Category Archives: Player analysis

Why Javi Martinez Is the Transfer Signing Liverpool Need to Win a Title

Now that Luis Suarez’s transfer to Barcelona has been confirmed (via BBC Sport), Liverpool fans, players and management alike are eager to secure a big-name signing to keep spirits up at Anfield ahead of the 2014/15 Premier League season.

With Alexis Sanchez moving to Arsenal instead of Liverpool as part of a deal for Suarez, perhaps one of the more attainable potential world-class targets has escaped from Brendan Rodgers’ clutch, leaving the Reds manager to set his sights elsewhere on a replacement for the Uruguayan striker.

Swansea City’s Wilfried Bony (per the Mirror) and Southampton’s Jay Rodriguez (per the Daily Mail) have recently surfaced as potential reinforcements up front. But instead of trying to replace the 30-plus goals that Suarez invariably brings a season, Liverpool should be looking to strengthen their defence.

To be sure, Rodgers has already been linked with moves for Southampton’s Dejan Lovren (per the Standard) and Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno (per the Daily Star), but there is another name out there that has been floated as a possible Liverpool target, and would instantly improve their defensive setup.

Step up Javi Martinez.

The Bayern Munich man has already been linked to the Reds in the off-season by the Mirror, and while any pursuit for Martinez would be difficult and likely expensive to bear fruit, he might just prove to be the transfer signing Liverpool need to win a Premier League title.

 

 

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

 

Javi Martinez: The Complete Midfielder

Let’s start off with considering Javi Martinez as a defensive midfielder, the position he started his senior career in with Athletic Bilbao.

At 6’3”, Martinez represents a fearsome physical package at the base of the midfield, but also an accomplished passer of the ball and tactically and positionally excellent, with accurate and timely tackles a hallmark of his game.

His excellent defensive skills have propelled him to become one of the premier midfielders in Europe, while his complete technical base also allows him to switch from a specialist defensive midfielder into a dominant box-to-box player when needed.

Indeed, Pep Guardiola deployed him as a box-to-box attacker on occasion for Bayern last season, which offers much more of a tactical option to any team.

ESPN’s Graham Hunter once wrote, when Martinez was still at Bilbao, that his abilities “put him in the same class as [Patrick] Vieira as well as Roy Keane, Fernando Redondo, Edgar Davids and the much-underestimated Rino Gattuso (Daniele De Rossi, too).”

Both on paper and on the pitch, then, Martinez would be the ideal world-class option to anchor the Liverpool midfield.

 

 

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

 

Potential First-Choice Central Defender?

As if a versatile midfield option in the mould of the imperious YayaToure weren’t enough, Javi Martinez also boasts the awareness and positional sense to allow him to excel as a center-back.

Guardiola has proved as much already, having played Martinez in that position to great effect at club level. And per Bundesliga.com, Paco Garcia-Caridad, the head of sports station Radio Marca, called for Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque to field Martinez as a central defender in place of the hapless Gerard Pique as recently as in the aftermath of Spain’s disastrous 1-5 defeat to the Netherlands in the 2014 World Cup.

Another Bundesliga.com editorial even claimed that Martinez is leading a football revolution with his reinvention of the much-vaunted libero role in Guardiola’s team, recalling the masterful Lothar Matthaus and the legendary Franz Beckenbauer.

While Martinez, at 25 years of age, is evidently yet to match the levels and legacy of the two German greats, his understanding of the game and defensive intelligence allow him to excel all throughout the central core of the defence and midfield.

Considering Brendan Rodgers’ penchant for tactical innovations, he may well experiment with alternate formations outside of his favored 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1, and a 3-5-2 or 5-3-2—which Rodgers has used prominently—would see a libero/sweeper role become one of the team’s most important positions.

Martinez might even usurp the likes of Martin Skrtel into become Rodgers’ first-choice center-back and marshall a three-man defence featuring the precocious Mamadou Sakho.

 

 

Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

 

A Statement of Intent

Lastly, away from what Martinez would bring to Anfield on a football level—which is a whole lot, and most importantly a unique package that Liverpool currently don’t have—he also brings the weight and stature in the game that would instantly reflect the Reds’ ambitions.

And in the aftermath of Suarez’s departure, the club may feel that they are in need of a big-name signing to both placate unsettled fans and show their intent on competing on all fronts to prospective player signings.

With Bayer Leverkusen’s Emre Can already secured as a potential long-term replacement for club captain Steven Gerrard this summer, Martinez would be a signing who would be able to hit the ground running and establish himself at Anfield.

And who knows—Javi Martinez may well be the ideal heir to Gerrard’s legendary No. 8 shirt. After all, he’s already wearing it for Bayern Munich.

 

This article first appeared on Bleacher Report.

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Liverpool Transfer Rumors: Why Reds Should Go All-Out for Everton’s Ross Barkley

With Liverpool having all but secured a place in next year’s Champions League, the Reds have been linked with potential summer signings right, left and center. Everton’s wonderkid midfielder, Ross Barkley, has been rumored as a shock £38 million target, according to Chris McKenna of the Daily Star.

