Liverpool Transfers: Assessing If 5 Rumoured Targets Are Good Fits for Reds
The summer transfer rumour mills are winding up again, and as usual Liverpool FC find themselves in great demand to be linked with all number of players in the world's media.
At this point, it would probably be remiss not to drop in that one of the latest names is Malaga central midfielder Manuel Iturra...not Barcelona's Leo Messi, who he is pictured here tackling (via talkSPORT).
Sorry about that.
Reports in the Daily Mail indicate that the Reds are looking at four or five other players with serious interest, hoping to add them to Brendan Rodgers' squad in the summer.
While it would be just as surprising for a publication to get all five transfers right, months in advance, as it would be to see Luis Suarez win the Player of the Year award, there is certainly always the chance that the Reds are at least watching some of those named.
Here we take a look at whether there is substance in the rumours and whether the players would be a good fit for Liverpool.
*One of the mentioned targets is Newcastle United's Hatem Ben Arfa, who is not included here. A more detailed look at Ben Arfa's suitability to Liverpool is discussed here.
Manuel Iturra, Malaga
Manuel Iturra, Malaga. Central midfield.
Despite reports to the contrary, Manuel Iturra is not a playmaking midfielder. He is a destroyer, a deep-lying anchor man or an energetic but ultimately conservative central midfielder.
In other words, he appears to be the target to provide cover and competition for Lucas Leiva, something that Liverpool have needed for quite some time.
Iturra is strong, aggressive and competent in technical defensive duties. He will always be quick to put his foot in and make a challenge and is conscientious about tracking runners from deep midfield areas. On the ball, he prefers to give the ball quickly and simply to his team mates, rarely attempting more difficult passes or prolonging his time in possession.
The Chilean international, capped more than 30 times, is relatively dependable and reliable but will never be seen as a star player. As the destroyer in a team, that is perfectly acceptable if he does the job, of course.
He is out of contract at the end of the present season, and at age 28 (he'll be 29 for the start of next season) he would present Brendan Rodgers the chance to bulk up his squad numbers without an initial transfer fee outlay.
Iturra would likely only be a stop-gap, though, covering for the first team.
Verdict: There's every chance that he is, indeed, being targeted and so could feasibly join on a Bosman free transfer. He is not the all-round excellent powerhouse midfielder that Liverpool require on a weekly basis, however.
Ashley Williams, Swansea City
Ashley Williams, Swansea City. Central defender.
One of Brendan Rodgers' former charges at his old club, Swansea, has been continually linked with the club over the past 12 months, with centre-back Ashley Williams said to be wanted as the man to replace Jamie Carragher.
Williams has his qualities, no doubt. There is plenty to be admired about the way he has gone from playing League Two football five seasons ago to winning the Capital One Cup in the past few weeks, as captain of the team.
But he is not the man to replace Jamie Carragher, and he is not the man to provide the foundations of Liverpool's new defence.
For starters, there is a positional concern. There is not simply a "centre-back" role; within that there are two sides to play on, or the middle of a three. Williams generally plays on the left of the two central defenders, and has proven far better when on that side. For the Reds, Daniel Agger already occupies that role and is possibly the only current senior centre-back who will remain after the summer.
Williams will not be taking his place, and he will not be being signed as cover.
In addition, the Welsh international will be age 29 by the time the new season kicks into gear; at best Liverpool could hope for three years of Williams providing his best form for the club. He then needs replacing again, offering no return on the initial investment in terms of resale value.
The owners were not willing to sanction a £6 million move for Clint Dempsey on the same grounds; would Williams really be offering value for money in that case if he cost twice as much? Hardly.
On the pitch, Williams is a commanding defender who can bring the ball out of the back line, into midfield (where he has played as cover on occasion). He is reliable in reading the game and clearing the danger at an early stage before chances really take shape.
All great...except that's the defender type that Liverpool already have in Agger.
They're missing, and are seeking to replace, the partner in that system. The tough tackler, the strong header, the (vital attribute of) communicator and organiser, the one who can get stuck in when it matters, the defender to do the dirty work.
None of that, especially the talking aspect of the game, relates to Ashley Williams.
Verdict: Williams is a good Premier League defender, though with minimal experience at the top level considering his age. He is not the centre-back Liverpool need for next season and should not be signed.
Stefan de Vrij, Feyenoord
Stefan de Vrij, Feyenoord. Central defender.
Another centre-back linked with the club is Feyenoord and Holland youngster Stefan de Vrij.
The 21-year old certainly provides far more attractive non-on-pitch attributes as a transfer target, starting with his age and experience of top-level football relative to time as a senior.
Feyenoord took the decision to go with De Vrij and fellow young defender Bruno Martins Indi (also linked with the Reds at times) as their pairing for this season and the future, but such has been De Vrij's success that teams across Europe are already turning their eyes to him.
On the pitch, De Vrij is a more physical defender who uses his height to his advantage, is committed in the tackle and yet still has plenty of composure and confidence on the ball and is able to progress up the pitch on occasion.
Despite his youth, he has been made the Feyenoord captain and capped three times for Holland, showcasing his burgeoning leadership potential, though his levels of communication should not be counted as a notable or reliable strength at this point.
A right-footed defender, who has also dabbled at full-back, he naturally features on the right of a defensive duo.
Verdict: De Vrij is obviously a talented youngster and, with only one year remaining on his contract, could be captured this summer at a great price. He should continue to develop over the coming years, making him an attractive option. The Reds would still require an established senior, though.
Tom Ince, Blackpool
Tom Ince, Blackpool. Wide forward.
The Reds were heavily linked with Tom Ince during the January transfer window, but a move failed to materialise and he remained at Championship club Blackpool.
During the summer, speculation will continue to surround the England Under-21 forward, and the situation may have been complicated by his father, Paul Ince, taking over as manager recently.
Tom Ince's abilities are unquestioned; as a young, wide forward he brings great pace, skill in one-on-ones, goals and a very direct threat on the ball.
The question that is more appropriate to consider is, do Liverpool still require him?
Ince plays from the left side of attack in the main, though he can also play on the right or centrally, as he did for Liverpool's youth sides before leaving first time around.
Now, the Reds have Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling, Luis Suarez, Fabio Borini and Jordan Henderson who can, or have been seen to recently, operate in that position. Is another expenditure on another promising talent in the same area a necessity?
Verdict: Ince's time to move to Liverpool has come and gone. The signing of Coutinho renders him not required, unless Rodgers sees him as a viable option for the right flank.
Kevin Gameiro, PSG
Kevin Gameiro, Paris Saint-Germain. Striker, wide forward.
French forward Kevin Gameiro has been left frustrated on the PSG subs' bench this season, being behind Ezequiel Lavezzi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the selection order.
Gameiro has managed only four league starts this season, so there is every chance he could demand to leave the club in the summer.
In terms of a move to Liverpool, would he be likely to get increased game time at Anfield? Daniel Sturridge's initial form has been impressive, albeit punctuated by injuries. Liverpool do need another forward to offer further cover, but it seems as though the current Reds No. 15 is going to be the main man for now.
Gameiro can play as a wider attacker, which may present some attraction for the club in pursuing him, but that may be tempered by the possibility of having to pay a high price for what would essentially be a squad member.
Verdict: Gameiro is a talented and dangerous forward, but it would have to be a top player who displaces the likes of Sturridge and Luis Suarez right now. An interesting target, but ultimately unlikely to be the one Liverpool sign.