Tag Archives: transfer target

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 Report on Isco: Should Liverpool Go for the Real Madrid Midfielder?

Scouting Report on Isco: Should Liverpool Go for the Real Madrid Midfielder?
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

As Liverpool step up their challenge for the Champions League spots this season, rumors have started to surface, linking a host of names with a move to Anfield if they do finish in the top four.

The latest in the rumor mill is Real Madrid’s Isco, who is apparently a £37 million target for the Reds this summer if they secure Champions League qualification, according to Dave Filmer of the Metro.

As Steven Gerrard has moved deeper into a holding midfield position from his halcyon days as an all-conquering attacking midfielder, so rumors have persisted in linking Liverpool with a potential replacement.

Isco is now one of many names branded as a “potential long-term replacement” for Gerrard.

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

 

 

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

Pros

Those familiar with the Spanish football scene will know that Isco has been building a stellar reputation in recent years, and that he deserves every bit of the hype.

It’s been nothing but a meteoric rise to the top for Isco, who secured a £23 million transfer to the Santiago Bernabeu last summer from Malaga, where he had become an integral part of Manuel Pellegrini’s impressive side.

With 14 goals in 69 league games for Malaga, Isco showed that he was an all-rounded attacking midfielder with a productive goals output—and he won the Golden Boy award back in December 2012—and he has arguably improved on that this season with Real Madrid.

Isco notched an assist and scored a late winning goal on his debut against Real Betis and has already recorded seven goals in just 19 La Liga games for Carlo Ancelotti’s side this season.

Besides a calm finish, Isco also possesses a silky first touch, an excellent eye for a pass, and close dribbling skills, making him an archetypal No. 10.

It’s no surprise that Manchester City, having appointed Pellegrini to succeed Roberto Mancini, were heavily linked with him last summer before Real came in at last: He would’ve been an ideal playmaker in an all-star attacking side.

 

 

David Ramos/Getty Images

Cons

Given his outrageous talent and success thus far, it’s hard to see too many weaknesses in his game.

But his omission from Ancelotti’s first team in recent weeks is telling: He has yet to adapt to the change in Real Madrid’s formation from a 4-2-3-1, which he has traditionally excelled in, to a 4-3-3.

In his place, a straight front three of Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale have all been in good form, while LukaModric has become a star in the midfield behind them.

Even Ancelotti has acknowledged Isco’s troubles publicly. According to Goal.com, Ancelotti said that Isco “has been penalized slightly” by the change in formation, and that he is not happy to be on the substitute’s bench.

His inability to adapt to the 4-3-3 formation may be a cause for concern for Rodgers, who likes to adopt the same system in his dynamic Liverpool team.

Standing at 5’9”, Isco has spent his entire career in Spain and is a relative novice on the international stage: He’s only made two appearances for the Spanish senior team, and he may miss out on the flight to Brazil if he continues to sit on the sidelines for Real Madrid.

 

 

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Potential Role at Liverpool

Make no mistake: Isco is a world-class star in the making, and given the right environment, he could become one of the great attacking midfielders of his generation.

The question is, though, whether he would be a good signing for Liverpool.

That Isco has the ability to make an instant impact in the Premier League is almost certain: He has the pedigree and the raw talent to succeed even in a physical league, and his exciting performances in the first half of the season for Real Madrid are evidence enough that he could become a key player for the Reds.

However, a quick glance of his attributes and overall game means that he’s not an essential addition for Liverpool at this stage.

The reason? Philippe Coutinho.

In Coutinho, Liverpool have a bargain £8.5 million signing from last January, who has settled well into the side and developed his physical game as well.

Coutinho’s vision, turn of pace, passing skills and overall playing style are very similar to Isco’s. He has already established himself as a fan favorite and a potential long-term No. 10 in the eyes of Brendan Rodgers.

The only asset that Coutinho is still missing in comparison to Isco’s skill set is his finishing—but that could be honed and developed in the months to come.

