Reports: Allen and Ibe catch Watford’s eye

Liverpool have been strongly linked with Mario Gotze and Jonas Hector, but new players coming in means existing players going out and Watford could be the next destination for a couple of Reds first teamers.

 
Jordon Ibe and Joe Allen

Reports in Wednesday’s papers suggest Watford could be in for two of Liverpool’s first team players this summer as they look to strengthen ahead of their second season back in the top flight. According to the Guardian, Joe Allen and Jordon Ibe could become Hornets players at the end of this campaign.

Neither player is getting as much playing time for Liverpool as they would like, Joe Allen in and out of the side but unable to force his way past Jordan Henderson and Emre Can. Ibe, meanwhile, hasn’t started a league game for over two months, his last one in the dramatic away win against Norwich in January, and now seems to be finding himself behind Sheyi Ojo in Jurgen Klopp’s plans.

This lack of appearances has caught the attention of both their coaches at international level and may be enough to make Watford’s interest mutual.

Allen was awarded Man of the Match in Wales’s defeat to Ukraine and afterwards the Welsh boss Chris Coleman alluded to the midfielder’s difficulties getting those games for the Reds. “Joe’s a great player,” said Coleman. “I don’t use that term loosely. It’s unfortunate he’s not playing much for Liverpool but, for us, he’s irreplaceable.”

ibe-1321

Ibe, who is still only 20, was a second half substitute for England U21s last week but was sent off before the end of the game and boss Gareth Southgate suggested that might have been down to a lack of confidence stemming from not having the rhythm that regular games will bring.

“I think players, especially at Jordon’s age, go through peaks and troughs,” Southgate said. “He doesn’t look full of confidence at the minute and we have got to try and help him get to the level that we think we can achieve.

“He doesn’t look like he is in a rhythm. That’s disappointing for him but no reason that he can’t find it again.”

Southgate went on to compare Ibe’s situation – he’s now suspended for one of the U21 fixture to that of Reds team mate Andre Wisdom. Wisdom’s last appearance for the U21s saw him sent off and by the time he was eligible to play the manager had moved onto other players instead.

At 20 years of age Ibe has plenty of time left in him but being out of the side like this means he has a gamble to take this summer, as found on Grizzly Gambling, should Watford make a serious approach: Does he move south in the hope of more playing time or remain at Anfield and fight for the regular starting place he has already enjoyed?

joe-allen-jurgen-klopp

Allen has – unsurprisingly – often struggled to live up to the “Welsh Xavi” tag he was so foolishly given when he first signed for the Reds but under Klopp, in the games he has been given, he has shown he is a far more capable player than many give him credit for.

Ex-Reds striker Ian Rush has been impressed with Allen under Klopp and hopes Liverpool hang on to his fellow Welshman: “Joe’s frustrated by not being in the team,” Rush said.

“I’ve seen a lot of players who are happy on the bench, but the thing with Joe Allen is he’s not happy doing that. If he’s not happy then he might well want to move on.

“I think he can do a great job for Liverpool. When he came on against Northern Ireland that was the difference.

“I’ve noticed the last few times he’s played for Liverpool, he’s getting in scoring positions and getting the odd goal, which he hasn’t done before.

“The Euros will be big for him, to prove that he should be playing every week. For me, I hope that’s for Liverpool.”

Rush and Robbie

Rush, who will be on stage with fellow hitman Robbie Fowler in a Legends show tour that takes in cities including Glasgow this summer, says Allen knows where the back of the net is: “At the end of the day, he can score goals,” Rushie said. “The thing is with Brendan, he was happy to never give the ball way, to get the ball from the defence and move it around the midfield, but what I like about Joe is he knows to get a regular game these days he has to score goals.

“He’s done that a few times, Christian Benteke is knocking it down and there’s Joe in the six-yard box! He wasn’t doing that under Brendan.

“Playing for Wales, he looks really confident and that gives them a real boost.”

Allen will have 12 months left on his existing contract at the end of this season.

