Transfers: What Liverpool Could Do with £97.3 Million
Brendan Rodgers appears set to have quite the large kitty at his disposal as he embarks on his first full summer in charge of Liverpool F.C.
The premise of this article is admittedly somewhat speculative. The financial figure quoted is by no means a certainty.
However the premise is as follows:
Given the amount of money I expect Liverpool to have available, who are the best players they could potentially sign this window?
Throughout, I assume that the club has £97.3 million at its disposal. I arrived at that number as follows:
The club will likely plan on spending around £20 million prior to player sales.
Should Suarez leave, I anticipate a figure of roughly £50 million as reported in the Guardian. I then add another £15 million based on the presumed sale of Andy Carroll to West Ham as reported by BBC. From there, I add £8 million for Stewart Downing and £12 million for Martin Skrtel.
I also take a guess at a few loans that will take place (if the players are not sold).
In my estimation, Suso, Andre Wisdom, Jonjo Shelvey, Jay Spearing, Oussama Assaidi, Sebastian Coates, Jon Flanagan, Jack Robinson, Jordan Ibe, Samed Yesil, and Adam Morgan are all either surplus to requirements or in need of regular playing time elsewhere.
Finally, I removed £7.7 million from the total for the anticipated outlay on Iago Aspas.
Each transfer fee quoted is courtesy of transfermarkt.co.uk.
All of this is speculative. But it is good enough to be going on with for now.
With the numbers out of the way, let's get on with the fun part.
LB: Jetro Willems, PSV
Lucas Digne, LB, Lille - £7.500.000
Danny Rose, LB, Tottenham - £4.400.000
Jose Enrique is a good left-back, but not a great one. He does the job, but I do not see him starting on any of the other six teams that Liverpool finished behind in 2012/13.
Rodgers should bring in a young left-back with the intent of slowly transitioning him into the starting role before selling Enrique next year.
This season, the individual in question could perhaps play full-back alongside Martin Kelly in cup matches and exist as a second option in the league. Thus, whoever the club signs needs to be comfortable with the notion of some time on the bench while possessing the potential for growth.
Lucas Digne of Lille is a rumored possibility.
Danny Rose might be available coming off of a loan to Sunderland. Tottenham own his rights and might be willing to sell given the surplus of options they have at the position.
However, my pick would be Jetro Willems valued at around £3.500.000 by transfermarkt.co.uk. But that seems a bit low. I would anticipate something more in the range of £8.000.000.
Jetro Willems is a great young talent (19 years old) coming out of the Dutch league. He possesses the speed necessary to help in attack along with the strength required to keep a place in English football.
Hopefully Willems is a future star and not another Emiliano Insua. At the price, it is worth taking a gamble to find out.
CB: Kyriakos Papadopoulos, FC Schalke
Liverpool need a young, physical centre-back to replace Jamie Carragher as a starter and play alongside Daniel Agger in the middle of the defense.
Agger is great with the ball at his feet and a world class talent. However, physical strikers dismantled Liverpool this campaign. Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke both probably still give the Kop nightmares.
For whatever reason, Martin Skrtel does not fit the bill here for Brendan Rodgers. Expect him to be sold if Rodgers does not offer him regular minutes.
Further, Toure is a replacement for Carragher in that he is a veteran who can calm a young team. However, he is not the long term solution. Even if he starts the year in the first eleven, the club's supporters will hope that does not remain the case past January.
Enter the future of Greek football: Kryiakos Papadopoulos. He is physical, good in the air, and an all around intimidating presence. In that sense, he represents the kind of steel that the Reds never really replaced when Javier Mascherano left.
In addition, Papadopoulos is just 20 years old, which is startling given how good he is and how long it usually takes centre-backs to reach their prime.
For the sake of fairness, let's say the final figure comes in at £15 million. Either way, Liverpool get great value for their money.
CB: Tiago Ilori, Sporting Lisbon
According to Soccernews.com, Liveprool have offered €4.2 million for the British-born Portuguese centre-back with another €800,000 in performance-related bonuses.
Sporting Lisbon are in financial trouble and may feel compelled to part with the 20-year-old who made just 12 league appearances this year.
Ilori comes in as a reserve option to Daniel Agger assuming Sebastian Coates goes out on loan or is sold. He would operate in the tactical, non-enforcer role. Essentially, he presents a reserve foil to Papadopoulos.
Ilori represents a small risk. He would be the fourth member of a strong quartet alongside Agger, Papadopoulos, and Toure. The group balances youth and experience, as well as strength and tactical ability.
With the three central defensive signings, Rodgers is laying the foundation for the future of the back line.
CAM: Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Shakthar Donetsk
Honorable Mention: Christian Eriksen, Ajax Amsterdam, £14.000.000
Part of the reason this process is so difficult for Ian Ayre and company is that despite the large sums they might possess, Merseyside is not the attraction it once was.
Liverpool are not playing in Europe and they have not competed in England for some time. That means that other clubs can come in and undercut them with relative ease.
For example, Christian Eriksen represents a perfect fit at the head of the midfield. But according to ESPN, he is understandably keener on Borussia Dortmund following their Champions League final appearance.
And so the attention has turned to Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Shakhtar Donetsk.
The Armenian represents money well spent with the Guardian quoting a figure of £22.000.000.
