Will Firmino help Liverpool to banish the gloom of last season?

Liverpool announced the signing of Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino from Hoffenheim this morning, subject to a medical, in a deal that reports say could cost the Reds up to £29m. Does his arrival signal a return to what was so good about 2013-14?

This is one of times in Liverpool’s history where fans are at loggerheads with each other, arguing amongst themselves about who is to blame for all that is wrong with the club. Blame is thrown at the manager, the owners, the transfer committee, the medical staff, individual players and even supporters in an attempt to work out how on earth to stop the rot that set in last season. At least fans do seem to be in agreement on something – LFC couldn’t carry on as they were and something had to change this summer. Today Liverpool announced a £29m signing, an attacking player, in an attempt to address arguably the most glaring problem of this depressing last year or so.

At least Liverpool did announce it. Fans got to learn about the sackings of Colin Pascoe and Mike Marsh, Brendan Rodgers’ assistant and first team coach, through the press and still await official confirmation of the decisions. News that one of the vacant posts would see the promotion of Pepijn Lijnders from his existing role as coach for the U16s is also yet to be confirmed by the club, who continue to look for someone to fill the assistant’s role.

Announcing today’s signing, the club said:

“Liverpool Football Club are delighted to announce the signing of Roberto Firmino from Hoffenheim, subject to a medical which will take place immediately following the player’s participation in Copa America 2015 for Brazil.

“The 23-year-old has agreed a long-term contract with the club.”

 

That announcement followed a string of announcements of deals that fed the cynical and pessimistic side of the Reds support, including free transfers and new contracts for youngsters. Finally there was something to really shout about, even if only in money terms, although given it’s not even July yet the problem of transfer window impatience seems to be getting worse year on year.

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89% of fans who voted in a poll on this site said they felt it was time for Brendan Rodgers to go, a figure that will probably drop as the new season draws closer and fans try to wipe the slate clean. The problem is that for many of those 89% it won’t take much to conjure up memories of dismal days last season like the FA Cup semi-final, the visit of Manchester United or that final day trip to Stoke and with them their calls for him to step down or be sacked.

Not that any of those fans want to go through any more depressing days or miserable months, despite what Rodgers’ most infatuated supporters might claim. If all the changes being made this summer lead to the same kind of buzz that surrounded the team for most of the second half of the 2013-14 season then those more gloomy more recent memories will fade fast.

This is where Robert Firmino comes in, but Liverpool – and in particular Brendan Rodgers – really need to be careful about that. His price tag is a hefty enough weight to carry on his young shoulders, weigh them down that bit more with the kind of expectations that were placed on “the return to full fitness of Daniel Sturridge” and he might just be beaten before he even gets off a plane in England.

Even without the gift of hindsight it was obvious that Liverpool had done nowhere near enough to address not only the loss of Luis Suarez last summer but also the pressure on the fitness of other players that the addition of a clump of extra high-profile fixtures brings.

Daniel Sturridge had a history of injury problems – admittedly not as bad as last season’s turned out to be – and was out of action before Liverpool even got near their first Champions League game, meaning that Brendan Rodgers and his backers spent much of the first half of the season telling everyone not to panic, that it wasn’t surprising that Liverpool were struggling with both their previous season’s top scorers out of the picture and that all would be well as soon as Daniel was fit again. No mention of the fact £75m came in from the sale of Suarez, most of which was not used on replacement forwards, no mention of the fact that Sturridge would never have got through a whole season playing twice a week with the kind of intensity expected of him.

To this day it’s difficult to fathom what kind of decision making went on to allow such a situation to develop and it seems that, so far, nobody involved in those decisions has been blamed for them. Maybe they were given one last chance – here’s hoping that’s true and they aren’t rewarded for failure again, but more importantly here’s hoping they intend to take that chance with both hands.

It’s impossible to say with any certainty just how good Firmino will be for the Reds, and most people talking about him disagree on what his position is, with midfielder, forward and striker all words used to describe him. He’s said to be a number 10 who can also play up front on his own and based on that description it’s easy to picture him as someone who could maybe resurrect something like the Suarez role. That’s not to say he’s the new Suarez, just to say that prior to the Uruguayan’s final season at Anfield many fans and pundits alike were saying that Suarez wasn’t a centre-forward, he was as much creator as goalscorer and perhaps that’s what Firmino has been bought for, rather than as the source of most of next season’s goals.

That’s where expectation comes in again. Instead of trying to manage fans’ expectations down to a level where they think Europa League qualification is an amazing achievement, the club perhaps need to make sure Roberto isn’t expected to make Champions League qualification a certainty all by himself. It would be amazing if he did, and Champions League qualification will be a minimum expectation for many, but if Liverpool do get top four we should be able to share the credit around.

