After being substituted with half an hour remaining of Sunday's roller-coaster performance against Swansea City, Liverpool vice-captain Daniel Agger is being linked with a move away from Anfield this summer.
Dominic King of the Daily Mail writes that Agger "is facing a fight for his Liverpool future after being hauled off during his side’s 4-3 win over Swansea."
The Dane made only his 10th Premier League start of the season against Swansea, returning after six weeks on the sidelines—replacing Kolo Toure who has struggled to deputise as the left-sided centre-back in Agger and Mamadou Sakho's absence.
That Rodgers felt Toure was a better option than Agger for the final half hour of the game is perhaps indicative of the manager's opinion.
In the week leading up to the game, Rodgers was asked about Agger's return to fitness. "Everyone talks about ball-playing centre-halves but you have to be able to defend and be able to cope with that first," he told, as per Sky Sports.
The manager had laid down a challenge, as explained by Jack Lusby of This Is Anfield. "A classy ball-player by trade... Agger must perform the near impossible and turn glass into defensive steel," analogised Lusby.
Whether we can attribute the performance to Agger returning to fitness is open for debate, but it will be interesting to see who starts against Southampton on Saturday.
Lusby explained how, after being dropped for the away match at Hull in early December, Agger had returned to the side and improved his form. Rodgers explaining why he replaced Agger with Toure for that match—which ironically ended in a dire 3-1 defeat.
"I just felt we’ve struggled at times against big physical opponents and Toure has obviously coped well with that type of player," explained the manager, as per the Liverpool Echo.
"The first attribute [of defending] isn’t about the ball. It is to defend. When you can defend, you then look to build the game from there."
Almost identical quotes from the Northern Irishman then and now.
Value For Money
With only 12 starts all season, and reportedly one of the club's highest-earning players, it is difficult to justify Agger's value within the squad.
Owners Fenway Sports Group are keen to ensure each player represents value for money and Agger currently does not.
The Denmark captain signed a new contract in 2012 which keeps him at the club until 2016, meaning this summer represents the last chance to get good money for the 29-year-old. Allowing him to enter the final year of his contract would weaken Liverpool's power in the market.
I'll be sad when Daniel Agger leaves Liverpool. BUT THEY ALL LEAVE AT SOME STAGE.— Nathan (@grubbavitch) February 25, 2014
In all honesty, the writing has been on the wall for Agger since the deadline-day signing of Sakho last summer. The Frenchman was hailed as a "marquee signing" by managing director Ian Ayre and Rodgers explained that the signings of Sakho and Ilori were to "protect the present and the future of the club," as per Sky Sports.
Sakho has started 12 Premier League games during his debut season in England—a figure that would be higher without the hamstring injury he picked up against Chelsea over Christmas—and that will rise once he returns to injury.
Sakho, 23, is physically stronger than Agger—capable of handling the type of forward that Liverpool have struggled with in recent years; Bony, Christian Benteke, Didier Drogba et al.
The Frenchman is still able to keep possession, but he can do what Rodgers desires—defend first.
Agger's departure would, and will, make sense for all parties. Brendan Rodgers is creating a new era at Anfield and with it tough decisions—decisions based on economics rather than emotion—are required.
Just as Pepe Reina's departure was lamented by some, Agger's will too, but his age, wages, squad status and form are not aligned.