Having made a splash in his debut season in the Premier League, Barkley has already been tipped as one of the finest talents of his generation—even a dark-horse option to make Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the World Cup this summer.

Which means that, even though Blues boss Roberto Martinez has already vehemently denied, via Paul Collins of the Daily Mailthe possibility of a first player move across Stanley Park since Abel Xavier in 2002, Liverpool fans will be dreaming at the prospect of Barkley turning out for them every week next season.

And for good reason. While not an ever-present in Martinez’s starting XI—not surprising given the amount of options at his disposal—Barkley has shown enough promise to suggest that he will be a Premier League force for many years to come. He might just have the potential to go down as one of its all-time greats.

Which is why, remote as the possibility may be, Brendan Rodgers should go all-out for Barkley.

 

Playing Attributes

At just 20 years of age, Barkley appears to already have the full set of attributes to succeed in the Premier League.

Blessed with pace and quick feet, Barkley is more than capable of taking on and dribbling past his man, while his physical power means that he is hard to shrug off, difficult to defend against and a forceful presence in the midfield.

A powerful left foot and a love for the spectacular mean that the Everton No. 20 is no stranger to long-range screamers; indeed, his goal this season against Norwich City was a prime example of him pulling the trigger and scoring with power, while given just a tight space to work with.

He has also exhibited composure in his finishing. A wonderful solo goal against Newcastle United a couple of weeks ago, in which he took the ball in his own half and proceeded to run past a few defenders before unleashing a shot into the top corner, will go down as one of the season’s finest efforts.

In the next few years, Barkley will no doubt be looking to improve his defensive and all-round contributions, while also developing the maturity that sees him make use of his technical and physical attributes to the best effect.

On raw potential alone, however, Barkley has all the tools to succeed Steven Gerrard as the pre-eminent attacking midfielder in the English game.

 

 

Alex Livesey/Getty ImagesBig-Game Mentality

While we’re on the topic of Gerrard, a lot has been written this season about his status in the Liverpool dressing room and his importance in the Reds’ impressive title run, both as a player and as a talismanic leader.

Without going as far as to say that Barkley will be England’s next captain and go down as one of the country’s greatest-ever players so early on in his career, all the signs so far suggest that he has the same big-game mentality as the current Liverpool and England captain.

Barkley has claimed, via McKenna, that big games bring out his best and that he likes “getting the chance to step up and show what [he is] capable of.”

His attacking play exudes confidence in abundance, while his unabashed attitude on the pitch perfectly complements his direct style and penchant for a long-range stunner.

As Liverpool can increasingly look forward to participating in Europe’s pre-eminent club competition next year, they could do with a few more match-winners and on-pitch leaders to add to their current swagger.

Rodgers would be hard-pressed to find a better option on the block than Barkley.

 

 

Michael Steele/Getty ImagesRodgers’ Young British Revolution

Not only would Barkley bring a rare and complete set of playing attributes and a commendable mentality, but he would also fit right into Rodgers’ young British revolution at Anfield.

His table-topping Liverpool side is one of the youngest in the Premier League, with Daniel SturridgeRaheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson—and increasingly, Joe Allen and Jon Flanagan—all playing prominent roles in their exciting charge toward the top of the league this season.

Two common characteristics of these all-star youngsters are technical proficiency and mental application, both of which Barkley has in his locker. His brand of physical and direct attacking midfield play would be an interesting alternative to Philippe Coutinho’s silky dribbling and outrageous through balls, though the all-round midfield play of the Brazilian, himself only 21 years old, has matured spectacularly in recent months.

Add in the fact that the likes of Luis Suarez, Mamadou Sakho and Simon Mignolet will be entering their prime years in the short to medium term, and Barkley would be walking into an accomplished Liverpool team still with much potential to fulfill.

Rodgers’ accomplished man management has worked wonders on his young charges in his two seasons at Anfield, and he would no doubt be able to unlock even more from Barkley’s game if he does cross Stanley Park.

The key is for Liverpool to follow up on their interest with a substantial bid to tempt Champions League-chasing Everton into letting their prized asset go, which won’t be easy. Then, there’s the whole stumbling block of Barkley being a boyhood Evertonian.

But just imagine a Liverpool attack next season featuring Suarez, Sturridge, Sterling, Barkley and Henderson on the break at pace.

Simply irresistible.

 

This article first appeared on Bleacher Report.

Scouting Reported Liverpool Transfer Target Alexandre Lacazette

Having secured Champions League football next season, Liverpool are now aiming to finish the Premier League season as champions. But this hasn’t stopped the rumour mill from going into overdrive, and the latest player linked with a move to Anfield is Olympique Lyonnais striker Alexandre Lacazette, per the Daily Mail.

Despite boasting the Premier League’s most lethal strike duo in Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool have found their bench relatively thin this season, and 17-goal scorer Lacazette has apparently caught the attention of their scouts, as well as those of Arsenal, Everton, Newcastle United and Juventus.

