When looking at Liverpool's first choice central defensive pairing of Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger, you could argue that not just one, but both, should be replaced this summer, although for different reasons.
It's common knowledge that high on the list of priorities for Liverpool this summer is a central defender or possibly two. Since the transfer window opened Liverpool have been linked with a plethora of central defenders, including amongst others; Blackburn's Phil Jones, Birmingham's Scott Dann. Paris St. Germain's Mamadou Sakho, Christian Zapata of Udinese and most recently Diego Godin of Atletico Madrid. While they all have their merits, and any one of them would in theory represent a good signing, it is my belief that Liverpool should be looking elsewhere.
Kelly has impressed everyone with his displays.
Jamie Carragher is a Liverpool legend, plain and simple. He's a hero to the fans and will go down in the annals of the clubs history as an all-time great. While club captain Steven Gerrard has long been described as the Heart of Liverpool Football Club, there is no question that is the Soul of the team. Carragher has never had any particular abilities that have made his stand out from the crowd, other than a huge heart and a burning desire to succeed. During the early part of his Liverpool career he was forced to overcome serious injury as well as a manager, Gerard Houllier, who seemed not to believe in him. Houllier never seemed sure what position Carragher was best in, so he moved him from right back, to centre back to left back and then to right back again. It didn't seem to phase Carragher who continually produced excellent displays and fought off the competition from the players bought to replace him. It wasn't until the arrival of Rafa Benitez that Carragher finally settled into the heart of the Liverpool defense on a permanent basis, but once he did there was no question that he was ever going to be moved again. Carragher was arguably Liverpool's most important player during their glorious Champions League campaign of 2004/05 turning in performances that drew comparisons to the legendary Anfield Iron, Tommy Smith. Since then, he has continued to excel. Or at least, he had.
Unfortunately, Carragher's best days are behind him. His performances dipped quite sharply for 18 months until the arrival of Kenny Dalglish sparked a revival. Despite that revival, I don't think he has long left as a starter at the highest level and the time has come to find a successor. Numerous players have been linked and many of them would be fine signings, however in my opinion, there is no need to buy a replacement for Jamie Carragher, there is simply a need for a passing of the torch, and a look around Melwood.
It is my belief that Liverpool should promote from within and bring Martin Kelly into the team in Carragher's place. Kelly has impressed everyone that has seen him play after being brought into the fold on a permanent basis last season after some fleeting appearances under Rafa Benitez and although his appearances for the senior team have all come at right back, he is a natural central defender and that is where he truly belongs. Kelly's pace, dominance in the air, well timed tackling and bravery make him the ideal player to succeed Jamie Carragher as the die-hard at the heart of the Liverpool defense.
Which leads us to Daniel Agger.
When fully fit, there are few better defenders in world football than Liverpool's Great Dane, and you'll have to go a very long way before you find a better ball-playing central defender. Unfortunately for both Agger and Liverpool, his body does not match his talent and he can not be relied on to play half a season, let alone a full one and as a result Martin Skrtel has made more appearances in the first team than Agger, despite clearly being behind him in the depth chart. As a huge fan of Agger it upsets me to write that Liverpool should cut their losses on Agger and bring in somebody more reliable, but for a team like Liverpool, the good of the team must always go before any individual.
The ideal replacement for Agger is Mats Hummels of Borussia Dortmund. Hummels is the complete defender. Having studied him in depth, I do not find a single weakness that is not easily eradicated with the correct coaching. He's quick, has great composure, excellent positional sense and a commanding presence to go with his excellent tackling and aerial ability. He also scores goals as an added bonus. In looking for a replacement for Agger, an important trait of the required defender is the ability to start the play from deep. Hummels belies his size by being very comfortable on the ball and a good passer who can step into midfield to create the extra man at a moments notice.
I have no doubt in my mind that Hummels is already one of the world’s best defenders and will, within three years, be the undisputed best central defender in world football. He has formed a fantastic partnership with Neven Subotic at Borussia Dortmund, a partnership on which the basis for Jurgen Klopp's successful assault on the Bundesliga title was founded. Subotic is very similar in style to Martin Kelly, which is why I have no doubts that Kelly-Hummels would be the perfect pairing for Liverpool.
Quality of Hummel's type doesn't come around very often, and when it does, it doesn't come cheap, but at 22 years of age, Liverpool would be getting a decade of greatness which would justify and repay the fee many times over. One can only hope that Damien Comolli's love of statistical evaluation will lead him to the most statistically impressive central defender in Europe over the past 12 months.
While Liverpool continue to be linked with every Central Defender on the planet, except for the best possible one(Hummels), and the obvious one(Kelly), I hope I have put forward a good case for a Kelly-Hummels partnership.
Just fullbacks and defensive midfielder needed to go with them and we'll be in business!
Thanks for reading!