Liverpool Transfers: The Reds' Top Five Targets This Summer
With Liverpool missing out on European football for the first time since 1999, manager Kenny Dalglish will be looking to make significant moves during the summer transfer window to bolster his current squad.
Liverpool have set their sights on a fourth-place finish next season, securing Champions League football for the five-time European champions.
Although specific team needs have to be addressed in the off-season, the new owners have shown their commitment and willingness to invest in the club, as evident by their signings of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll in January.
While the future looks bright in Merseyside, Dalglish's current team has glaring weaknesses that must be addressed. The first-team squad lacks natural wide-players and a reliable left-back. With the attacking talent up front, these two areas will be the main focus for the Reds' this summer.
Although wingers and left-backs will be the primary targets for Liverpool, strong talent from the relegated teams will also be of interest to the club.
Dalglish needs to make improvements if Liverpool are to challenge the EPL elite for a Champions League spot next season.
Here are the Reds' top five summer targets.
5. Charlie Adam
Name: Charlie Adam
Position: Central Midfielder
Projected Transfer Fee: £5-8 million
Style of Play:
The Blackpool captain and Scottish midfielder is a pass-master and set-piece specialist. Adam boasts exceptional technical ability in his left boot. The midfielder dictates tempo and spreads play from a deep-lying position.
Blackpool's leader also brings an extra dimension to the midfield with his ability to hit the cross-field diagonal with tremendous precision.
Throughout the EPL campaign, Adam has shown his expertise in dead-ball scenarios. From corners, the midfielder offers great left-footed delivery. With the whip and pace to trouble defenders, the Scotsman is a serious threat from his out-swinging and in-swinging corners.
Adam is a danger from free-kicks as well. The Blackpool captain flashed his brilliance in the final week of the season, with a spectacular free-kick against champions Manchester United. With the ball on his world-class left boot, Adam has emerged as a great midfield orchestrator and free-kick specialist.
Adam would be a great fit for a Liverpool midfield that has not been the same since the departure of Xabi Alonso. Although Lucas and Meireles have been excellent this year, neither have the range of passing that the Spaniard brought to Merseyside.
The Blackpool captain would be a natural replacement for Alonso in the heart of midfield. Adam's arrival would add to the club's great midfield depth. Lucas has been solid in the holding midfield role, and with Gerrard's return next season there will be great competition to earn a starting place.
Nonetheless, the Scottish midfielder's range of passing and technical ability make him a top target for his discounted transfer fee.
Although Liverpool looks like the favorite to land the Blackpool captain, other suitors include Tottenham and Aston Villa. The Reds will face serious competition from the North London club, which could inflate Adam's market value.
4. Fabio Coentrao
Name: Fabio Coentrao
Projected Transfer Fee: £25 million
Style of Play:
The young Portuguese international is an adventurous full-back with exceptional attacking qualities. Coentrao loves to bomb down the left-flank, using his using his quickness and pace to get into the final third.
The Benfica left-back gives genuine width and provides excellent delivery into the area. Although he could improve his timing and tackling, Coentrao is a tenacious and determined defender.
Although a left-back for both Benfica and Portugal, the starlet is equally adept playing on the left side of midfield. He might not have the tricks and flicks of his compatriots Ronaldo and Nani, but Coentrao is comfortable on the ball and dangerous in space.
Coentrao's versatility makes him a great fit for the new-look Liverpool under Dalglish. He has underrated defensive qualities, and will most likely feature as a left-back for the Reds.
However, his lack of size and physical strength could be a defensive liability in the demanding EPL. If he proves ineffective at left-back, he could easily play as a left winger. Regardless of his position, Coentrao's delivery will cause problems for defenders with the imposing Carroll lurking in the area.
At left-back, Coentrao will bring much-needed stability to the Liverpool backline. Due to injuries, Dalglish has been forced to move Johnson across at times and even shift to a 3-5-2 formation.
The Benfica full-back will provide good positional awareness and tenacity in defense. With Dalglish's emphasis on attacking football, the Portuguese international will be a constant threat down the left flank.
With the player's stamina and hunger to get forward, Coentrao will provide the natural width that Liverpool have missed this season.
Although there are reports that Liverpool and Benfica have already agreed on a fee for the left-back, Coentrao has recently expressed his desire to join Real Madrid.
With fellow countrymen Ronaldo, Pepe and Carvalho at Madrid, the Spanish club are serious candidates to land Coentrao. Other clubs interested in the left-back are Manchester City, Bayern Munich and AS Roma.
3. Eden Hazard
Name: Eden Hazard
Projected Transfer Fee: £20 million
Style of Play:
The Lille winger has become one of the most sought-after young talents in Europe, drawing comparisons to Messi and Ronaldo. Although Hazard is still developing, his attacking mentality and style of play has some striking similarities to the Barcelona and Madrid stars.
The Belgian starlet is tremendous with the ball at his feet, with the pace and dribbling skill to separate from and slalom around defenders. Hazard loves to take on his man and wreak havoc in the final third.