With two high-profile moves for attacking midfielders Mohamed Salah and Yevhen Konoplyanka falling through in the January transfer window, manager Brendan Rodgers is reportedly still on the lookout for a quality forward.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons to Lacazette’s potential signing, assess his potential role at Anfield and evaluate whether he’d be a good pickup for Liverpool.

 

Pros

With his exciting dribbling and goal-scoring ability, it’s no surprise Lacazette, after a couple of strong seasons in the Lyon youth team, was promoted to their first-team squad at the age of 19, making his professional debut against Auxerre in May 2010.

Prior to his first-team exploits, however, Lacazette scored the winner for France in a 2-1 comeback win over Spain in the UEFA Under-19 championships, which then saw the young striker become a star for his country’s Under-20 and Under-21 national teams.

After making his breakthrough with the Lyon first team in the 2011-12 Ligue 1 season, scoring six goals in all competitions, he has now matured into an all-rounded striker spearheading the Lyon attack. Fifteen league goals and three assists in 31 starts this season shows his development over just a few short years.

Blessed with searing pace, impressive technique, a blistering long shot and a composed finish, Lacazette excels in one-on-one situations and regularly beats his man with a silky first touch and scintillating turn with shades of a certain No. 7 at Anfield.

His array of skills renders him a formidable option on the counterattack, while his pressing on opposition defenders also make him a nuisance to defend against and a valuable asset for any team set up to take the front foot in a match.

 

Cons

Liverpool’s potentially damaging 0-2 defeat to Chelsea at Anfield last Sunday renewed calls for a bigger presence in the penalty box, and at 5’9”, Lacazette doesn’t exactly provide the most dominant physical frame they might need.

His lack of experience at the highest level—he has only ever made two appearances for the France senior team—and with Lyon not the European force it was a few years back, he doesn’t represent the most experienced option in terms of the Champions League.

Finally, according to the Mirror, Lyon are reportedly in contract renewal talks with Lacazette. Given that his current deal runs out in 2016 and Lyon’s seeming reluctance to let go of their prized asset, Lacazette might not come cheap, which would be far from ideal for interested clubs.

 

 

EuroFootball/Getty ImagesPotential Role at Liverpool

With his pace, all-round ability and off-the-ball work rate, Lacazette seems to have all the tools required to succeed in Rodgers’ young and dynamic Liverpool team.

Having exhibited his potential on the Ligue 1 stage, he could be ready for a move toward a Liverpool side looking to challenge on all four fronts next season, after a campaign that has surprised many onlookers with their enterprising brand of attacking football.

Lacazette’s array of skills means he would be a perfect fit in Liverpool’s dominant style of play, while he would also flourish in their devastating counterattacks. His pressing from the front will likely impress Rodgers in his bid for a regular first-team place.

That he will be working with three quality forwards in Suarez,Sturridge and Raheem Sterling every week suggests his development curve will only continue going upward, and under Rodgers’ famed man-management skills, Lacazette may well find himself flourishing at Anfield.

With the Reds competing in four competitions next season, they need depth in reserve and rotation, and Lacazette would provide an impact from the bench and also do a more than effective job as a first-team starter.

 

Conclusion

It comes as no surprise a number of clubs around Europe are reportedly interested in Lacazette: His strengths are there for all to see, and he has the potential to become one of the continent’s leading forwards.

That he would add to almost any Premier League team is also a given considering his skill set and capabilities on the ball. His playing style would see him slot seamlessly into Rodgers’ Liverpool team.

So on paper, he would be an excellent choice for the Reds in the quest for an alternative forward option this summer.

Our main concern would thus be price—if Lyon refuse to do business for a reasonable price, Liverpool should look in the market for other viable squad options in their bid to build a rotatable forward line.

If Lacazette is available for a decent fee, however, Liverpool should strongly consider bringing him to Anfield. He might just surprise a few people.

 

This article first appeared on Bleacher Report.

Comparing Suarez, Sturridge, Sterling, Coutinho with Aguero, Dzeko, Silva, Nasri

A few things have changed since Premier League fans were debating between three of its all-star strike partnerships this season: David Moyes has failed to unlock the potential of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, Alvaro Negredo has seen his starting place usurped at times by Edin Dzeko and we’ve come to recognise the brilliance of entire forward lines, not just that of two strikers.

And so these days, instead of choosing between Manchester United’s Van Persie and Rooney, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, and Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo, we’re now left to pick between the all-star attacking quartets of Liverpool and City.

Specifically: Suarez, Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho versus Aguero, Dzeko, David Silva and Samir Nasri.

As we look ahead to Sunday’s clash between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield—billed as a title decider—we’re not just considering the impact of the result on the title race, we’re also looking forward to seeing the league’s two most prolific attacks going at each other in what promises to be an open, exciting and pulsating match.

Here, we’ve compiled a fun comparison between the two forward lines across five categories—investment, potency, creativity, consistency and potential—before we arrive at our own conclusion on which is the better strike force. Enjoy and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Investment

Investment

Michael Steele/Getty Images

First, let’s compare how the strike forces were assembled and for what price.