Top 10 players who could leave Liverpool this summer

jurgen-klopp-liverpool-new

With Kolo Toure and Jerome Sinclair all but certain to leave Anfield in the summer, Sam May takes a look at other potential players who could be heading through the Anfield exit door.

Christian Benteke

The 25-year old Belgium international has failed to live up to his £32.5 million price tag since joining from Aston Villa in the summer. Having had the chance to put the game out of sight against Southampton, he dragged the ball across the face of the goal, a miss that proved costly. Despite gaining confidence from his penalty at Crystal Palace, it is clear he doesn’t fit Liverpool’s style. The fans have been left frustrated by his recent displays and a move could be ideal for all parties. Having seen limited game time; a move could be the right choice for the player as he looks to recapture his form. Behind Sturridge and Origi, Benteke has previously been linked with a move to Tottenham as back up to Harry Kane, but whether this could happen in the summer is unknown.

Jordan Henderson

It would be seen as surprise to most Liverpool fans should he leave Anfield. It seems since taking over the armband from Reds’ legend Steven Gerrard, Henderson hasn’t been the player, fans would have been hoping for. Pressure of trying to live up to the expectations it seems. His performances have dipped and been disappointing of late. Liverpool need a leader in the middle of midfield, somebody who can take control, and be a game changer. With his relentless energy, being tenacity in the tackle and growing leadership skills, he’s a player who seems well equipped to perform in Klopp’s setup – just not as a captain. Recently linked with a £25 million move to Tottenham, it seems Liverpool could be persuaded to cash in on the 25 year-old in the summer. Klopp will see the qualities the England international adds to the team, although he will be acutely aware that if this is a side that is going to challenge for the top honours, many areas of the XI, including central midfield, need upgrading.

Martin Škrtel

Perhaps not the most popular man since his display against Southampton with many fans calling for the 31-year old to be axed. In the first half, the chase for Champions League football was on… then came on Martin Skrtel. By the end of the match, it was totally different. It wasn’t just the fact they had shipped two goals it was the fact the Reds’ lost the game. It was a nightmare return and 45 minutes for the defender, a day to forget. Despite this, we shouldn’t take away the fact; he has been one of the most solid defenders since arriving eight years ago from Zenit St. Petersburg, it’s a season too far. Having made his debut back in 2008 in the FA Cup against Havant and Waterlooville, the Slovakian defender has made over 300 appearances for the club. It seems time is running out for Skrtel. With the arrival of Joel Matip in the summer and another potential centre back, there could be no place for the long serving centre back. Tah? Süle? Subotic? These are just a couple of names Liverpool could target as his replacement.

Alberto Moreno

Spaniard Moreno has failed to live up to expectations since sealing a £12 million move from Sevilla in 2014. Scoring his first goal in the 3-0 victory over Tottenham that year – Liverpool fans thought they had a consistent and found a quality left back since John Arne Risse. Moreno does have something to offer, but he hasn’t lived to up what is required to make the grade at Anfield. He has blistering pace but commits needless fouls. Liverpool have recently been likened with many-left backs – but should Klopp sign 1. FC Köln Jonas Hector in the summer as his replacement? He would definitely be the perfect addition or rival Moreno for the left-back starting birth. He does however offer a balance to the equally forward-thinking Nathaniel Clyne on the opposite flank, and fits into Klopp’s style of play. No Liverpool player finds a team-mate with more deliveries into the box than Moreno, excluding corners. Should he be sold in the summer?

Jose Enrique

Almost a certainty to leave. Liverpool will look to offload the 30-year old Spaniard who is earning £65,000 a week. Recently, turning down a move to former club Newcastle it is not known where could move to in the summer. He has gone from being essential, to sporadic and has a mixed spell on Merseyside. With his contract expiring in June it’s not known whether he will find another club who will pay him the same wage. Jurgen Klopp had told Enrique that he wasn’t in his plans, but player himself decided to stay and try and fight for his place. Having signed in 2011 for £6 million by former manager and club legend Kenny Dalglish, he now finds himself a regular in the Under 21s, and behind Alberto Moreno and Brad Smith.