It might take time for Firmino to settle into English football, just like it might take time for Danny Ings to adjust to life at a much bigger club than the one he’s just left. James Milner will bring some much-needed experience – but he isn’t Steven Gerrard in his prime and can’t be expected to lead a disjointed and uninterested squad very much further than the sixth place it was probably lucky to get as high as last season. Dejan Lovren has to improve, Mamadou Sakho has to play more and something needs to be done about the full-backs and fast so that the goalkeeper can go into the new season full of confidence and trusting those around him.

All of this needs to happen within the confines of systems the players are comfortable and confident to play in.

Patience and understanding will be vital in the early stages of this season – just at a time when patience and understanding is in very short supply having been used up so readily last season.

When the Sturridge excuse began to wear thin last season the transition excuse took over, one that hardly helps boost optimism for this coming campaign given how many more changes there will be to contend with.

Perhaps that’s where the changes to the coaching staff can be key. Staff who can work with individuals or smaller groups to get the best out of them might just be the difference that helps bring about another season like 2013-14 – or maybe one just a little bit better.

In fact rather than using transition as an excuse for a poor start that leads to more excuses about a poor continuation Liverpool need to use all of these changes, large and small, expected or unexpected, to turn themselves into a brand-new and deadly surprise package.

Firmino is just one part of that package, and whatever our realistic expectations might be or should be, it’s surprising what a bit of hope and belief can do for a side. Here’s hoping Firmino helps us to carry one where we left off a few games before the end of 2013-14.

We need excitement.

 

Carra: Lijnders is a very good coach and Gomez arrives with a great pedigree

Jamie Carragher says reported new No.3 Pep Lijnders is a very good coach and hopes new signing Joe Gomez can do what many young defensive signings have been unable to do down the years and become a success for the Reds.

Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher says new defensive signing Joe Gomez arrives at Anfield with a good pedigree and has praised the Reds’ rumoured new first team coach Pepjin Lijnders, a coach he felt certain would make progress in his profession when he saw him in action down at Kirkby.

Writing on his Kicca page, the former Reds defender said: “Liverpool have signed the youngster Joe Gomez from Charlton and it looks like they’ve also promoted Pepjin Lijnders from the U16s to work with the first team.

“With regards to Pepjin Lijnders he is someone I’ve seen work at the academy and spoken to three or four times over the last 12 months.

“There’s no doubt he’s a very good coach – he’s got experience from Porto and PSV in the last few years.”

Carragher is a regular visitor to the Reds academy at Kirkby and was impress what he saw from Pep Lijnders: “Watching him coach,” Jamie said, “It was clear he would progress in the game.

“He had an authority when coaching the youngsters that hopefully he can take to Melwood.”

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As with most stories concerning Liverpool this summer, like the sackings of Colin Pascoe and Mike Marsh, Liverpool are yet to announce the news, but Carra hopes Lijdners can help the Reds recover from last season’s dismal showing.

“If true,” Carra said, “It’s a fantastic opportunity for Pepjin and let’s hope he can make a difference.”

Assuming he does make the step-up it won’t signal the end of him working with youngsters. Joe Gomez, who was signed after Liverpool triggered a release clause in his contact, is just 18 and not the only teenager in the Reds first team squad.

Carragher feels the youngster’s arrival could dash Andre Wisdom’s hopes of breaking into the first team having spent the last couple of season out on loan.

“Gomez’s arrival, especially with him being able to play right-back and centre-back,” Carra said, “means there will be question marks now over Andre Wisdom’s future and having been on loan for the last couple of years I’m sure he will want regular football.

“There have been plenty of young defenders signed over the last decade or so for Liverpool who’ve never quite made the grade,” he said. “(Gabriel) Palletta, (Sebastian) Coates, (Danny) Wilson, (Daniel) Ayala, (Mikel) San José and (Tiago) Ilori, who still has time to change that.

“It basically comes from a lack of game time, but crucially (also) not taking their chance on the rare occasions they were chosen.”

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A number of those mentioned have become regulars elsewhere but Carra suggests it’s time Liverpool started finding talent for their own use rather than anyone else: “Some have gone on to have good careers, but Liverpool sign players to play for us, not to develop them for others.

“Hopefully Joe Gomez will change that. He’s an England U19 international and has performed well for Charlton Athletic so comes with a good pedigree.”

Lijnders is expected to take the No.3 job, replacing Mike Marsh as first team coach, with no word yet on who will replace Colin Pascoe as assistant manager.

32-year-old Lijnders has been at the club less than a year, arriving at the Academy last August from FC Porto and tasked with looking after the under-16 squad. He spent five years at PSV Eindhoven before that.