Mkhitaryan scored 25 goals last term to lead all scorers in the Ukrainian league. And before you decry the relative merits of Ukrainian football, keep in mind that this is a team that made it into the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Tactically, Mkhitaryan allows Rodgers the flexibility he prizes so highly.
It gives him multiple attackers: Sturridge, Borini, Coutinho, Sterling, Aspas and in this case, Mkhitaryan. All of the above can play a range of positions from striker to central forward, to winger, to attacking midfielder.
That kind of versatility is invaluable. It helps the club weather the storm of any injuries that may arise. It gives the manager tactical flexibility. And it allows for players to cycle in and out of the lineup to maintain fitness for a full campaign.
It is impressive to see how quickly this potentially lethal group was assembled. Rodgers came in with players like Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing leading the line. While both are serviceable, they each have clearly defined roles that do not necessarily fit the new style of play.
Guys like Aspas, Sturridge, Coutinho and Mkhitaryan are much more in line with the new brand of football at Anfield. It should be exciting to see what they can do as a unit.
CDM: Victor Wanyama, Celtic FC
Whether or not Lucas Leiva regains his old form is irrelevant, Liverpool need a reserve option either way.
In theory, Joe Allen can play the position as he did for England at the Olympics. However, the Welshman seems a better reserve for Steven Gerrard in the defensive spot.
Instead, Liverpool should add depth behind Lucas. The two primary areas to focus on should be youth and physicality. Lucas is proficient when fit but he does not strike fear into the opposition like Michael Essien or Nigel De Jong.
Wanyama is a great deal valuable on a number of levels. He is 21 with plenty of potential. The Celtic midfielder also has the size the current team lacks at 6'2''.
Further, despite his age, he captains the Kenyan national side after being unanimously selected by his teammates. Wanyama also managed a Champions League goal in his side's victory over Barcelona.
But the price being quoted is just £10 million. And the Gunners are most likely simply looking to add depth.
If Liverpool comes in a few million higher and offers more regular minutes then they may just be able to pry him away from the Scottish league.
No one is going to come in and fill the void left by Mike Tyson understudy Luis Suarez.
Had he not made his hunger for goals literal, the Uruguayan was on track to be the PFA Player of the Year.
Now he is just a nuisance. Every time he mouths off to the press he degrades the Liverpool brand more and more. At this point, the best case for everyone is if the club simply doubles its initial investment and moves him on.
By my count, the club would have about £25 million left at this point following the transfers I have recommended.
That is not quite enough to bring in a huge name. Even if it was, the big movers this window like Falcao and Cavani will or have already found more money or bigger clubs to play for.
Thus, I think the Reds should keep some funds in reserve for the January window while making a smaller, riskier bid this summer.
That money could be spent in one of two ways. Rodgers could pursue an older striker. Tevez comes to mind, a cheeky bid for Fernando Torres might also be interesting.
A veteran gives Liverpool immediate options while Borini, Aspas, or Sturridge attempt to prove that they are the long term solution.
However, it does not seem likely that the names listed would prize Anfield over other suitors. Therefore, I think Ian Ayre should simply search the lesser leagues once more and see if he can pull a rabbit out of his hat.
This time last year Michu and Christian Benteke could have easily been had for cheap. The Reds should attempt to unearth someone similar.
ST: Jozy Altidore, AZ Alkmaar
The 23-year-old American netted 31 goals across all competitions last campaign.
After a few years plying his trade in anonymity at both Villareal and Hull City, the physical forward seems to have found his way.
This year has seen Altidore come into his own. He has begun to fit well into Klinsmann's national side that aligns reasonably well with the formations commonly utilized by Rodgers.
He is also showing signs of maturity. His composure is improving on the pitch. Altidore has also begun to press more on defense, a marked improvement from evident laziness seen earlier in his career.
The American is big enough to make it in English football. At 3.100.000 £, why not take a flier on a player that may prove to be severely undervalued?
The Goalkeeper Question
Pepe Reina is probably on his way out in the next couple of seasons.
Personally, I would leave him in place for another year given how much change is set to occur elsewhere across the defense.
However, BBC has Simon Mignolet moving to Anfield. That might spell the end for the Spaniard. It is not a move that I would necessarily advocate wholeheartedly.
Either way the sale price and purchase prices respectively are about the same and should be a wash.
So there you have it. And with roughly £20 million left to spend in January.
Perhaps that money will go to Mignolet and Luis Alberto of Sevilla, but we shall see.
My proposed lineup would be as follows:
DEF: Johnson (RB), Agger (CB), Papadopoulos (CB), Enrique (LB)
MID: Lucas (CDM), Gerrard (CM), Mkhitaryan (CAM)
FWD: Aspas (RW), Coutinho (LW), Sturridge (ST)
Reserves: Kelly (RB/CB), Toure (CB), Ilori (CB), Willems (LB), Allen (CM), Henderson (CAM), Wanyama (CDM), Sterling (LW), Borini (W/ST), Altidore (ST)
The obvious weakness is the immediate placement of Aspas in the first eleven. But, you could put any of a number of reserve options in that place depending on how preseason training goes.
The strength of these signings is the influx of meaningful depth to a side in desperate need of it. Mkhitaryan and Papadopoulos also add tremendous potential value for a long time to come.
What are your thoughts? I look forward to everyone's feedback and suggested alternatives.