Adam Bogdan

Seen at the time as a good move, Bogdan has made some high profile and costly errors since arriving on Merseyside. Most noticeably against Exeter and Watford, he has found himself behind current number one, Simon Mignolet and Danny Ward. Having failed to take his chance when given, it’s seems the 26-year old Hungarian stopper is surplus to requirements and will look for a new club when the window re-opens. Many goalkeepers have been linked with the Reds’ including: Timo Horn, Loris Karius, Bernd Leno and Marc-Andre ter Stegen, so it seems there isn’t a place for Bogdan.

Mario Balotelli

Having recently been linked with a move to West Ham, it seems Liverpool could look to offload misfit, Mario Balotelli. The 25-year old, endured a tough time on Merseyside after joining the club from AC Milan in 2014. Having been shipped out on-loan by former manager Brendan Rodgers, who brought him in, he still hasn’t hit the ground running in Serie A, making just 10 appearances, scoring three goals. His agent Mino Raiola recently stated that Klopp could revive his Liverpool, but whether that will happen is unclear.

João Carlos Teixeira

The 23-year old Portuguese attacking midfielder has recently been linked with a £12 million move to Fiorentina. Joining the Reds’ from Sporting Lisbon in 2012, he has had limited game time on Merseyside, becoming a fringe player. Having had spells with Brentford and Brighton on-loan, he was brought back to Liverpool hoping to revitalise his Anfield career. Many Liverpool fans hope he will be handed a deal in the summer, when his current contract runs-out. He has a lot to offer and needs to be given more of a chance it seems. Should Klopp keep him at Anfield?

Luis Alberto

Alberto made just nine appearances, since swapping Sevilla for Liverpool in 2013 in a £6.3 million deal. Brought in by Brendan Rodgers, he struggled to adapt to Premier League football and was shipped out on-loan to Malaga and Deportivo La Coruña, where he remains. He will return to pre-season training in the summer but could be moved on following the squad re-shuffle which is set to take place. Klopp will look to strengthen his midfield, and Alberto doesn’t fit the German’s style, a move seems very likely.

Andre Wisdom

It seems a move away from Anfield is very likely. The 22-year old defender who is currently on-loan at Norwich City joined the Reds’ in 2008 from Bradford City. There is no place in the squad for Wisdom and a permanent move to the Canaries could be possible in summer. Making 22 appearances before moving out on-loan, he will look to find a new club this summer, as Klopp looks to strength his side ahead of the new campaign.

 

Golden Götze – Why swapping Munich for Merseyside would be the best option

mario-gotze-cropped_ms4s8917rng71ed6nvnqbvoi3

From winning the World Cup with Germany, to claiming four Bundesliga titles with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, why swapping the Allianz Arena for Anfield would be a great move for all parties, writes Sam May.

Jurgen Klopp is keen on a re-union with Mario Götze, as the German boss looks to bolster his squad in the summer ahead of the new campaign.

Honoured as “one of the best talents Germany has ever had”, by Bayern Munich sporting director Matthias Sammer, the glowing midfield magician – would write a new chapter for the Reds, should he swap the Bundesliga for the Barclays Premier League.

A step in the right direction going forward should we say. The World Cup wizard, who scored the winning goal in the final in Brazil back in 2014 after beating Argentina, has suffered a frustrating time in Bavaria of late.

Born in Memmingen, the 23-year old playmaker is seen as future Ballon d’Or winner. The fact is, his style would be a key part in what Klopp is trying to create at Liverpool. Under his former manager Klopp, the young, creative attacking midfielder played a huge part in Dortmund’s previous title successes and was a linchpin in the middle of the midfield. Unpicking locks under pressure against crowded defenses is a specialty element to his game.

After breaking in to the side at Dortmund he showed why German football has found a rare and immense talent. His flare, technical awareness, composure on the ball was evident to those in the Yellow Wall.

His €37 million transfer to Bayern Munich in 2013 was a surprising one. Becoming Guardiola’s first signing; he became German Football’s most expensive transfer, until Mesut Özil joined Arsenal. Klopp claimed Götze wanted to work under the stewardship of tactician Guardiola, using that as the reason for his departure. His career at the Bundesliga champions has never really took off. Spaniard Guardiola hasn’t gambled or given him the chance he would have wanted.