 

Liverpool

Luis Suarez: £22.8 million, from Ajax Amsterdam.
Daniel Sturridge: £12 million, from Chelsea.
Raheem Sterling: £600,000 (potentially £5 million, depending on performances), from Queens Park Rangers.
Philippe Coutinho: £8.5 million, from Internazionale.

Total: £43.9 million (potentially £48.3 million).

 

Manchester City

Sergio Aguero: £38 million, from Atletico Madrid.
Edin Dzeko: £27 million, from Wolfsburg.
David Silva: £24 million, from Valencia.
Samir Nasri: £25 million, from Arsenal.

Total: £114 million.

 

Summary

In signing undervalued players with potential—Raheem Sterling is the standout purchase here, having signed for Liverpool aged just 15—Liverpool have made some shrewd acquisitions who have blossomed under the tutelage of Brendan Rodgers.

Coutinho and Sturridge in particular were players on the sidelines at their previous clubs who are starting to realise their full potential. Indeed, both players have transformed the club’s attacking fortunes since arriving at Anfield just over a year ago.

Manchester City, on the other hand, have opted to sign big, established names from leagues around Europe, fighting off stiff competition from top clubs to land their targets. In doing so, besides the initial outlay in terms of the transfer fees, all four players are on stellar wage packages, making them even more expensive as an overall financial investment.

That said, it’s hard to argue with their success at City—for it was Dzeko and Aguero who scored the two goals in injury time that won the club their first ever Premier League title in 2012.

 

Verdict: Liverpool

When it comes to initial investment, however, there was only ever going to be one clear winner here, a conclusion that might not have needed the above breakdown as justification. Liverpool win this round hands down.

 

Potency

Potency

Clive Mason/Getty Images

Attackers need to score goals. This category is all about league goals scored, and how important they are to their respective teams going forward.

 

Liverpool

Suarez: 29 goals in 28 games.
Sturridge: 20 goals in 25 games.
Sterling: Six goals in 28 games.
Coutinho: Four goals in 28 games.

Total: 59 goals this season.

 

Manchester City

Aguero: 15 goals in 17 games.
Dzeko: 11 goals in 24 games.
Silva: Six goals in 22 games.
Nasri: Five goals in 27 games.

Total: 37 goals this season.

 

Summary

In terms of just goal-scoring output this season, the above comparison might be a bit surprising for some, considering Liverpool and Manchester City are both flying high in the Premier League “goals for” column.

The combined total of 59 goals from Liverpool’s attacking quartet, out of their staggering total of 90, means that almost two-thirds of all the club’s goals have come from these four players. Add Steven Gerrard’s 13 to the mix and you have 80 per cent of all goals coming from five players.

Contrast that with City’s foursome, who have contributed just 37 goals out of their 84-goal total. Yaya Toure, who mainly operates as a central, box-to-box midfielder, is a glaring omission with his club-high haul of 18, while Alvaro Negredo has contributed a respectable return of nine thus far. Still, that’s just 76 per cent of all goals coming from six key players.

Injuries and squad options have had a large say as well—barring Daniel Sturridge’s mid-season injury, which deprived him of some game time, all of the Reds’ forwards have notched their goals in a 28-game season thus far. A quick glance at City’s shows the fewer games they have managed, in particular Sergio Aguero, who is still an injury doubt for Sunday’s clash.

 

Verdict: Liverpool

All of which means that, yes, Liverpool’s four forwards have the more impressive goal return, in terms of numbers and percentage of their club’s overall goals scored. It also means, however, that City have more options spread across the squad—which may yet be a deciding factor in where the Premier League trophy lands this May.

 

Creativity

Creativity

Paul Thomas/Getty Images

Now let’s see how they stack up in terms of creativity, which we’ll simplify into two categories: assists and chances created. (All statistics courtesy of Squawka.com.)

 

Liverpool

Suarez: 11 assists, 77 chances created.
Sturridge: Seven assists, 27 chances created.
Sterling: Three assists, 38 chances created.
Coutinho: Six assists, 51 chances created.

Total: 27 assists, 193 chances created.

 

Manchester City

Aguero: Five assists, 27 chances created.
Dzeko: One assist, 14 chances created.
Silva: Nine assists, 77 chances created.
Nasri: Five assists, 55 chances created.

Total: 20 assists, 173 chances created.

 

Summary

A close match, especially adjusting for the number of games played by each member here.

Suarez is the clear standout, both with the highest number of outright assists and with a chance creation record similar to that of a world-class playmaker like David Silva—which goes great lengths to show the phenomenal season that the Uruguayan striker is having.

When it comes to the supporting attackers, however, the numbers become more interesting. Despite having more games between them, Sterling and Coutinho only combine for 89 chances created, while Silva and Nasri have an impressive total of 132, which explains the dominant position City have held for most of the season in terms of total goals scored, and hints at what could have been for them had Aguero stayed fit for most of it.

 

Verdict: Tie

We had a hard time choosing a winner here, so we’re going for the easy option—a tie. If Aguero had stayed fit for the majority of the season and played in as many games as the rest of his attacking partners, City could well have won this category by a mile.