There have been calls for Liverpool to bring in a defensive coach but those calls would not have been so loud had Liverpool at least been able to knock them in at the other end. Lijnders likes to encourage attacking football, so his presence may just help that happen.

Lijnders has been quoted as saying: “Our style is to attack, with and without the ball.

“We realise that the game is played with one ball, our ball, and we steal it back wherever on the pitch and we use it to attack the opponent.

“It doesn’t matter who we play against, we will press them high and aggressively and we will attack and attack them again.”

Here’s hoping he can help make that happen.

2015-16 fixtures: LFC start away to Stoke

It’s the time of year when tennis and cricket invade the back pages – when they can muscle football transfer rumours out of the way – but for one day only football has another weapon to assert itself as the sport more people care about: the release of the Barclays Premier League fixtures. So, how does Liverpool’s new season look?

Depending on how full or empty your half glass of water is Liverpool have got possibly the best – or worst – start to the 2015-16 season they could ask for. Brendan Rodgers has to take his Reds side straight back to the scene of last season’s final-day despair – Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium. In fact Liverpool’s first seven away games are about as tough as it’s possible for them to be.

It was on that very Britannia pitch that Steven Gerrard played his last game for Liverpool as the Reds went down to a pretty unforgivable 6-1 defeat against a Mark Hughes side that basically seemed to care a lot more than the visitors. Gerrard got Liverpool’s goal in one of the most embarrassing defeats Liverpool have suffered in decades.

But that was last season. The club have – according to reports, not according to anything helpful like an official statement – made some changes to the coaching staff with Rodgers losing both his No.2 Colin Pascoe and No.3 Mike Marsh. Rodgers stays, three free agents have been brought in and Liverpool are looking at spending a little bit of money on a couple of defenders. More transfer rumours will follow, of course, but today is more about fixtures.

When the fixtures are first released all the weekend games are down as 3pm Saturday kick-offs, but in the coming days the UK TV companies will be working out which games they want to show live as part of their expensive coverage of the League and many will be switched. For Liverpool there is another reason many games will be moved – the return of Europa League football on a Thursday night.

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Liverpool had asked if their first game, set for the weekend of August 8th, could be an away one to help them with the works still under way on the Main Stand refurbishment. The request has been met but, with Premier League ‘rules’ stating clubs can’t play both their first two games away or at home, it’s only bought the club a week. Liverpool’s first home game is a week later against newly-promoted Bournemouth.

Just a matter of weeks since the dismal end to that dismal last season fans can now start putting it all behind them and find that optimism that the sunshine always seems to bring. Could this be Liverpool’s year? We’ll see.

In the meantime, to help kick that optimism off, it’s time to ask those traditional mid-summer questions: When are the derbies, when do we play Manchester United, where are we over Christmas?

The derbies see Everton at home first, with the Goodison match played on October 3rd. The return fixture is planned for February 27.

Liverpool will be away first against Manchester United, heading to Old Trafford on September 12th, with the Anfield clash being played a week after the FA Cup 3rd Round on January 16th.

Sandwiched in between the FA Cup 3rd Round and the visit of Manchester United is another home game – against Arsenal. The Emirates game will be Liverpool’s third of the season, on August 22nd.

The festive period sees Liverpool at home to Leicester City on Boxing day, followed by a trip to the North East on December 28th to play Sunderland. The players get an extra day to recover from New Year’s Eve before playing West Ham, away, on January 2nd.

Liverpool have to play five sides who finished above them last season, of course, including champions Chelsea who they play on the 31st of October (Halloween) and March 12th. Manchester City – who seem favourites to sign Raheem Sterling from Liverpool – host Liverpool on November 21st and visit Anfield on March 1st.

The Reds in fact play away against all five of the sides who finished above them last season within their first seven away games, the other two trips being that clash with Stoke and the derby at Goodison. How many shopping days to Christmas again?

Jamie Carragher jokingly wondered if there had been any hand in the fixture list from Gary Neville, his Sky Sports colleague and one time nemesis.

The final game of the season is, like last season, another away trip for Liverpool, this time to West Brom on May 15th. Here’s hoping the Reds can pick the league title up in time to parade the trophy around Anfield a week before, for the last home game of the season on May 7th against new boys Watford.

Fixture list in full (official site) >>

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Images: Wikipedia / Ellisons Travel

Liverpool to play friendly in Helsinki

The Reds will round off their pre-season preparations by travelling to the country that gave us Sami Hyypia and Jari Litmanen.

WITH no way of playing any pre-season games at Anfield this summer – in fact the club have asked if they can avoid opening the league season with a home match – Liverpool will have to travel for all their pre-season games. Today the club added Helsinki in Finland to a summer schedule that also includes a long-haul trip for a tour of Australia and Asia.

