shaqiri
Some players have what is described as a "wand of a left foot." Xherdan Shaqiri is not one of them. Shaqiri has what can only be described as a weapon of mass destruction for a left foot. With the power he is capable of generating in his shots, his left foot really should come with a health warning.
Shaqiri has long been linked with the top clubs and a recent report suggests that the Reds could be in competition for his signature with Manchester United. However, given United's latest signing it would appear that United are going in a different direction.
Talented youngsters might not be the order of the day for United. Perhaps David Beckham would be a better fit? Perhaps Fergie could become a player/manager? Or maybe they could summon Roy Keane from retirement? Better yet, why not this man?
Shaqiri is a player I've been unsure about in the past but he's definitely grown on me in the last while. Perhaps it's that he tortured United in the Champions League. Perhaps it's his confidence in his ability. Perhaps it's the thoughts of hearing the Kop chant "Shaqiri, Shaqiri" a la Shakira as one reader suggested lately.
Who knows and who cares. All that matters is that Shaqiri is a hugely talented player who deserves a bigger stage. With no disrespect intended to either Basle or the Swiss League, Shaqiri belongs in the Premier League.
He's likely be the most expensive player on this list and probably the hardest to acquire given Basle are still involved in the Champions League. But if the rumoured interest is real, Damien Comolli should be following up.
5. Kevin De Bruyne
While Eden Hazard gets all the hype, another young Belgian winger has been quietly attracting much attention with his displays for Racing Genk in the Belgian Pro League, as well as in the Champion League.
Kevin De Bruyne was born Belgium to an English mother and has been a regular visitor to the UK throughout his life. One visit about two years ago resulted in reports that he was signing for Chelsea; in truth he was visiting his grandmother in London.
A very talented player, De Bruyne is a right-footed left winger who is also an accomplished playmaker. He reminds me quite a bit of a young Robert Pires in his style and ability, and could see him being a huge hit in the Premier League.
He'd come at a reasonable price as well I would imagine based on the fees Porto and Benfica respectively paid for Defour and Witsel in the summer. He's definitely somebody Liverpool should be looking at, whether they are or not remains to be seen.
6. Ryad Boudebouz
From an exciting right-footed left winger, we come to an exciting left-footed right winger. Ryad Boudebouz is a French-born Algerian international who has been attracting the attention of Comolli for some time now.
Reports linking him with a move to Liverpool first surfaced in the summer, and haven't really gone away.
He currently plies his trade in Ligue 1 for Sochaux, his first and only professional club. Despite being only 21 years of age, he is already in his fourth season as a first-team regular and has made an impressive 131 appearances in senior football for club and country.
Boudabouz is known for both his ability to make defenders look very silly, and his passing skills. He's the type of player that would work on a Liverpool squad currently employing a left-footed right winger. He is highly unpredictable and sees the pitch a lot better than Stewart Downing.
Boudabouz is always looking to make things happen and create chances for others. He can spot gaps and openings in opponents and execute the perfect pass to exploit them. He'd likely cost less than £10 million, making him a good value signing.
Writer's Note: This slide was originally Ibrahim Afellay, but as he is ruled out until April due to injury, I've made the change. Thanks to Naz. O for bringing my attention to the injury, which I somehow missed.
7. Mauro Zarate
Towards the end of the last transfer window reports surfaced that Liverpool were trying to sign this man, Mauro Zarate. I covered that topic with an article regarding a possible loan move with a view to a permanent deal.
Liverpool ultimately lost out to Inter Milan in the chase for Zarate last summer as they failed to match Inter's offer to Lazio. Inter took Zarate on loan for an initial £3 million with a guarantee to buy for a further £12 million if he played a certain amount of games (a deal similar to that which saw Alberto Aquilani swap Liverpool for AC Milan).
Things have not gone to plan at Inter for Zarate, or indeed his teammates. Gian Piero Gasperini, the manager who wanted Zarate, was sacked in mid-September and his replacement Claudio Ranieri doesn't appear to be the biggest fan of Zarate.
It has been reported in some quarters, as well as rumoured by certain people on Twitter, that Inter would be willing to give up Zarate and cancel their deal with Lazio, who would then want to move him on again. If the reports and rumours are to be believed, Liverpool could well be his potential destination.
Zarate is not an out-and-out winger but he can operate very well on either flank and is an immensely creative player as well as a fantastic dribbler. He's probably best in a 4-3-3 formation which is, also in my opinion, the best formation for Luis Suarez.
The thoughts of Zarate and Suarez either side of a natural goalscorer like Negredo or Huntelaar are enough to make a grown man weep tears of joy (which would soon turn to tears of rage when I consider that for the price of Andy Carroll, Liverpool could have Zarate and either Huntelaar or Negredo). I know hindsight is a great commodity but common sense is an even better one.
Zarate is only 24, and despite not living up to his potential thus far, he is an incredible talent who could take the Premier League by storm.
8. Gabriel Torje
Eden Hazard is called the Belgian Messi, Xherdan Shaqiri is called the Swiss Messi, and here is man they call the Romanian Messi.
Gabriel Torje was a relative unknown up until a couple years ago. Unless you were a staunch follower of Romanian football, it's unlikely you'll have heard of him before he began to put on impressive performance after impressive performance for Dinamo Bucharest the past couple seasons.
It was those performances which caught the attention of Udinese, who signed the Romanian starlet this past summer for a fee in the region of £5 million to act as a direct replacement for Alexis Sanchez, who departed for Barcelona.
Torje had an excellent start to the season but his performances have dropped off a bit and he's been in and out of the team in recent weeks. Alexis Sanchez has not been missed though, as Udinese sit only two points off the top of Seria A in third place.
Consistency might be a bit of a worry with Torje—as is his reputation as a party animal—but talent is not an issue.
This young man has bags of it and could potentially be bought at a reasonable price. He hasn't been linked with Liverpool, but I'm a fan and I feel he could be a good signing for the Reds.
Other Options That I Covered in the Past
As I mentioned on the first slide, I didn't wish to be repetitive and didn't include players from previous articles. For anyone wishing to read what I had to say about other potential wing options, here's a list of the players I wrote about.
Lucas Moura: He seems unlikely to move until the summer at the earliest, Liverpool should be keeping a close eye on him. More here.
Patricio Rodriguez: I recently brought him up in this article.
Nathan Redmond: I covered him in an article about young English players.
Brek Shea: Personally I think he could develop into a very good centre forward and I'd like to see him targeted as a replacement for Dirk Kuyt. Can also play as a winger. Covered here.
I think that's pretty much the lot. If I've missed out on anyone feel free to comment below.
Thanks for reading.