As it stands, though, both sides seem to have creativity bursting at the seams, which can only be a good thing ahead of Sunday’s match.

 

Consistency

Consistency

Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Now for a category that is much harder to be backed purely by numbers and statistics. In evaluating consistency, we look for the contributions by the forwards on a week-to-week basis over the course of the season thus far.

 

Liverpool

It’s been an exhilarating campaign for the Reds, by almost all measures. At the base of it, their current first-placed position in the league table says it all—Liverpool have already overachieved this season.

Crucial to this excellent league performance has been Luis Suarez’s outstanding consistency. Despite missing his first five matches of the season through suspension, he has been an ever-present and even set a new record for league goals scored in one calendar month back in December. Daniel Sturridge carried the team on his back during Suarez’s early-season absence and stormed back to action after an injury layoff by scoring in eight matches in a row.

By the high standards he set for himself in the second half of the 2012/13 Premier League campaign, Coutinho has not quite performed to them this season. In contrast, this has very much been a breakout campaign for Raheem Sterling, who has cemented his place in the first team after a series of strong and mature displays since December.

 

Manchester City

Just as Suarez has set the bar for consistent excellence this year, Aguero has disappointed with his injury troubles. A league campaign that threatened to feature two genuinely world-class strikers running away in the scoring charts—much like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo do in La Liga—has now resulted in a one-sided affair.

That Manuel Pellegrini has rotated between Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko means that there hasn’t been much consistency in terms of Aguero’s strike partner—Negredo’s skill set clearly complements Aguero well, but in Aguero’s absence, Negredo and Dzeko have yet to set the league on fire.

The same applies for David Silva, who has shown flashes of brilliance at times this season and is rediscovering a good patch of form of late, but has also been beset by injuries. Samir Nasri is the flag-bearer for consistency in the City forward line this year, having shown a massive improvement in both attitude and attacking contribution since Roberto Mancini’s departure.

 

Verdict: Liverpool

Suarez’s performance levels this season are arguably enough to make Liverpool winners in this category on his own. Aguero might have run him close, given his outstanding record when fit at the start of the season, but his injuries have robbed City of any chance of coming close to the Reds here.

 

Potential

Potential

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Since there isn’t a set formula to calculate potential return—both in terms of attacking contribution over the coming years and indeed in the amount of money the clubs could receive if they decide to sell these players—we’ll simply consider the current age and go from there.

 

Liverpool

One of the many things that has stood out from Brendan Rodgers’ achievements this season is how young his squad currently is. The attacking quartet of Suarez, Sturridge, Sterling and Coutinho has an average age of just 22.75 years, which is both supremely encouraging from the club’s standpoint and also extremely exciting for the Premier League.

That Rodgers has gotten such a young team—don’t forget the relative youth of Simon Mignolet, Jon Flanagan, Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson—to fire their way to the top of the Premier League is a big testament to his philosophy and vision at Anfield.

 

Manchester City

With an average age of 26.75 years, City’s forward line can be rightly regarded as entering its prime. That Aguero, aged just 25, has, when fit, run 27-year-old Suarez so close speaks volumes of the potential of the Argentinian striker, who still has a few years to go at the top level just yet.

The same can be said of Silva and Nasri, who have exhibited the tenacity to show that they can still perform at peak level for a few years still, but Dzeko’s status as the oldest among all contenders here, and the fact that his future at the club is still up in the air adds an element of instability.

 

Verdict: Liverpool

The four-year difference in average age is so considerable, it’s almost shocking to think what this Liverpool attack will be capable of in a few years’ time, when they collectively arrive at City’s level. That Liverpool signed all four of their forwards at prices arguably lower than market value also makes their potential resale value much higher than City’s from a profit margin standpoint.

 

Conclusion

Conclusion

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

From our verdicts across five categories here, Liverpool emerge as the clear winners in an attack-against-attack comparison with Manchester City.

They’ve signed their forwards at a relatively younger age, meaning that both the initial investment and the potential return are much higher, while their output and consistency are no doubt the more impressive of the two.

City come close in creativity, hinting that their season has been dampened by a very significant factor—the ongoing injury troubles of Sergio Aguero.

It’s intriguing to think how City would shape up here if Aguero had remained fit to complete a whole season—perhaps Pellegrini’s men would really be out of sight in the “goals for” column in the Premier League.

As it stands, however, it’s the 90-goal Reds hosting the 84-goal Blues at Anfield this Sunday. The imminent return of Sergio Aguero (per the Mirror), however, makes it that bit more interesting.

 

This article first appeared on Bleacher Report.

How Much Is Liverpool Forward Luis Suarez Worth Based on Form in 2014?

Nine matches to go in the 2013/14 Premier League campaign, and Liverpool are still on course for a top-four finish, which would see them return to the Champions League next season—and still in with a shout for the league title outright.

None of this would be possible without the contributions of Luis Suarez, who, despite all the proclamations of the Reds being a dynamic and interchanging team these days, remains one of their most important players.

After 25 goals and 10 assists—making him the leader of both charts in the Premier League—in 24 matches and a contract signed in December, Suarez has once again proven himself as indispensable and invaluable to the Anfield club.

