Summer is a schizophrenic time in football. Maddening speculation, rampant rumors and lingering disappointment are pitted against the anxiety of the coming unknown, cautious optimism and verdant excitement that only eternal hope can foster.
For Liverpool Football Club, the summer of 2013 has the makings of being one of the most anticipated in the last three years.
With the debris cleared and a foundation laid, the real construction begins for Fenway Sports Group, whose first few years in charge at Liverpool FC came with some lumps and more than one black eye.
But the American ownership group is now more seasoned and, more importantly, it has allowed its model to permeate into all facets of the club.
Here are six objectives that the Club must achieve in the upcoming offseason.
Getting into the elite European club competition is barely worth mentioning, but its importance cannot be stressed enough.
Air is missed most by those that are running low on it. And Liverpool has been asphyxiating without the high-octane variety inhaled during this A-list competition. Qualification is not a divine right. The 2005 winners’ three-year absence is painful proof of that. It is an absence that will more than likely enter its fourth year next season.
It is simple. Brendan Rodgers and his new-look squad must make it into the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League. Relying on the revenue it generates as a guaranteed payday is a dangerous shell game, but that money goes a long way in addressing fiscal responsibility.
Qualification also introduces the pheromone of success missing from Anfield of late that attracts the bigger prey to the club while re-captivating the more powerful predators already in the fold—something that Edison Cavani reminds us of in his recent interview regarding Luis Suarez.
It symbolizes that Liverpool have found their way back to the track and that the years spent wandering in the wasteland of relative anonymity are in the past.
Ajax's Christian Eriksen is on Liverpool's radar.
Brendan Rodgers has intimated that he needs “three or four quality” summer signings to round out his roster. With last year’s transfer failures still pealing between the dasher boards at Anfield, it is almost a certainty that the list has already been penned.
But he will have to do it with all due haste.
It’s not a completely undo-able proposition for his technical committee, given that he is expected to get somewhere in the vicinity of a £20 million war chest for transfers, but time is of the essence for the flying start Rodgers will need to silence his critics and justify his employers’ faith in his abilities.
It is imperative that he gives his new recruits as much time as possible to learn his fairly particular ropes so that they can hit the ground at full tilt.
The out-of-favor Martin Skrtel might be on his way out of Anfield.
The center of defense was always going to be an area of close scrutiny for Brendan Rodgers. Despite the 11 clean sheets in the English Premier League this season, the lack of cohesion and confidence in the back has made for some costly mistakes.
However, Jamie Carragher’s imminent retirement, an unhappy Sebastian Coates and a recalcitrant Martin Skrtel means that the Northern Irishman could be left staring at a fairly substantial hole in his central defense.
But there are some potential diamonds that he could mine from that yawing gap. ESPN FC contributor Kristian Walsh mentions Andre Wisdom and Martin Kelly as potential ready-made options in the system, but he posits that age and experience might be too much of a hurdle.
There have been whisperings of Rodgers going back to the Swansea City well to draw up the services of Ashley Williams. Feyenoord FC's Stefan de Vrij and Paris Saint-Germain’s Mamadou Sakho round out the reported targets, although Claude Makelele insists it is “impossible.”
This is perhaps Rodgers’ most pressing concern, but there will be other areas where he will need to focus his energies this summer.
Alonso nets in the 2005 UEFA Champions League Final.
Liverpool is sitting on a promising crop of talented youngsters in that midfield position, but none of them have exhibited the potential-to-actual maturation that Rodgers needs to offer them the full-time position.
Rodgers’ recent comments about the need for tempering age and experience suggests that a potential return to Merseyside by Xabi Alonso might actually be more than just speculation. It is a rumor that has every Liverpool fan’s heart aflutter.
Since his £30 million departure for Real Madrid, his many would-be replacements have failed to fill his boots. Even at 31 years old, his quality is undeniable and ability undiminished, both of which would amply fill the immediate need in midfield.
Liverpool might be lucky enough to catch lightning in a bottle again with Alonso, who could fully reignite a resurgent Steven Gerrard. Alonso’s history of success and experience would also give Rodgers the buffer he needs to sign or groom a long-term answer for that position.
Pepe Reina's reaction to a costly lapse in judgement against Manchester City.
Pepe Reina has not been the bedrock of confidence between the pipes in recent years, with some attributing his dip in form to the departure of his coach, Xabi Valero.
The comments made by his father and ex-Barcelona ‘keeper Miguel Reina regarding his interest in going back to Spain have done little in calming the already choppy waters, either.
Although Reina has repeatedly denied he is keen to make the move to FC Barcelona to fill the pending Victor Valdes vacancy, the lure of a return to his boyhood club might be more than the Spaniard will be able to counter in 2014 when Valdes is set to leave.
The uncertainty of form poured over questions of loyalty are not the cocktail that Liverpool need from a No. 1, especially in light of the defensive woes that have beset the Reds this season.
The plight and departure of Brazilian International Alexander Doni handed Brad Jones the backup role. As admirable and able of an understudy that Brad Jones has proved this year, it is probably the role that he will continue to play at Liverpool. Liverpool will have to identify Reina’s replacement to either shunt the Spaniard upwards or out.
The stadium issue has been a saga that once courted ridiculous fantasy but seems destined to be grounded in sublime practicality.
Made public last year, the decision to redevelop Anfield has laid both the last specters of the Gillett and Hicks era and decades worth of empty assurances to rest.
The Liverpool Echo reported that the project remains on track but remained vague on the actual timetable for the project’s commencement.
This is a sensitive topic and the club will not want to exacerbate it further by revisiting the mistakes made by the previous administration, but patience will start to wear thin if a more concrete schedule is not forthcoming.
Appearances aren’t everything, but perception is often reality. By announcing a construction schedule, the club takes on the healthy glow of a club whose forward progress suggests its time back in the sun isn't far off.