The Belgian winger has a delicate touch on the ball and an eye for a pass as well. Although he has played in behind a central striker, Hazard is most dangerous when deployed on the flanks.
When playing as a winger, Hazard is able to get a better picture of the whole field. Pushing out to the flank gives him the opportunity to use his pace and dribbling to take on defenders, or use his technical skill to find runners and combine with the midfield.
Hazard would be a perfect fit out on the left flank for the Reds. Maxi has been effective this season, but he lacks the pace and trickery to cause problems for the opposition.
The Lille winger would provide the genuine width and quality out wide that Liverpool need. With the hard-working Kuyt on the right side of midfield, Hazard would give the side more balance and a real attacking threat from the left flank.
Hazard would provide an extra dimension in Liverpool's attack. Although Suarez has shown the ability to take on defenders, the club do not have players that can beat the opposition in 1v1 situations. Hazard has the ability to get past defenders and race to the byline, which could be key to Liverpool's attacking style of play.
With his impressive displays for Lille over the past two seasons, Hazard has risen to the top of Europe's most-wanted list. The elite clubs of European have expressed interest in him, with Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Arsenal being heavily linked with the player.
Hazard has the potential to become an elite attacking talent, and £20 million seems to be the market value for Lille's young winger.
2. Jose Enrique
Name: Jose Enrique
Projected Transfer Fee: £8-10 million
Style of Play:
The Newcastle defender has emerged as one of the most reliable left-backs in the EPL. Enrique is the embodiment of consistency, delivering solid performances on a weekly basis.
The Spaniard boasts tremendous defensive qualities and tactical awareness. Enrique times his challenges well, and has good positional awareness. Unlike most modern full-backs, the Spaniard's primary focus is in defense.
Although Enrique plays a more conservative left-back, he is accomplished going forward as well. The Newcastle defender provides good over-lapping runs and dangerous crosses in the box. Enrique is tidy in possession and rarely gives the ball away cheaply.
With the Spaniard's defensive prowess and supporting play, Enrique offers rare stability and all-around play at the left-back position.
Enrique would be the optimum fit at left-back for Liverpool. Dalglish has identified the position as one of his top priorities for the off-season. For a team that has been a revolving door at left-back since the departure of John Arne Riise, the Newcastle defender would be the ideal signing.
Enrique offers strong defensive qualities and reliability, both of which are key aspects to a solid back-four. The Spaniard would provide excellent balance to Liverpool's backline, as Johnson is a more attacking threat from the right-back position.
Enrique's defensive mentality and style of play would allow Dalglish to play a 4-4-2 next season, while other potential targets could force tactical changes. Dalglish has shown the willingness to play a 3-5-2, and Coentrao could be a perfect fit down the left in that system.
However, Enrique is a traditional fullback and excels playing in a back-four. The Spaniard's defensive strengths and consistency make him a great fit for Liverpool next year.
Although Newcastle are preparing to offer the Spaniard a new contract, it still looks as though Enrique
will be playing for a different club at the start of next campaign.
While Liverpool are odds-on favorites to land the Spanish left-back, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have also shown interest in signing the defender.
1. Ashley Young
Name: Ashley Young
Club: Aston Villa
Projected Transfer Fee: £15 million
Style of Play:
Aston Villa's energetic winger is an elite attacking talent in England's top flight. Over the past few seasons, Young has earned rave reviews for his play out wide. The England international boasts outstanding pace and dribbling skill, which makes him a serious threat when running at defenders.
In addition to his ability to beat players and get in behind the defense, Young provides a quality end product. The English winger consistently delivers dangerous balls into the box, especially with his in-swinging crosses from the left flank.
Although he excels as a traditional winger, Young can also play in the hole. The England international has underrated technical ability and a good long-range shot as well.
With his sheer quickness and speed, the Aston Villa winger is difficult to mark whether playing on the wing or behind a center-forward. With impressive displays this season, Young has emerged as a serious danger-man for both club and country.
Young would be the perfect fit on the left side of Liverpool's midfield. The club would welcome another Englishman to join the likes of Gerrard, Carragher, Johnson and Carroll. Aston Villa's pacy winger could give the team genuine width and quality delivery into the box.
In addition, Young's versatility gives Dalglish another option in attack. While it is unlikely the Englishman will play behind a front two, he could be effective in a 4-5-1 formation with his ability to cut inside or race to the byline.
Although his speed will trouble opposing right-backs, his crossing ability is part of the reason why he earns the top spot among Liverpool's summer targets. With his dangerous in-swinging crosses, Young will be able to get the best out of Carroll.
The English striker is dominant in the air. He has shown a willingness to cut in front of defenders and keepers to get his head to the ball.
With Young's quality from the left flank, Carroll should enjoy even more aerial success next season. His attacking qualities and excellent delivery make him the No. 1 target for Liverpool going into the summer transfer market.
Although recent reports claim that the winger would prefer to sign for the Red Devils, a deal has yet to be made. Liverpool might have to pay a fee slightly north of £15 million, but it would be fair value for the England international.