The Finland friendly will be against HJK Helsinki – arguably the country’s biggest team and certainly the most successful in recent seasons – on Saturday 1 August, a week before the Premier League campaign kicks off. The game is set for the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki with 5.30pm kick off (UK time).

The Reds will be up against the side who have won the Finnish league six years in a row.

Liverpool’s Billy Hogan, the chief commercial officer, said of the game: “Pre-season is an important time for the team to prepare and this final game will complete an exciting tour following our games in Asia and Australia.

“LFC has a massive fan base in Scandinavia and of course in Finland because of Sami, and I am sure they will be looking forward to seeing the team play against Finland’s champions in their final tune up for the Barclays Premier League season.”

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HJK’s CEO, Aki Riihilahti, said: “HJK want to play the best possible international games in our preparation for Champions League qualification, and this is also a great event for the fans as Liverpool has a special place in Finnish hearts because of Sami Hyypia.”

It’s a quarter of a century since the last friendly between the two sides at this venue, a 2-0 Reds win courtesy of goals from Ray Houghton and David Burrows.

Before that the two sides met in the European Cup, Bob Paisley’s 1982 side heading into the third round thanks to a 5-1 aggregate win.

Liverpool turn down £25m Sterling from Man City for Raheem

Manchester City made an unsuccessful offer for Liverpool FC’s unsettled forward Raheem Sterling this week, an offer way below the Reds valuation. Sterling reportedly wants to move to a club where he thinks he can win trophies.

 

NEWS broke on Thursday night that 20-year-old Raheem Sterling had been the subject of a £25m transfer bid from Manchester City earlier in the week. The Liverpool frontman, currently on duty with England, has made it clear he doesn’t want to stay at Anfield but the offer from City won’t come close to tempting Liverpool to part with the youngster.

The offer, which would be worth up to a total of £30m including add-ons, falls some way short of Liverpool’s asking price, believed to be in the region of £50m.

The Reds would be loathe to sell to Premier League rivals – bearing in mind their response to an Arsenal bid for Luis Suarez two years ago – but Sterling is not Luis Suarez, not even close, and given the negative circumstances created by his agent Aidy Ward the club are not completely closed to the idea.

Unfortunately for Sterling and his representative, who stands to receive a substantial fee should a transfer take place, Manchester City may not be willing to go much higher with their offer and certainly not to the kind of level Liverpool are expecting. City aside, few clubs are in a position to even consider making that kind of bid and it may well be that Sterling is priced out of a move, despite reported interest from City’s fellow top four sides Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United.

Given Sterling’s form at the tail end of the season with the off-field distractions no doubt playing a part in the slump, there may well be concerns for prospective buyers that he won’t be able to live up to the pressure of playing with a massive price tag around his neck.

Sterling wants to move to a club that can help him win things and although there is no guarantee Manchester City are a club to do that it certainly seems more likely for silverware to head to the Etihad than to Anfield, unless the changes to the Liverpool backroom staff bring unexpectedly big improvements. Whether Sterling is making a bid for trophies next season at Anfield or elsewhere remains to be seen.

Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, who said the club’s season was “disappointing”, claimed earlier this week that bringing players in shouldn’t be as expensive as it was when they were first taken over by Eithad.

“We were at a point of having to pay big premiums in order to attract the type of players we wanted to attract, given that we weren’t in Europe,” Mubarak said.

“Today I think we’re definitely in a different competitive position. We’re a club players want to come to play for, we’re an institution today. We can compete head to head with all the top clubs.”

Enticing the players themselves is one aspect to football transfers, but the deal has to be good for the selling club too and £25m+ add-ons isn’t as attractive to Liverpool as City had hoped.

Manager Brendan Rodgers left Sterling out of the last game of the season, the 6-1 defeat to Stoke, leaving him on the bench even though Liverpool had a five goal deficit to make up by half-time. From the outside it certainly looks like the relationship between player and manager is damaged and no doubt with the agent’s prompting other clubs will be aware of how that might just play into their hands where the fee is concerned.

Sterling was adamant that any move from Anfield would be about trophies not money, and although City also ended last season empty handed they were in the chase for the league for most of the season.

With Liverpool using words like “par” as if to justify their poor sixth-place finish, ending without a trophy was seen as far less than acceptable to City’s chairman.

“It was a disappointing season as far as I am concerned,” he said.

“Disappointing for everyone involved with the club – Sheikh Mansour, myself, the board, the management team, Manuel, the players and of course, above all, the fans.”

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There hasn’t been a single word said in public from Liverpool’s owners about the season just gone, the club instead relying on leaked and briefed snippets of information to keep fans informed about what is happening to their club.