At £37 million, Isco would cost more than four times Coutinho did for Liverpool, but play in essentially the same role. Isco would be the undoubted starter given his overall game and finishing ability, butCoutinho’s rise shouldn’t be ignored either.

 

Conclusion

Isco is a fine player, and it would be a major coup for Liverpool if they manage to secure his transfer from Real Madrid. (Of course, it would be a great achievement for them to finish in the top four in the first place.)

But at £37 million, he would not only represent their record signing, but also a potentially superfluous one, given the encouraging development that the Reds’ very own No. 10, Philippe Coutinho, has shown over the past year.

While Isco would be a brilliant signing and a massive statement of intent, we think that the significant funds that would be put to his transfer would be better used to address other deficiencies in the Liverpool squad.

Surely the defence and the defensive midfield areas are more deserving of major upgrades over the attack.

Isco, for now, should be a luxury and a premium to be targeted only if the rest of the squad is complete.

 

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

Scouting Report on Reported Liverpool Target Yann M’Vila

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Ian Walton/Getty ImagesA week and a half into the January transfer window, Liverpool are still on the lookout for a potential new signing. The latest player to be linked with a move to Anfield is Rubin Kazan midfielder Yann M’Vila, according to the Liverpool Echo.

This news comes on the back of M’Vila’s agent announcing, via the Metro, that the French midfielder “dreams” of playing in the Premier League.

Perhaps it comes as no surprise either, given that he showed up at the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park in November to support his friend, Reds defender Mamadou Sakho, as reported by the Daily Mail.

A precocious midfield talent during his days at Rennes, M’Vila was embroiled in a series of controversial antics off the pitch, and in the beginning of 2013, he moved to Russia to continue his career.

Just as we’ve done with Konstantinos Mitroglou and Martin Montoya earlier, let’s take a look at the pros and cons to Yann M’Vila’s potential signing, assess his potential role at Anfield and evaluate whether he’d be a good pickup for Brendan Rodgers.

Mike Hewitt/Getty ImagesPros

Those familiar with Ligue 1 a few seasons back will know of Yann M’Vila as one of the most highly rated midfield talents in French football in his generation during his three-and-a-half seasons at Rennes.

As this Squawka report suggests, M’Vila might not have lost much of his ability despite a fall in reputation with his move to Russia: His passing statistics as of November 2013 were stellar (88 percent accuracy and a total of 770 passes in 14 league games), and his comfort playing in a passing-dominant midfield would suit Liverpool to the ground.

Curiously, given his ball-playing technique and composure, M’Vila is most known as a strong defensive anchorman thanks to his physical strength, athleticism and incredible stamina. His distribution and positioning also makes him a perfect shield in front of the back four.

With his talent, it’s no surprise that former French international Marcel Desailly claimed that he had the potential to become better than Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira, according to the Daily Mail. His coach at Rennes, Frederic Antonetti, has afforded him further praise: “He reads the game like Claude Makelele, has the presence of Patrick Vieira and can pass the ball like Yaya Toure.” (c/o FIFA.com)

 

Cons

Given his abilities and reputation as a hot midfield prospect for France—he made 22 appearances for the national team, scoring one goal, in the space of just two years—it seems strange to see Yann M’Vila plying his trade in the Russian Premier League with Rubin Kazan.

But his career has been derailed by the aforementioned off-field troubles, the most noteworthy of which was an unauthorized night out while on international duty with the French under-21 team, as reported by BBC Sport, which saw him banned from the France national team in November 2012.

He had previously been given a warning following his snub of then-national team coach Laurent Blanc after his substitution in the quarterfinal against Spain in June 2012, according to BBC Sport.

And before his incidents with the French national setup, he also landed himself in hot water with the authorities in May 2012 after an altercation with a 17-year-old boy near his home, as reported by the Metro.

On the field, M’Vila isn’t the most prolific midfielder either: He has only scored two career league goals, both when he plied his trade for Rennes, for whom he played 126 times in Ligue 1.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty ImagesPotential Role at Liverpool

Judging from his playing attributes, Yann M’Vila would bring a complete midfield package to Anfield and should walk straight into Brendan Rodgers’ starting XI.

