When Liverpool were linked with signing Dejan Lovren this summer, many fans and journalists were sceptical.
Baulking at his £20 million price tag, some also found anxiety in him being the third player to swap Southampton for the Reds in little over a month. Were the Saints really a marker of Liverpool's new Champions League ambitions?
Just 90 minutes later, a pre-season friendly at that, and the Croatian international defender is the new flavour of the month at Anfield after a dream debut against Borussia Dortmund on Sunday.
But that’s the fickle nature of football.
Dejan's Lovren It
Just a few days of training with his new team-mates, and the 25-year-old fitted seamlessly alongside Martin Skrtel in the centre of Liverpool’s defence.
He looked composed with the ball at his feet and strong in the air, oozing a wonderful sense of confidence in his own ability.
To the casual observer, it looked like he had been a mainstay of Liverpool’s defence for years with a great familiarity to his game.
After slotting in so comfortably, it throws Daniel Agger’s future at the club into further doubt.
Amid speculation suggesting he had emotionally requested to leave the club in the dressing room on the Reds’ tour of the USA this summer, as per Darren Lewis of the Daily Mirror, the Danish international defender’s days on Merseyside certainly looked numbered.
A Tale of Two Defenders
The contrast in Brendan Rodgers’ post-match comments following the win over Dortmund were clear-cut.
On Lovren, he told the club’s official website:
Of the two boys that played today, Dejan was perfect – he’s what we’ve been looking for since Jamie Carragher left. He’s a very dominant centre-half.
He’ll go and attack the ball, reads the game incredibly well and you can see his leadership qualities with his talking and guidance of the back four.
You also saw his range of pass on both sides, left foot and right foot. His pass into [Philippe] Coutinho for the first goal was wrapped in with his left foot and that creates the nick around the corner to get us the goal.
Like he showed us last year, he is dominant in the air in the other box, attacking it. I thought he was excellent.
Meanwhile, Rodgers’ comments later in the evening on Agger, to Neil Jones of the Liverpool Echo, centred on the 29-year-old’s uncertain future—although he admitted no new suitor had come forward yet: "I saw some stories on Agger, but we haven’t had any enquiries. Daniel is still getting some work done on his knee. He’s been unfortunate since the tour of America, but we haven’t had anything, no offers."
Clubs Move On
Agger’s departure wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone—hampered by injuries for several years and now firmly down the pecking order behind Lovren, Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho, in whatever order or side of defence Rodgers chooses to play them on.
His knee trouble this summer only goes to strengthen the case for his sale, an unfortunate turnaround from Rodgers’ first summer at the club in which he had to fight off interest from the likes of Manchester City and Barcelona to keep Agger, as per the Daily Mail.
His long absences and ailments have forced Agger to fall behind on the development of Liverpool into a faster, stronger and more ambitious team. Skrtel’s injury-free success to keep up with the dramatic improvement under Rodgers supports this theory.
On high, senior player wages and in a constant battle with his fitness, combined with the arrivals of Lovren and Sakho at Liverpool over the last year, make it both a wise economic and footballing decision to find Agger a new club.
He certainly left his mark on Merseyside, though, as he was with the Reds through the most difficult years of the post-Bill Shankly era and was a presence for many of those.
A popular figure, his potential exit won’t sit well with everyone.