We know the manager’s No.2 and No.3 have been sacked, but we don’t know why, we don’t know whose decision it was.

We know the club fell from second to sixth after spending £120m, we knew that something needed to be done – but wasn’t – to fill the hole Luis Suarez left behind, but we don’t know if the owners have done anything to address the problems that left the club so short of firepower.

Fans are unhappy – 89% voted in a poll on this site to say the manager should leave – but the club seem happy to leave fans to stew.

City, meanwhile, have a chairman willing not only to admit to the disappointment of last season but also to send a message out that his club is determined to fix the problems that caused it.

“You will see some changes,” Mubarak said. “Some players who have served us well, maybe it is time for them to move on to the next challenges, while you will see us in the market bringing high-quality individuals to fit in with what we are aspiring to coming in this summer.

“I can assure you this squad will be stronger and the team will be more competitive. I am both confident and excited about what is coming next year.

“I want the disappointment of last year behind me, behind us all. We have all turned the page and the energy right now is positive energy towards getting back on track and winning back that Premier League and getting a better performance in the Champions League. That is absolutely what is driving us right now.”

FSG and their Liverpool board remain silent.

UPDATE: One report this morning states City “will go back to Liverpool with a second, increased bid for Raheem Sterling closer to their £50m-plus asking price.”

Note the use of the word “closer”, rather than “close” – even an extra pound would be closer, but not necessarily close enough. Ask Arsenal.

It seems unlikely that City will make a bid close to Liverpool’s reported asking price (which in some reports is worded as “at least” £50m) and any renewed bid may just involve a tweaking of the guaranteed amount payable and some different and distant add-ons.

Liverpool’s real asking price, however, is unlikely to be as high as £50m, given the size of contract offer they made to Sterling the last time they held talks. That offer was believed to be £90k per week, much less than half the £200k per week deal they agreed with Luis Suarez to keep him at the club, although they ultimately only paid it for an extra six months before selling him to Barca for a fee – according to the Catalan club – of £65m.

James Milner and Danny Ings: Can they help Liverpool to win a trophy next season?

After a disappointing 2014-15 season, Liverpool have already made two transfers this summer before the window has even officially opened. Manchester City’s James Milner and Burnley striker Danny Ings will move to Anfield as of July 1st, with the latter signing a deal with the club on Monday afternoon.

These two signings could be brilliant additions to the squad as Brendan Rodgers’ side attempt to secure some silverware after a barren spell. We take a look at the two players and give our thoughts on how they could help Liverpool to lift a trophy at the end of the campaign.

 

James Milner

The England midfielder is one of the most underrated players in the Premier League. Although the 29-year-old is never going to be a Ballon d’Or winner, Milner’s stamina and tenacity in the central area will be a huge help for Liverpool and will provide some energy in midfield. Furthermore, the former Manchester City midfielder’s versatility means that Rodgers can incorporate him into the squad and adapt formations while he is in the team. For example, Milner can play anywhere across the midfield, right wing-back and, at a push, the ‘false nine’ role up front. A talented player, Liverpool have acquired a hidden gem on a free transfer and he will certainly contribute towards their achievements this season.

Danny Ings

The striker was exceptional for Burnley last year, particularly in the opening half of the season as he notched up double digits in his first Premier League season. The 22-year-old has the potential to be one of the best strikers in the top flight and his performances have earned a call-up to the England under-21 squad for this year’s European Championships. Ings has a great first touch and a deft finish that will appeal to Liverpool. The Reds have struggled for goals this year in Sturridge’s absence and Ings should help to fill the void if the former Chelsea forward continues to struggle with his injury problems. A great signing and his goals, particularly in and around the six-yard box, will be useful in Liverpool’s search for silverware.

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Verdict

Both players are great signings for the club as Brendan Rodgers attempts to revitalise Liverpool’s industry in attack. They looked sluggish at times last season, but these two players bring energy, sharp movement and clinical finishing to the team. Liverpool fans should be excited about their chances of silverware next season, although the Premier League title does look a little too far away and the bookies agree. The two domestic cup competitions, however, are certainly up for grabs. For more news, or odds, on next year’s Premier League and cup competitions, click here.

 

Why are Liverpool messing players about with “unacceptable” contract offers?

Reds defender Martin Skrtel says Liverpool “failed” last season and have made him a contract offer he says is “unacceptable”. After finishing sixth with a depressing 6-1 defeat away to Stoke on the last day of the season the Reds can’t afford to mess about over contracts for established starters.

 

MARTIN SKRTEL, often derided in his time at Anfield, has become one of the first names on the Liverpool team sheet in recent seasons and – unless there are dramatic moves in the transfer market – will go into the new season as an essential part of Brendan Rodgers’ squad. Essential, yet getting messed about over his contract.