The fact is, he needs to be playing week in week out to look sharp and avoid looking sluggish on the pitch. He needs an arm around him, which Klopp will give him. It would also help him to get back to his best – a reunion with his former mentor? Being a versatile player he can play on either the left or right wing, attacking midfield role as well as the false nine position. His blistering pace, dribbling skills, tenacious tackling and play making capabilities has seen him become one of the best young players in world football. He has made just 12 appearances in this campaign, netting four times and making two assists. Despite his glowing CV at such a young age – the “German Messi” is determined to continue his development.

So just were would he fit in at Liverpool?

Klopp’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation would be the perfect option for Götze. The Reds’ could continue to use shining star Roberto Firmino as a lone front man. He has made 37 appearances in all competitions to date, scoring nine goals and made nine assists. Some of Liverpool’s best displays have come when the 23-year old Brazilian has played at the tip of the attack. He impressed in the 4-1 win over Manchester City and is improving game by game. Moving Firmino would mean Götze would sit next to Coutinho. As the jury is still out on Benteke, moving Firmino could be a shrewd move. As Götze can play on the flanks, he can get between the lines of the fullbacks and get forward – this would also help Sturridge. James Milner, the two Brazilians and Jordan Ibe are options but Milner, Coutinho and Firmino like playing through the middle, so he could fit in there.

At 23, and the scorer of a World Cup winning goal, his confidence would rub off on the rest of the red men. Could Klopp secure his services?

Who is Jonas Hector?

LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 07:  Jonas Hector of Koeln reacts during the Bundesliga match between Bayer Leverkusen and 1. FC Koeln at BayArena on November 7, 2015 in Leverkusen, Germany.  (Photo by Sascha Steinbach/Bongarts/Getty Images)

The Reds are keen on a move for FC Cologne left-back Jonas Hector. He is seen as a possible replacement for Alberto Moreno, should the 23 year-old Spaniard be moved on in the summer. So just who is he?…. Sam May profiles the £6 million rated player.

Fact file:

Age: 25

Place of birth: Saarbrucken, Germany

Club: 1. FC Köln

Position: Left back (with versatility)

What could Reds fans expect?

Jonas Hector has been with Bundesliga side FC Köln since joining in June 2012 from junior club SV Auersmacher where he played for four-years.

He has been an influential part of the back four for the German side this season, hence the speculation of a move to the Barclays Premier League.

Despite being a left back by trade, he can play in a defensive midfield position too – which would give the Reds an extra option through the middle. He may also be seen as cover for Moreno though, who was brought in by former manager Brendan Rodgers from Sevilla in 2014 for £12 million.

At 6ft 2 ins, he is sets a commanding figure,good in the air but also has blistering pace, offering Liverpool no less than three options – Left back, left wingback or centre back. He has made 26 appearances to date for Peter Stöger’s side who currently sit in mid-table 12th position. Being attack-minded, he is known for his dangerous deliveries into the opposing box, so left wingback may be the preferred option. Being left footed he would add balance to the current team as only Moreno is naturally left sided.

His versatility and range of attributes make him the perfect package for what Klopp is looking for. Hector was called up to Joachim Löw’s German national side on November 14 last year, ahead of the UEFA European Qualifying match against Gibraltar, and a 4-0 win resulted.

Capped 10-times for the German national team so far, he has a bright future and who knows it may be under Klopp as part of his revolution. Liverpool has not had a consistent left back since John Arne Rise, so a move to secure someone for the berth, and that versatility would be an astute one.

It seems likely FC Köln will reject any offers for their star man in the summer, who is under contract until 2018, but this may be only to push up his value if the right approach was made.

Could Klopp Kop this fellow German? We may find out in the summer.

Opinion: Stop thinking about money and start thinking about cups

Football in England is growing increasingly obsessed with the importance of finishing in the top four – but not for the right reasons, argues Jim Boardman.

uefa-cup

Liverpool take on Manchester United at Anfield tonight as the two sides meet for the first time ever in Europe. The prize on offer over the two legs – the return is in a week, on St Patrick’s Day, at their place – is a spot in the last eight of the Europa League.

