Leandro Damião: Why the Brazil Striker Would Be a Perfect Fit for Liverpool
Liverpool are in desperate need of strikers, that much is clear. Brendan Rodgers arrived at the club this summer intent on starting a tactical revolution at Anfield but has found his ambitions hamstrung by a squad that lacks any depth in attacking areas.
Quite simply, if Luis Suarez fails to deliver, Liverpool fail to deliver.
It is an issue that just won't go away and the decision to offload Andy Carroll, without securing a replacement on the final day of the summer transfer window has been both criticised and ridiculed in equal measure. It was an already bad situation quickly compounded by the loss of Italian forward Fabio Borini to injury.
Given all this background, it is little surprise that the Anfield side are looking to add to their striking options in January, and one name linked on several occasions in recent months is Brazilian striker Leandro Damião—the man tipped by Ronaldo to lead the line for his country at the 2014 World Cup.
Standing at 6'2” and carrying a sizable frame, there will be those who will instantly argue that the Brazilian is “not a Rodgers player.” This view, though, is superficial in nature and fails to fully understand Damião as a player.
Whilst it is true that the Northern Irishman quickly sought to move on £35 million striker Andy Carroll, who was judged not to fit his system, there is no question that the Brazilian is a far more complete, all-around contributor.
His height and athleticism will always make him an aerial threat, perhaps an area that Liverpool should seek to improve, but the Internacional forward also offers a deftness of touch and agility that few would envisage at first glance.
To label him as a traditional target-man would be to do a disservice to his work in deeper areas. If anything, it is his work with his back to goal that the 23-year-old must improve upon. He must still learn to fully utilise his physicality and bully defenders—much as Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke did to the Reds on Saturday.
As he showed at the Olympics, Damião works well with attacking midfielders buzzing around him. That is something that will appeal to Rodgers—even if he cannot call upon the likes of Neymar. Damião's ability to occupy defenders, though, should enable the likes of Suarez, Suso and Raheem Sterling to find more space in attacking areas.
Without reverting to clichés, there is also an innovative streak to Damião that is particularly impressive for a man of his size, and given his fine finishing and goal record, you would have to think he would score goals in the English game.
What the Brazilian's presence might do is allow Rodgers to add another dimension to his attacking options. Liverpool have been criticised in two main areas: lacking a plan B and not converting their chances. Damião could certainly help in both these areas.
He can fit comfortably into Rodgers' ideal passing setup—he has shown that with the Brazil national team. But, what he can also do is offer an aerial threat and a directness in front of goal that the Reds do not possess at the moment. In this respect, his signing would be a truly intriguing prospect.
Damião recently spoke of his desire to stay put in Brazil for the time being, but at the same time was open about the attraction the Premier League holds for his future.
As ever with football, though, economics will dictate his future and his agent spoke just last week of how it will be Internacional who will dictate whether or not the player will depart in the January transfer window.
Should Rodgers look to Leandro Damião in January?
Since returning from the Olympic Games, where he scored six goals in just five appearances for the Seleção, his form has dropped off somewhat at club level, and that may just help Liverpool in their pursuit.
Just four goals in fourteen matches has been Damião's worst run of form in the past two years, and that will no doubt be reflected in his valuation, bringing him into a range more affordable to Rodgers' financial backers. Once more, the issue will be whether Inter are willing to accept such reduced terms.
Damião has the potential to be a top performer in the Premier League, as well as at the international level, if given the opportunity. He won't come cheaply, but any investment made has the potential to repay itself several times over in the coming years as he continues upon his rapid ascendancy.
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