It’s the new Liverpool way.

Skrtel, 30, cost the Reds just £6.5m when Rafa Benitez bought him from Zenit Saint Petersburg and spent most of the early years of his career vying with Daniel Agger for a place alongside Jamie Carragher in the back four. Carragher retired in 2013 and Agger left in 2014, but Liverpool went out each time and bought new centre backs, spending a total of £38m in total on the two new faces. Despite that, Skrtel established himself as first choice in the middle of the back four.

Yet now, with just one year left on his current deal, the only offer the club have made is one he describes as “unacceptable”.

Skrtel was speaking to media in Slovakia and, whilst acknowledging the club had made him an offer, the impression he gave was that it was a derisory one.

“It’s unacceptable for me,” he said, adding: “I think that contracts like this are offered to players who are much older than me, or to a player who has had some health problems.

“The contract which has been offered to me is unacceptable, so I didn’t sign it,” he said.

The player is aware of interest from other clubs and thanks to the efforts of Jean-Marc Bosman 20 years ago he’ll be able to talk to those clubs in six months’ time. Unless Liverpool have made him an offer he feels is suitable by then.

“I have one year left and there has been some speculation about the interest from other clubs. We will see what happens,” he explained.

This isn’t the first time Skrtel has been linked with a departure but rumoured moves never materialised and seven and a half years after joining he now finds himself one of the club’s longest serving players. “There is always talk about my position and my future,” he said.

“Almost every single transfer window there is always talk about me leaving Liverpool and interest from other clubs, but, as it stands, I still have a contract with Liverpool.”

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Skrtel quite clearly doesn’t want to leave and expects talks over a deal to continue: “I have an offer from Liverpool and we’ll see where we finish.”

The interview sends a clear message back to whichever FSG-led committee deals with contracts at the club’s Chapel Street corporate head office, but whether it will be heard or acted upon is another matter entirely. It also adds more weight to supporters’ doubts about the running of the club, at least on the football side.

At least the player can’t be accused of agitating for a move – he just wants a fair deal and as he points out: “I am fully committed to Liverpool.”

Skrtel also discussed Liverpool’s season and suggested the campaign was a failure and would have been one even without that final day 6-1 collapse at Stoke that meant the Reds finished sixth when fifth was in their own hands.

“We failed because we did not meet the targets we have set. If we finish fifth or sixth it doesn’t matter, we would still not have qualified for the Champions League.”

A year before, with no European football and as a result more coaching time for manager Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool finished second. Then in the summer came the £75m exit of their top goalscorer to Barcelona and a handful of new faces.

“The significant factor was the exit of Luis Suarez and too many errors on the field. The squad was big enough.

“New players arrived and it is not always easy to acclimatise to a new club, so the first half of the season was difficult. The second part was an improvement, but in the end we didn’t reach our targets.”

Yesterday Liverpool confirmed they had agreed terms with James Milner, who will sign officially on 1st July, but any good work done to bring new names into the first team could quite easily be undone by yet more failure to deal correctly with players already at the club.

Much is made of the transfer committee, the group of men who seem to avoid the acceptance of any individual responsibility when targets are missed or those actually acquired turn out to be below standard, but who deals with new contracts? Who decides who stays and who goes, who decides how hard to try and keep the players the club don’t want to lose?

A number of players had been told they would get new deals this year, only to find those promises broken, and the disillusionment this brings shouldn’t be underestimated, nor should the way that disappointment spreads to other members of the squad and to friends at other clubs. Clubs that might have one or more Reds targets playing for them.

raheem sterling

Raheem Sterling’s agent is making his client look foolish at the moment but the underlying truth in that unseemly tale is that the player does have a point when he questions Liverpool’s ability to win major honours. As Sterling claimed in the BBC interview he was criticised for, had the club made him an offer a year ago he may well have signed it.

The same kind of complacency eventually saw Steven Gerrard leave the club he’d joined as a boy. Had Liverpool offered him a new deal last summer, at a time when he was preparing to announce his retirement from international football to prolong his Anfield career, he also would have signed it. Instead they waited until it was heading for its last six months and made him an offer that it is understood was way below even his lowest expectations. With Brendan Rodgers pulling him to one side around the same time to say he’d finally worked out the captain couldn’t play three games a week it’s no surprise at all he left. Perhaps that was intention.

Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho got new contracts, in the end, but all the time they were waiting there was an opportunity for another club to turn their heads with the offer of either more riches, more silverware or both.

Liverpool have way too many problems to be in a position where they can cockily experiment with pay-as-you-play contracts for established and fully fit players, especially when those players know they can’t be certain of a regular place as the manager looks for a playing system that works. Performance-related pay is fine when the recipient can directly influence what he gets, but it’s exactly the kind of offer that will influence players to look at other options – not to mention the lack of respect it shows to players who stayed loyal to the club despite the largely barren FSG years.

