Rumours broke after the victory against Stoke that Lucas and Brendan Rodgers had had a falling out. The reason behind this supposed falling out isn’t really known but Twitter is rife with speculation as to why, with the main culprit being lack of playing time. The Liverpool Echo followed this up a day later suggesting Liverpool were looking to cash in on The Reds’ number 21, who only has 2 years on his deal left remaining, for around the £8million mark. If Liverpool did manage to get £8million for the injury prone Brazilian then it’d be superb business.
Ben Smith of the BBC mentioned Liverpool were looking to bring in 2 new faces on loan before the window ends. It’s a safe bet to assume if two were to arrive it would be a left-back, either a starter or a back up, and another central midfielder even without Lucas leaving.
I just hope if we do sell Lucas it’s sooner rather than later and we have three weeks to find a replacement. This isn’t a knock on Lucas either. He’s not the best but he’s been a great servant to the club. Filling in and doing a job for various managers, bouncing back from numerous injuries and always giving his all. He put out the fire for the likes of Roy Hodgson when our midfield was falling apart and for that I’ll be forever grateful. It’s fitting that his catchphrase is “Unluckyyy” because during his time at the club that’s what he’s been. He seems to be a great influence off the pitch too with the likes of Luis Suarez and Phil Coutinho both taking to him.
The current squad has Jordan Henderson, Emre Can, James Milner, Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva as their central midfield options. On the surface this looks like a decent selection of players but with both Joe Allen and Lucas partial to injuries and Emre Can a little susceptible to injuries it does leave the midfield a little light from time to time. So if Liverpool are going to bring in a midfielder what type should it be?
After all, there are various midfielders these days. You’ve got your deep lying playmakers, ball winners, destroyers and box-to-box midfielders. You then have to factor in the playing time we can offer this new player. A player isn’t going to want to join a side on loan to be a squad player all things considered. If he’s leaving his current club it will be in the search for first team football, what makes it difficult is the fact Jordan Henderson and James Milner are more likely than not to start the majority of games centrally. That only leaves one position for Phil Coutinho, Emre Can, Joe Allen and the new midfielder to fight for and that’s with Liverpool playing a midfield three, something we may not even do. It’s going to be a hard sell to attract players on the peripheral at big clubs like Barcelona, Madrid and Bayern.
Straight away the fans on Twitter attached themselves to two players; Lars Bender of Bayer Leverkusen and Asier Illarramendi of Real Madrid.
Lars Bender would more than likely be a permanent signing. He is a player I would like at Liverpool but not one I would have seen leaving Leverkusen. However that changed when the German side signed Charles Aranguiz recently as well as getting Christoph Kramer back from his loan spell at Gladbach. It leaves Leverkusen in a favourable position of being able to cash in on the German international, who is rumoured to have a release clause of a mere £10million.
Bender at that price would be a steal. He comes with experience in European competitions and international matches. He was part of a Leverkusen side whom under Roger Schmidt played a ferocious high press last season. He finished the season with an average of 3 tackles per 90, 3.1 interceptions per 90 but only a 71% pass success rate per 90. The season prior he averaged 3.7 tackles per 90 and 1.9 interceptions along with 76% per 90. So his numbers are pretty consistent and he’s highly defensive breaking up play in midfield. I wouldn’t but too much emphasis on his passing as he wouldn’t be being played for that aspect of his game, the Liverpool squad are flush with players who can pick a pass. He also already has the foundations of a midfield partnership with Emre Can having playing together in the 2013/14 season, so he has it in his game to be disciplined enough to play beside a marauding midfielder. Something Liverpool are flush with.
It’s also worth noting that In 2013/2014 the midfielder made more tackles than any other player in the Bundesliga.
The second name as I mentioned before was Asier Illarramendi. This rumour has been like a bad smell all summer that just won’t disappear. The 25 year old centre midfielder has seen his progression stall a little at Real Madrid but it’s easy to see why when he’s competing with firstly Xabi Alonso and then latterly Toni Kroos/Luka Modric for a starting position. He’s undoubtedly talented and it’s a little ironic that a Bender and Illarramendi would have the makings of a Mascherano and Alonso lite partnership. It’s just unfortunate for Liverpool it’s a matter of picking one not both.
The Spanish international is more of a deep lying playmakers, of course he can put a tackle in but this move would be like replacing 2013/2014 Steven Gerrad. He’d be the holding midfielder tasked with dictating play. He does have some impressive figures, a 92% pass success rate coupled with 1.2 tackles per 90 and 1.4 interceptions per 90 and this in a side that tends to dominate games. This could be a loan deal as he’d be looking to make an impression with Euro 2016 at the end of the season, he needs game time and we can offer it to him to some extent. We could offer him more than 10 starts and that’s all he got at Madrid last season.
As I mentioned earlier it really does depend on the type of midfielder you want. Both of the above players have strengths and are good at what they do but you need to look at the bigger picture and see how signing either of those impact the midfielder we already have at our disposal.
Another question that has to be asked is how this situation came about and why only now? If rumours are true and Lucas is unhappy about lack of first team football he’s going to get this season surely he’d have known this all summer and it would not have been a bombshell dropped randomly? Had this been our intentions all along why did we let the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Steven Nzonzi and Johannes Geis all move clubs when they’d all have been an upgrade for their respected prices on what we had.
My preference would’ve been Johannes Geis who has recently joined Schalke. Many may not be familiar with the German and for those who aren’t he’s a hybrid of a deep lying playmaker and a player who can put in a tackle. He is also familiar with one of our own having played alongside Emre Can at the Under 21 tournament. Not only is he a talent he’s also a threat from set pieces, something Liverpool lack.
We’ve been pro active in the market so far but if we’ve only just told Lucas he may not be getting the minutes he expected we’ve missed out on some absolute bargains in midfield but having said that there is still plenty of value for money out there. Javier Mascherano wants to leave Barcelona remember…
(All stats courtesy of Whoscored.com)