After a campaign of unprecedented and unexpected highs, Liverpool supporters can look forward to Champions League football at Anfield next season. And a by-product of that success will be a host of top-class stars being linked with a move to Merseyside.
European football will naturally put strain on Brendan Rodgers’ squad, and the need to bolster the group is paramount. The Reds’ boss has moved quickly to secure the acquisitions of Rickie Lambert and Emre Can, but they look set to be the first two of many.
Here’s the very latest on a talented duo that have been linked with a move to the Anfield outfit, and news on the future of one Liverpool’s longest-serving players.
Roberto Firmino Talks Begin
The Reds have reportedly opened negotiations with Hoffenheim over a deal for the Brazilian midfielder.
According to reports in Germany (h/t Jamie Sanderson of Metro), Rodgers has been tracking the progress of Firmino for a long time, and they value him around the £15 million mark. The 22-year-old was very impressive in the Bundesliga last season and is a player who could play in a host of attacking positions for this Liverpool team.
He managed to notch 16 goals throughout the campaign, as noted here by the Bundesliga Twitter account:
Firmino is an extremely stylish player, and Rodgers could mould him into an attacker of real pedigree. He has a turn of pace and an intricacy that makes him perilously difficult to pin down, making him a threat both in behind and between the lines.
Here’s a taster of what all the fuss is about:
The Reds were supreme in their attacking play last season, but Firmino would give them another incisive dimension in that department. He’s young and still learning, and if he was surrounded by top-class players like those currently at Liverpool, he’d improve extremely quickly.
Dejan Lovren Targeted by Barcelona
The Reds have long been linked with a move for the Southampton defender, but they could face competition from the Catalan giants, who are also reportedly interested in the player.
According to Simon Jones on Mail Online, Luis Enrique has cited Lovren as the man to shore up his back line after he enjoyed an outstanding debut season in England. The Croatian has handed in a transfer request to the south coast club, as reported by Neil Ashton on Mail Online, and now looks destined for Champions League football next season.
The Southampton man was unable to prevent Croatia from losing their World Cup opener against Brazil, but he reaffirmed his credentials with a fine performance, as noted here by Italian football expert Matteo Bonetti:
Dejan Lovren has been awesome today— Matteo Bonetti (@TheCalcioGuy) June 12, 2014
Lovren would be the perfect stylistic fit for Barcelona. Aside from being a studious defender, he’s elegant on the ball, comfortable striding out of defence and, being left-sided, gives the team a great natural balance. But Liverpool must do their utmost to tempt him to Anfield.
At 24 years of age, the Southampton man can be a mainstay of the Liverpool back four for years and shore up an area of the team that cost the Reds dearly last season. The possibility of donning the Blaugrana strip is an admittedly tantalising prospect, though.
Pepe Reina to Return to Liverpool
Former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has ruled out making a move for Reina, insisting that the club can’t afford his wages. The Spanish international impressed at Napoli on a season-long loan, but he looks as though he could be set for a fight with Simon Mignolet for the Reds’ goalkeeping berth.
Speaking to talkSPORT (h/t Sky Sports), Benitez confirmed Napoli wouldn’t be making a move for the player this summer:
Yes. Pepe has two years left on his contract at Liverpool.
He has to go back and he’ll stay there. We can’t afford Pepe’s wages. The Premier League is a very big league and, in Serie A, we don’t pay big wages like in England. He will have to fight for his position at Liverpool.
After spending big money to bring Mignolet to Anfield, you would suspect that even if Reina was to return, the Belgian would remain Rodgers’ choice between the sticks. With that in mind, the Spaniard’s hefty wage demands seem to be getting in the way of him gaining regular first-team football.
Reina is 31 years old now, and he needs to be playing regularly. He remains a fine goalkeeper and could do a wonderful job for a top European side. But if is wage demands are as high as Benitez suggests, it's difficult to predict where he'll end up next season.