For all the criticism Martin Skrtel gets from a number of Liverpool fans he’s probably the most reliable central defender the club has right now, given Lovren’s difficulties adapting to life under the Anfield microscope and Mamadou Sakho’s misfortune with injury.

This next season is make or break for Brendan Rodgers and his staff – whoever his staff end up being following reports of Mike Marsh’s departure – and it could also see owners Fenway Sports Group come under the kind of pressure they’ve so far managed to avoid in their five year tenure at Anfield.

When Melwood reopens for pre-season training next month it’s vital that not only are there some quality new signings in place ready to build an understanding with their teammates but also that the existing players don’t return from holiday feeling disillusioned about their futures.

The time for messing about has long since passed.


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Why are Liverpool messing players about with "unacceptable" contract offers?

Reds defender Martin Skrtel says Liverpool “failed” last season and have made him a contract offer he says is “unacceptable”. After finishing sixth with a depressing 6-1 defeat away to Stoke on the last day of the season the Reds can’t afford to mess about over contracts for established starters.

 

MARTIN SKRTEL, often derided in his time at Anfield, has become one of the first names on the Liverpool team sheet in recent seasons and – unless there are dramatic moves in the transfer market – will go into the new season as an essential part of Brendan Rodgers’ squad. Essential, yet getting messed about over his contract.

It’s the new Liverpool way.

Skrtel, 30, cost the Reds just £6.5m when Rafa Benitez bought him from Zenit Saint Petersburg and spent most of the early years of his career vying with Daniel Agger for a place alongside Jamie Carragher in the back four. Carragher retired in 2013 and Agger left in 2014, but Liverpool went out each time and bought new centre backs, spending a total of £38m in total on the two new faces. Despite that, Skrtel established himself as first choice in the middle of the back four.

Yet now, with just one year left on his current deal, the only offer the club have made is one he describes as “unacceptable”.

Skrtel was speaking to media in Slovakia and, whilst acknowledging the club had made him an offer, the impression he gave was that it was a derisory one.

“It’s unacceptable for me,” he said, adding: “I think that contracts like this are offered to players who are much older than me, or to a player who has had some health problems.

“The contract which has been offered to me is unacceptable, so I didn’t sign it,” he said.

The player is aware of interest from other clubs and thanks to the efforts of Jean-Marc Bosman 20 years ago he’ll be able to talk to those clubs in six months’ time. Unless Liverpool have made him an offer he feels is suitable by then.

“I have one year left and there has been some speculation about the interest from other clubs. We will see what happens,” he explained.

This isn’t the first time Skrtel has been linked with a departure but rumoured moves never materialised and seven and a half years after joining he now finds himself one of the club’s longest serving players. “There is always talk about my position and my future,” he said.

“Almost every single transfer window there is always talk about me leaving Liverpool and interest from other clubs, but, as it stands, I still have a contract with Liverpool.”

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Skrtel quite clearly doesn’t want to leave and expects talks over a deal to continue: “I have an offer from Liverpool and we’ll see where we finish.”

The interview sends a clear message back to whichever FSG-led committee deals with contracts at the club’s Chapel Street corporate head office, but whether it will be heard or acted upon is another matter entirely. It also adds more weight to supporters’ doubts about the running of the club, at least on the football side.

At least the player can’t be accused of agitating for a move – he just wants a fair deal and as he points out: “I am fully committed to Liverpool.”

Skrtel also discussed Liverpool’s season and suggested the campaign was a failure and would have been one even without that final day 6-1 collapse at Stoke that meant the Reds finished sixth when fifth was in their own hands.

“We failed because we did not meet the targets we have set. If we finish fifth or sixth it doesn’t matter, we would still not have qualified for the Champions League.”

A year before, with no European football and as a result more coaching time for manager Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool finished second. Then in the summer came the £75m exit of their top goalscorer to Barcelona and a handful of new faces.

“The significant factor was the exit of Luis Suarez and too many errors on the field. The squad was big enough.

“New players arrived and it is not always easy to acclimatise to a new club, so the first half of the season was difficult. The second part was an improvement, but in the end we didn’t reach our targets.”

Yesterday Liverpool confirmed they had agreed terms with James Milner, who will sign officially on 1st July, but any good work done to bring new names into the first team could quite easily be undone by yet more failure to deal correctly with players already at the club.

Much is made of the transfer committee, the group of men who seem to avoid the acceptance of any individual responsibility when targets are missed or those actually acquired turn out to be below standard, but who deals with new contracts? Who decides who stays and who goes, who decides how hard to try and keep the players the club don’t want to lose?