Perhaps even more so than in previous campaign.

Back in December, we embarked on a challenging but interesting attempt to calculate Suarez’s worth in the transfer market then.

In light of Liverpool’s recently released financial results for the 2012-2013 financial year, let’s revisit this subject and try to work out how much Luis Suarez is now worth based on his current form—without any kind of insider access to the boardroom.

 

Transfer Fee and Wage Estimates

To get us started off, let’s return to our estimates in December regarding Luis Suarez’s transfer fee.

Assuming a basic financial amortization of his initial £22.7 million transfer fee (per BBC Sport) over the course of five-and-a-half years, which was the initial length of his contract signed in 2011, we arrive at an approximate annual cost of £4.13 million.

For the purposes of simpler calculation, let’s consider Suarez has been at Liverpool for 3.2 years, which means the as yet “unpaid” total amortization cost would be updated to £4.13 multiplied by 2.3, or £9.5 million.

Onto his wages, which we will only discuss in the present and future tenses, after his December extension.

Our wage calculations following his new contract in December 2013 are based on this BBC Sport article that claims Suarez is earning £160,000 a week until the end of the current season, and then £200,000 a week for the next four years. Simple arithmetic gets us to a total of £43.06 million over the rest of his new contract.

Our baseline estimated value of Luis Suarez, from just his transfer fee and wages, is thus £9.5 million plus £43.06 million, which gives us £52.56 million.

 

Possible Champions League Qualification

As it stands, Liverpool are placed second in the Premier League, and they look in ominous form as they approach the final couple of months of the season.

Our key underlying assumption is that the Reds will indeed finish in the top four, qualifying for Champions League football next term, which should also be the assumption behind Luis Suarez staying at Anfield in the first place.

Champions League qualification is known to have a wide range of commercial benefits, and this is an area where we will take the roughest of estimates of player bonuses based on club performance in both the Premier League and the Champions League.

Our best benchmark in terms of Premier League end-of-season payouts, assuming a fourth-place finish by Liverpool this May, is Arsenal’s from the 2012/13 season. According to the official Premier League website, Arsenal’s league payout for finishing fourth last season was £57.1 million.

A further assumption that Liverpool, having secured Champions League qualification, will make it into the group stages of next year’s competition, will take us to calculate possible payouts from participating in the group stages.

According to SportsBusinessDaily.com, all participants who made it into the Champions League proper were entitled to a minimum of €8.6 million, which translates to about £7.2 million.

As we noted in our December calculations, a minimum total of £64.3 million will probably arrive in Liverpool’s coffers just for making the Champions League group stages.

 

Liverpool’s Business and Commercial Performance

Our December estimates only took into account the potential sum that would come with making the Champions League group stages, and used it as a base to calculate a 5 percent performance bonus for Luis Suarez, one of Liverpool’s most important players.

This time around, however, we’re going to be a bit more ambitious, especially since the Liverpool Echo have also released the 2013 accounts Liverpool submitted to Companies House.

The increase in revenue from all sources is impressive, but for the purposes of calculations in the “current” context, we will exclude media and matchday revenues, since the 2012-13 financial year featured Europa League football, which Liverpool haven’t even been involved with this season.

The growth in commercial revenue, however, was staggering, and with the announcement of new sponsorship deals in the past few months, will only continue. Commercial revenue for the year ended May 31, 2013, was £97.7 million, more than a 50 percent increase over the previous 10 months, which landed £63.9 million. Spread the 10-month average over a period of 12 months, and the increase can be adjusted to roughly 27 percent, still a significant growth factor.

Our final assumption is if Liverpool continue in their current attacking style of football, coupled with the increased exposure of Champions League football, they will generate more interest off the field, which will lead to benefits both in terms of commercial sponsorships, as well as merchandise and image rights-related sales and advertising revenue.

Applying the same 27 percent year-on-year growth factor onto our performance bonus of 5 percent, to ensure that all staff are adequately compensated for their role in helping grow the Liverpool brand, we get a 6.35 percent bonus from the previously calculated Champions League-related payouts.

This gives Suarez 6.35 percent of £64.3 million, which amounts to £4.08 million.

 

Conclusion: £56.64 Million

Adding this performance bonus to our transfer and wages baseline, we get a total valuation of £56.64 million, which, compared with our December estimate of £56.1 million, is perhaps disappointingly close.

However, considering that it’s only been three months since our previous calculation and that our estimate has already gone up by half a million pounds, this kind of growth rate could yet translate itself into bigger margins given another year or two.

It wasn’t so long ago—last summer, in fact—that Arsenal submitted a high-profile (and now widely mocked) £40-million-plus-£1 bid for Luis Suarez, which was derided at the time by Liverpool owner John W. Henry.

Back then, £40 million plus £1 was seen as a derisory amount for a player like Suarez. Three quarters of a season onward, perhaps £56.64 million will be considered shockingly low for such an important player to the Reds cause.

But of course, this is just a purely financial valuation of Luis Suarez, based on assumptions that might not ring true in the Liverpool boardroom.