Comfortable both in central midfield and in a deeper defensive midfield role, M’Vila would be an instant upgrade over the likes of Lucas Leiva at Anfield, and he would form a complete midfield triumvirate with the equally energetic Jordan Henderson and one of Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard.

M’Vila’s pace, strength and positional awareness would help the Reds greatly, given that their midfield has been exposed by dynamic and explosive oppositions, such as Chelsea, Arsenal and Southampton.

Rodgers’ ideal midfield system for Liverpool has all three midfielders relentlessly moving and applying pressure to their opponents, moving the ball at pace and comfortably with short passing to open up the opposition. M’Vila would slot in seamlessly to this blueprint.

At just 23 years of age, M’Vila has his best years ahead of him. If Rodgers’ track record with Daniel Sturridge and fellow January signing Philippe Coutinho reflects anything, it’s that the current Reds boss has the ability to motivate players whose careers have perhaps stagnated and unlock their full potential.

As such, not only would M’Vila be a quality signing for Liverpool, but they’d also represent the ideal destination for him to resurrect his career and establish himself as one of the best midfielders in his generation.

 

Conclusion

From our analysis of his strengths and potential role at Liverpool, it’s clear to see that we strongly recommend Yann M’Vila as a Liverpool signing.

In fact, given his attributes and potential ability, as well as what the Reds midfield currently lacks, we’d even go as far as to say that M’Vila should be a priority in the eyes of the Liverpool management.

That his development has been curtailed due to a series of off-field troubles is well-known, but that Rodgers has the man management techniques to bring the best out of a troubled young player is also highly regarded at Anfield. We only have to see Raheem Sterling’s recent improvement after almost a year of off-field distractions to recognize the work Rodgers is doing behind the scenes.

As such, we have every reason to believe that he would be able to do the same with M’Vila, who may well go on to realize his immense potential.

It’s a tantalizing possibility and a mouthwatering prospect: Liverpool should go all-out for Yann M’Vila, who might still have the world at his feet.

 

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

Scouting Report on Reported Liverpool Transfer Target Martin Montoya

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Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

The latest rumor doing the rounds at Anfield links Barcelona full-back Martin Montoya with a move to Liverpool in January, and according to the Guardian, the Reds’ Managing Director Ian Ayre traveled to Catalonia to open transfer talks.

In light of the recent injury blow to joint top scorer Daniel Sturridge—who, as reported by BBC Sport, is set to miss the next two months with an ankle injury—and the projected absence till February of left-back Jose Enrique due to a knee problem (c/o BBC Sport), both of which leave the squad short of first-team options, the recent Montoya links will be positive news for Liverpool fans.

Despite a surfeit of options in the center of defence following the Reds’ deadline-day swoop for Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori, they remain short on the flanks, given Enrique’s injury, on-loan Aly Cissokho’s disappointing form, and Martin Kelly’s continued absence.

Young Jon Flanagan, who impressed in his first few outings in the first team under Kenny Dalglish but suffered a loss in confidence and form since, has defied his critics in recent weeks with encouraging performances filling in on the left, but he remains a back-up option—and a specialist right-back.

Which brings us—and Liverpool, allegedly—to Martin Montoya. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons to his potential signing, assess his potential role at Anfield, and evaluate whether he’d be a good pick-up for Brendan Rodgers.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
Pros

The first pro is arguably the most obvious: Martin Montoya is a La Masia youth product and has grown up in the Barcelona way since the age of eight, before graduating to the first team in the 2011/12 La Liga season.

Considering the passing-dominant style of football that Brendan Rodgers wants to implement at Anfield, Montoya, with his comfort on the ball and encouraging passing statistics—this article from Squawka shows his pass success rate in the 2012/13 season to be 91 percent—would seem to be an instant cultural fit into the philosophies currently being put in place at Liverpool.

A just reward for his perseverance in the Barcelona setup, Montoya was awarded an extended run-out in the Blaugrana first team in the injury absence of regular right-back Dani Alves last season, and took his opportunity with both hands, making Alves bide his time on the sidelines despite the latter returning to fitness.