A number of players had been told they would get new deals this year, only to find those promises broken, and the disillusionment this brings shouldn’t be underestimated, nor should the way that disappointment spreads to other members of the squad and to friends at other clubs. Clubs that might have one or more Reds targets playing for them.

raheem sterling

Raheem Sterling’s agent is making his client look foolish at the moment but the underlying truth in that unseemly tale is that the player does have a point when he questions Liverpool’s ability to win major honours. As Sterling claimed in the BBC interview he was criticised for, had the club made him an offer a year ago he may well have signed it.

The same kind of complacency eventually saw Steven Gerrard leave the club he’d joined as a boy. Had Liverpool offered him a new deal last summer, at a time when he was preparing to announce his retirement from international football to prolong his Anfield career, he also would have signed it. Instead they waited until it was heading for its last six months and made him an offer that it is understood was way below even his lowest expectations. With Brendan Rodgers pulling him to one side around the same time to say he’d finally worked out the captain couldn’t play three games a week it’s no surprise at all he left. Perhaps that was intention.

Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho got new contracts, in the end, but all the time they were waiting there was an opportunity for another club to turn their heads with the offer of either more riches, more silverware or both.

Liverpool have way too many problems to be in a position where they can cockily experiment with pay-as-you-play contracts for established and fully fit players, especially when those players know they can’t be certain of a regular place as the manager looks for a playing system that works. Performance-related pay is fine when the recipient can directly influence what he gets, but it’s exactly the kind of offer that will influence players to look at other options – not to mention the lack of respect it shows to players who stayed loyal to the club despite the largely barren FSG years.

For all the criticism Martin Skrtel gets from a number of Liverpool fans he’s probably the most reliable central defender the club has right now, given Lovren’s difficulties adapting to life under the Anfield microscope and Mamadou Sakho’s misfortune with injury.

This next season is make or break for Brendan Rodgers and his staff – whoever his staff end up being following reports of Mike Marsh’s departure – and it could also see owners Fenway Sports Group come under the kind of pressure they’ve so far managed to avoid in their five year tenure at Anfield.

When Melwood reopens for pre-season training next month it’s vital that not only are there some quality new signings in place ready to build an understanding with their teammates but also that the existing players don’t return from holiday feeling disillusioned about their futures.

The time for messing about has long since passed.


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Done deal: James Milner to Liverpool

Liverpool FC have confirmed one of the worst kept secrets of this window – Manchester City midfielder James Milner is coming to Anfield on a free transfer.

Milner will sign for Liverpool on July 1st after agreeing the terms of a free transfer from his current club Manchester City. The club announced the news on their official website earlier today, adding that the move was subject to a medical.

Milner, 29, has played in a number of positions across midfield in a career that included spells at Leeds, Newcastle and Aston Villa before he moved to the Etihad, where he picked up honours including two Premier League titles and the FA Cup in the five years he’s played there. He has also been capped 53 times for England.

The general feeling is that he will assume a role in central midfield under Brendan Rodgers, with former Reds star Jamie Carragher suggesting earlier this week that the manager may even have the armband waiting for him.

PlayStation_Schools_Cup_James_Milner-111

 

“I have no doubt one reason he’s joining is to play in a more central role rather than out wide,” Carra said.

“The fact that Brendan Rodgers wouldn’t confirm Jordan Henderson as this season’s captain, even though he was captain in Gerrard’s absence last season, makes me think him and Milner could be competing for the armband.”

The official website reported the news of the deal, saying: “Liverpool Football Club are delighted to announce they have agreed a deal to sign Manchester City’s James Milner, subject to a medical.

“The Reds have agreed personal terms with the England international, who will join the club on a free transfer on July 1 after his contract at the Etihad Stadium has expired.”

The other most likely deal to be done this summer by Liverpool will be to bring a striker in. A plethora of problems last season saw Liverpool slump from being the very exciting to watch runners-up to the very painful to watch side that ended the season in sixth. One of the main problems was a lack of firepower, with woefully inadequate attempts to fill the hole left behind by Luis Suarez, whilst at the same time seemingly overlooking the likelihood of absence from injury of Daniel Sturridge.

There has been much speculation about Christian Benteke, who has a rather high release-fee written into his contract, but the first signing up front is more likely to be 22-year-old Danny Ings.

Ings is also out of contract this summer meaning Liverpool can talk terms without first needing to agree a fee with his current club, relegated Burnley. There will still be a fee to be paid, however, as Ings is under 24 and as such isn’t covered by the Bosman ruling. If the two clubs are unable to agree a fee a tribunal will set one for them, with the figure expected to be somewhere between £5m and £6m.

 

 

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