Last time John W. Henry checked, football contracts “don’t seem to hold, and [Liverpool] took the position that [they’re] just not selling” (per the Guardian).

We have a sneaking suspicion that they will be holding this position for quite some time.

 

This article first appeared on Bleacher Report, where I contribute regularly on Liverpool and the Premier League.

Liverpool Transfers: Scouting Report on Reported Reds Target Juan Manuel Iturbe

Liverpool’s high-flying and top-scoring attack this season hasn’t stopped the rumours from flying in. The latest player to be linked with a move to Anfield this summer is Hellas Verona winger Juan Manuel Iturbe.

Jamie Sanderson of the Metro has credited Liverpool with an interest in the Argentine winger, who is currently enjoying an impressive campaign in Serie A on loan from FC Porto.

With five goals and two assists in 20 starts, Iturbe has attracted the attentions of many clubs around Europe—including Hellas, who are keen to make the loan switch permanent this summer.

Starting his career at Paraguayan club Cerro Porteno, he moved to the Portuguese giants in 2010, aged just 17. Prior to his season-long loan at Hellas, he spent six months on loan at Argentine club River Plate.

Just as we’ve done with Micah Richards and Isco earlier, let’s take a look at the pros and cons to Juan Manuel Iturbe’s potential signing, assess his potential role at Anfield and evaluate whether he’d be a good pickup for Brendan Rodgers.

 

Pros

Juan Manuel Iturbe has long been highly rated in South America. In fact, he earned his first senior cap for Paraguay as early as 2009, when he was just 16 years of age—but he has since declared his national allegiance to Argentina, given that his international debut didn’t count as a competitive match.

With a low centre of gravity, dangerous acceleration, skilful close control, deadly free-kick accuracy and a cool finish, Iturbe has been dubbed the “new Lionel Messi” for obvious reasons.

His pace and strength on the ball are excellent complements to his superb left foot, which has seen him fire in long-range rockets and spectacular finishes for Hellas this term. Another Messi-like trait is his tendency to pick up the ball from deep and run at opposition defences.

Still aged just 20, Iturbe has his best years ahead of him and would be an exciting addition to any squad looking for an explosive winger capable of conjuring moments of match-winning magic.

And if the Metro are to be believed and Iturbe is indeed valued at £15 million, he would most definitely be considered a good deal.

 

Cons

One of the most damning—and condescending—questions leveled Messi’s way is “can he do it on a cold, wet Tuesday night at Stoke?”

Iturbe, who has yet to establish himself at the top level in Europe and is only spending his first full campaign on European soil, will certainly need time to adapt to English football.

His diminutive stature—he’s just 5’6.5″—means that he will be at an instant physical disadvantage in the Premier League, though his stocky frame will go some way in making up for it.

His one-footedness also limits his attacking play to go via his left side, which makes his tendencies to cut in from the right wing slightly predictable. His preference for the spectacular means that he can be selfish on the ball and in the dribble, which makes him a frustrating individualist rather than a total team player.

 

Gabriele Maltinti/Getty ImagesPotential Role at Liverpool

With their high-profile (and ultimately unfruitful) pursuits of Mohamed Salah and Yevhen Konoplyanka in the January transfer window, it’s clear that Liverpool are still on the lookout for a goal-scoring winger.

Juan Manuel Iturbe will certainly provide pace, attacking thrust and goals from the wing, and he would slot into a young and exciting Liverpool attack that has already been firing on all cylinders this season.

Brendan Rodgers would still need to instill in Iturbe a work ethic that has been evident in the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling this season. Besides making his eye-catching contributions in attack, he would need to put his physicality to use as a first line of defence, harrying his opponents from the front.

In addition, in a team where collective play and responsibility reign king, Iturbe would need to shelve his selfish tendencies and improve his decision-making in the final third.

With Coutinho and Sterling forming a scintillating line behind Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, however, Rodgers would need to evaluate how he should best blood Iturbe in and not hamper the former duo’s impressive development at the same time.

 

Conclusion

On the face of it, Juan Manuel Iturbe would be a brilliant signing for Liverpool: If Rodgers can unlock his full potential, he would be an excellent addition to a side ready to challenge for Premier League honours and looking to make a splash in Europe again.

Anfield would also be the perfect platform for Iturbe to launch himself into the European spotlight and working with Brendan Rodgers, who is now widely renowned for his man management, will only improve his game.

But from Liverpool’s perspective, with a cohesive attacking unit in such fearsome form this season, Iturbe’s “rough diamond” status would add more inexperience to a forward line already young at its core, and his style of play may need extensive coaching to adapt to a team-first, pass-and-move approach.

As such, Liverpool should only consider Iturbe if Porto are indeed ready to let him go at a reasonable price—and they’re not known for selling their best prospects on the cheap.

Perhaps the money that they’d splash on Iturbe would be better served strengthening other areas of the squad for now—unless Rodgers can find a way to fit him into an already stacked Liverpool attack.

 

This article first appeared on Bleacher Report, where I contribute regularly on Liverpool and the Premier League.

