Could This Be Liverpool’s Team Next Year?
Could This Be Liverpool's Team Next Year?
Liverpool looks set to have a busy summer of frenetic transfer activity with several players already being linked with the Anfield exit door, and others being pursued to strengthen the current crop.
What will be fascinating is watching who manager Brendan Rodgers thinks will significantly improve the squad and seeing whether he can tempt some of the world’s brightest talents to Merseyside without the lure of Champions League soccer.
Depending on which source you read, Liverpool will have a budget of between £20-30 million before player sales. However, that figure could rise to £60-70 million if we take the expected departure of Luis Suarez into account. Andy Carroll is also expected to depart to West Ham United for a fee in the region of around £15 million, and fringe players like Stewart Downing, Jose Enrique and Jonjo Shelvey will be allowed to leave at the right price.
If we take all this into account, then the budget Liverpool could technically have to play with, should John Henry stick to his promise that all funds shall be reinvested, could be upwards of £75 million.
Rodgers will be in the market for a left back following Enrique’s drop-off in form and his quite frankly shocking passing statistics. Following the retirement of Jamie Carragher and the possible sale of Martin Skrtel, a quality center back will be needed to fill that gap as Kolo Toure will no doubt only be used as cover.
Attacking midfield is also an area that needs strengthening and Rodgers will be looking to bid strong money to ensure quality is purchased in that department, with the Armenian Henrikh Mkrtchyan being closely monitored.
Finally, Rodgers wants a wide forward who can play as a goal-scoring winger and looks set to bring in Spanish attacker Iago Aspas from Celta Vigo. The versatile winger has had a good season and is apparently open to a move to Anfield.
The team for next season is starting to take shape already and if all goes to plan, Liverpool’s assault on the top-four could possibly become a reality, provided Rodgers gets the transfers right.
James Hilton is a soccer writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter , "like" his Facebook page or add him to your network on Google+
Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet
With Pepe Reina seemingly about to return to Barcelona a bid for Simon Mignolet looks like it'll be Rodgers preferred choice. The Sunderland stopper has been in great form this year and is a powerful, vocal, commanding presence. The reports are that a bid of around £7 million will be enough to convince Sunderland to sell.
Left back: Lucas Digne
Having been subjected to Jose Enrique's below par performances all year, it would seem that Liverpool are certainly going to be in the market for a more capable left back. Lucas Digne would fit into the capable bracket perfectly following a strong season at Lille, enabling him to catch the eye of Manchester United, PSG and Ajax. However, Liverpool will have to act fast due to the interest in Digne, and it's thought Rodgers is preparing an £8 million offer.
Center back: Daniel Agger
First choice center back Daniel Agger has proved his value and commitment to the cause time after time and is almost certain to remain at Liverpool despite reported interest from big spending AS Monaco. Agger brings experience and technical ability on the ball to the team, and Rodgers won't want the Dane to be wavering in his commitment anytime soon. However, should a formal offer be presented to Rodgers, it will need to be in excess of £20 million to get him to sell one of his prized assets, so Agger should line up for Liverpool next season.
Center back: Kyriakos Papadopoulous
Rodgers' no. 1 defensive target remains Schalke 04 defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos. The 21-year-old has been scouted by Europe's biggest clubs, including Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund, but it would appear he s destined for Liverpool with Rodgers reportedly nearing an agreement with the Greek monster. His power and natural strength gives him an immediate advantage, as does his remarkable positional ability and tackling timing. Papadopoulos has made 36 successful tackles out of the 37 he has attempted this season, attesting to his ability as a player. It's thought £15 million will be enough to tempt Schalke to sell.
Right back: Glen Johnson
The right back slot looks like it's well and truly covered next season at Liverpool with Glen Johnson doing a steady job and apparently happy on Merseyside. Cover for this position and also some welcome competition will come in the guise of the recently-recovered Martin Kelly. Kelly is seen as the long term successor to Johnson, and it will be an interesting battle to see who Rodgers chooses as first choice right back.
Defensive midfield: Lucas Leiva
Lucas has been the unheralded lynch pin of Liverpool's defense for years now, and there's no sign that Rodgers will do anything to upset this. Lucas has a command of midfield by breaking up attacks and knowing when to take one for the team, so to speak. The Brazilian has been so influential for Liverpool over the last few years that there's been talk of new Napoli manager Rafa Benitez making a summer bid for his former protege.
Center midfield: Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard will no doubt start in midfield for Liverpool next season regardless of the midfielder's rapidly-advancing years. He brings a stability to the team as well as much-lauded ability to create space and play the Hollywood pass. Gerrard will have to adapt his game slightly next season and we may see him play a deeper role similar to that of Italian play maker Andrea Pirlo, where he dictates play at a slower pace.
Attacking midfield: Henrikh Mkrtchyan
This is where things could potentially get more exciting for Liverpool fans. The addition of much-coveted Armenian attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkrtchyan would add a much-needed goal threat from midfield, as well as the ability to unlock to defenses with a scything pass. Mkrtchyan is apparently open to a move, with the Daily Mirror reporting that Liverpool and the Armenian are already in talks over a possible £22 million deal. It seems expensive, but quality comes at a price and his record of 25 goals from midfield this year certainly drives that price up. John Henry has apparently sanctioned a deal for Mkrtchyan, such is the need to get him tied up before other clubs can act.
Left wing: Philippe Coutinho
What more can be said about the diminutive Brazilian winger that hasn't already been said? Philippe Coutinho has been a revelation on the since his purchase from Inter Milan, dropping deep to collect the ball and running at defenders before beating them with skill. He has contributed three goals and five assists since joining in January, and his ability on the ball to set up attacks has breathed new life into Liverpool's attack. According to Inter Milan forward Diego Milito, "Coutinho is a bit special." He's not wrong.
Right wing: Iago Aspas
Celta Vigo wide forward Iago Aspas is apparently close to agreeing to a £9 million deal to join Liverpool. According to multiple media sources, Aspas is due to undergo a medical next week at Melwood and providing all goes to plan, the Spaniard could be unveiled as early as July 1. Aspas brings a technical brain with him to Liverpool as well as versatility and can play anywhere up front, perfect for Rodgers' 4-3-3 formation. the 25-year-old has scored 12 goals and registered five assists this season for Celta Vigo, which would prove an ample return for a wide forward in the Premier League.
Center forward: Daniel Sturridge
The other fantastic January signing that Rodgers made was that of Daniel Sturridge, the forward from Chelsea. Sturridge has shown poise and ability on the ball, culminating in him scoring 10 goals in 14 games for the Reds. The 23-year-old striker is going to figure a lot more next season in a center forward role, although he may miss the start of next season having damaged his ankle while on duty for England. Regardless of whether or not Luis Suarez is sold, Sturridge will be a starter for Liverpool up front.