In his time with the first team, Montoya showed a tremendous work rate, as well as consummate ease transferring play from defence to attack, while his defensive work was uncompromised by his willingness to go forward and take on opponents. The same Squawka article quoted above provides the statistical underpinnings of Montoya’s solidness as a full-back.

In his seven appearances this season, Montoya has, according to WhoScored.com, averaged 2.9 aerial duels won per game, more than any Liverpool defender in this campaign, while his 2.9 tackles per game is bettered only by Glen Johnson (Jon Flanagan’s five tackles per game is averaged over the course of three appearances).

Then there’s his impressive versatility, which has seen him play on both flanks at Camp Nou with ease. His current status as first-choice back-up to Dani Alves suggests that he is most comfortable on the right, but he has also played on the left on three occasions this season.

Stanley Chou/Getty Images
Cons

Such is Montoya’s completeness as a full-back that he hasn’t shown any obvious weaknesses during his time at Barcelona, besides the lack of a sustained run in the first team due to the importance and outstanding form of Dani Alves.

However, he has been dribbled past by an opponent an average of 1.3 times per game this season, higher than any Liverpool full-back, suggesting that work may be needed on both the mental and physical aspects of his defending.

His 0.3 key passes per game is lower than Johnson, Cissokho and Enrique (with Flanagan once again excepted), though his tendency to dribble may offset that as different facets of attacking and creative contributions.

Potential Role at Liverpool

Work rate, stamina, unsung squad player without a sustained run at the top level—on paper, Martin Montoya sounds a lot like Alvaro Arbeloa, who was signed by Rafa Benitez in January 2007 and went on to become a key part in his impressive Liverpool team.

Indeed, with the stats showing Montoya to be a reliable and all-rounded full-back capable of playing on either flank and of the odd surge forward, the 22-year-old Spaniard may prove to be an equally inspired capture in just a few months, if Ayre manages to secure a deal to capitalize on Montoya’s contract situation.

And at Anfield, Montoya would likely arrive as instant competition for Flanagan on the left flank in the short term. As impressive as Flanagan has been with his defensive work rate, he has not offered much of note going forward.

Enrique’s bursts into the final third, as an outlet for the likes of Philippe Coutinho, have been missed, and Montoya might just provide a bit more incisiveness and attacking threat with his dribbling and forward runs.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
What about in the medium to long term? Well, it’s becoming a well-known fact that Glen Johnson is about to enter the last 18 months of his contract, where in a year’s time he will be allowed to negotiate pre-contract deals with foreign sides—and even leave Anfield on a free transfer in the summer of 2015.

If he were any other key first-team player, Liverpool would have begun negotiations on a contract extension with Johnson already. But, as dissected by James Pearce in the Liverpool Echo, Johnson’s current £110,000 p/w deal at Anfield means that the 29-year-old will almost certainly have to consider a pay cut if he is to stay at Liverpool.

Which may explain why Managing Director Ian Ayre is reportedly so keen on securing Montoya’s signature this January, instead of leaving it till the summer to bring him to Anfield on a Bosman free transfer. If Montoya impresses in the next six months, Liverpool may well have secured their next long-term right-back on the cheap.

Conclusion

All of this leads to our conclusion that Martin Montoya should be a key priority for the Reds this January transfer window.

Whether it’s for the short term—to fill in for Jose Enrique and challenge Jon Flanagan—or for the long term—as a potential replacement for Glen Johnson if a contract extension doesn’t progress as smoothly—Montoya has the ability to establish himself in the Liverpool first team.

Compared to Johnson, a regular top performer for four seasons and an integral part of this attack-heavy Liverpool team, Montoya still has some development to do before he will mature and evolve into a top-class complete full-back, but his grounding at La Masia will have provided a stellar platform for his continued growth.

At a potentially discounted price due to his contract situation, Montoya would be too good an opportunity to pass up—and a potential regret for Brendan Rodgers and co. if he ends up at a Premier League rival on a free come next summer.

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