5 Liverpool Academy Players Who Could Break Through Next Season

When England manager Roy Hodgson named five Liverpool players in his starting XI in last week’s friendly against Denmark, Reds boss Brendan Rodgers rightly took the plaudits for his work in developing homegrown talent at Anfield.

Indeed, the current Liverpool and England teams provide wonderful examples of Rodgers’ management: Raheem Sterling’s rise to prominence; Daniel Sturridge’s rapid evolution to become England’s deadliest striker; Jordan Henderson’s turnaround in form, confidence and stature.

As we continue to witness the current generation of English talent at Anfield, let’s also keep an eye on the future and on the good work that is being done at the Liverpool youth academy.

Here are five players from the Liverpool youth setup who could break through next season. Enjoy and let us know your picks.

 

Jordon Ibe

Jordon Ibe
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Our first name is someone who will be familiar among Liverpool fans—and, increasingly, Birmingham City supporters.

After making a cameo off the bench during Liverpool’s 5-1 rout of Arsenal in February, Jordon Ibe joined Championship side Birmingham on loan until the end of the season, per BBC Sport.

And according to the Daily Star, Ibe already made a good enough impression on Blues boss Lee Clark that he was sent on as a substitute in a 2-1 win at Blackpool just 24 hours after signing for Birmingham.

Blessed with pace, power, dribbling, tactical intelligence and an eye for goal, Ibe has a big chance to impress during his stint at Birmingham, and Brendan Rodgers will likely afford him further opportunities to catch the eye over preseason.

A look at Raheem Sterling’s exciting development already shows what could lie in store for Jordon Ibe next season.

 

Ryan McLaughlin

Ryan McLaughlin
Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Our next candidate is also out on loan in the Championship: Ryan McLaughlin joined Barnsley on loan in January, per BBC Sport, in an initial 28-day deal that was subsequently extended until the end of the season.

Currently sidelined with a hamstring problem, McLaughlin made a positive impression on his professional debut in January—coincidentally also against Blackpool—and will be looking to become a part of Barnsley’s starting XI in the months to come.

Having impressed against AS Roma legend Francesco Totti during Liverpool’s preseason tour of the USA in 2012, McLaughlin has had to bide his time in the reserve setup, but Barnsley will be a good test for the 19-year-old.

As Glen Johnson’s contract situation continues to be uncertain, McLaughlin could get a chance to stake his claim for a first-team place this summer.

 

Joao Carlos Teixeira

“I watched this kid a couple of years ago playing for Sporting Lisbon against Liverpool at Anfield in a youth game; I could see straight away he was the best player on the pitch.”

Steven Gerrard’s post-game praise for Joao Carlos Teixeira, via LiverpoolFC.com, after his debut in a 3-2 win over Fulham in February showed just how highly the Portuguese youngster is rated within the halls of Melwood and the corridors of Anfield.

It was Teixeira’s pass that led to Daniel Sturridge winning the match-winning penalty that Gerrard converted, and his appearance off the bench when the match was tied at 2-2 was a huge show of faith from Brendan Rodgers.

Since joining Liverpool from Sporting Lisbon, Teixeira initially struggled with a back injury, and a loan spell at League One side Brentford in 2013 ended early, making his recent rise in prominence all the more encouraging.

The Daily Mail has an in-depth profile of Teixeira: Expect him to be more involved in the first team in the closing months this season and step up his claim next season.

 

Jack Robinson

Jack Robinson
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Jack Robinson has spent the current season on loan at Blackpool, where he has been a fixture in Barry Ferguson’s first team and impressed both with his tenacious defending and with his contributions in attack.

Robinson was once Liverpool’s youngest ever player when he made his senior debut for Liverpool in May 2010 during Rafael Benitez’s final game in charge of the Reds—an indication of how highly he is rated at Anfield.

His encouraging form in the Championship this season suggests that he will be part of Brendan Rodgers’ squad in their coming preseason tour of the US, where he will be eager to force his way into first-team reckoning.

With Jose Enrique still a ways away from a return from injury and Aly Cissokho failing to impress after signing on loan from Valencia, the left-back spot could be up for grabs this summer, and Jack Robinson could be one of the candidates Rodgers considers.

He will have to work on his discipline though: His record of five yellow cards and three red cards in just 24 league games this season makes him somewhat of a defensive liability still.

 

Danny Ward

Danny Ward
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Brendan Rodgers may be in the market for a goalkeeper this summer, but he might well have his next backup custodian in the Liverpool academy.

Danny Ward has been a fixture for the Liverpool under-21s this season, and has impressed with his all-roundedness in goal.

The Welsh youngster was a part of Liverpool’s squad during their summer US tour in 2012, and made his first appearance in a Red shirt when he came off the bench in their preseason friendly against Preston North End last summer.

As Brad Jones fails to impress as a No. 2 behind Simon Mignolet, Ward could be given extended time this coming summer to impress Rodgers ahead of the new campaign.

 

This article first appeared on Bleacher Report, where I contribute regularly on Liverpool and the Premier League.