Yes, the Europa League. The competition derided so long as the inferior sibling of the big-bucks Champions League, a competition billed as an inconvenience by fans, pundits, players and managers alike. It’s like the League Cup of Europe, a tournament looked down upon by snobbish supporters with blinkered eyes focussed on bigger prizes, snobs who see these trophies as pieces of tat and consider the whole idea of being involved to be beneath them.

How many of them then complain that football is losing its soul, that players are being paid too much, ticket prices are too high, club owners are out of touch, that the atmosphere inside the grounds has become sterile?

 

Before it was called the Champions League, you had to actually be a champion to take part in Europe’s main club competition, either the champions of your own domestic league or the Champions of Europe. Nowadays countries like England get four places – a fifth of their top flight – in what we used to call the European Cup. How many of them set out at the beginning thinking they could actually win the thing? How many of them are just happy to be playing in UEFA’s posher, more lucrative, tournament?

How often do you hear people talk about the importance of finishing in the top four?

How often do they say it’s important because it then means they are in with a chance of winning the European Cup next year?

It’s never important for that reason is it? It’s only ever important because of the financial benefits of finishing in the top four.

You’d be forgiven for thinking nobody wants to be in the Champions League to win it these days. They are in it for the money, the money that makes their club’s owners, managers and players richer but doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to how much it costs them to pay on the door to get in and see it. At least that’s how it seems.

It’s not just the money, of course, it also gives them the chance to see some of the world’s best players visit their ground. It’s like a series of exhibition matches because nobody really seems all that bothered about ending another season without that famous trophy in their hands.

shank-uefa-cup

Meanwhile the Europa League is seen as some kind of penance that has to be served for not finishing high enough on the league for one of those ‘lucrative Champions League places’.

Now, all of a sudden, people are talking about the Europa League being a competition worth winning. Is it for the chance to lift a trophy, once known simply as the UEFA Cup, that has been lifted by so many illustrious sides down the years?

No, it’s because you get a place in that ‘lucrative Champions League’.

Luis Van Gaal, Manchester United’s current manager, said: “United and Liverpool is always a big game. It’s historical and even bigger now because both teams are fighting for a Champions League place.” Or fighting for the chance to see their captain lift that trophy? No? He probably didn’t get asked that, to be fair.

Klopp, who says “It’s a great tournament,” found himself answering questions about his priorities and whether this was an easier route to one of those lucrative Champions League places than trying to get into the top four. “We will try to keep focused on the games rather than working out the best way into the Champions League,” he said.

“Now you can see the finish line in this tournament there are only good teams left,” he added.

“It’s something like a small version of the Champions League in its own right.”

Exactly, Jürgen. It’s a tournament in its own right with its own lump of silver at the end. At least someone is looking at it that way.

Tonight, at Anfield, Liverpool take on Manchester United for the chance to make it into the last eight of the Europa League, which would be one step away from the semi-finals, another step to the final and the chance to lift a trophy that remains iconic, regardless of how much effort is being put into making it little more than a token exchangeable for money and exhibition games next season.

There’s a reason why fans don’t have songs about finishing in the top four or the money their clubs will make for playing in a particular tournament. If money finally does win in football there won’t be any songs at all, unless they’re piped in, the customers will expect to be entertained, not to be part of the entertainment themselves.

The Europa League is still a pot worth winning, it shouldn’t take a Liverpool v Manchester United fixture to show that.

Reports: Reds in for £15m French midfielder

Liverpool are interested in a summer move for Crystal Palace midfielder Yohan Cabaye, according to sources, writes Sam May.

The Frenchman, 30, is said to be worth £15 million and is also a target for West Ham United.

He signed for PSG in January 2014 for £19 million from Newcastle United, before moving to Crystal Palace for an undisclosed fee.

Yohan_Cabaye_2015

With the Hammers moving to the Olympic Stadium in time for next season, they are said to be planning a spending spree. Cabaye is said to be on the top of their list. Kop boss Klopp is also planning a squad overhaul when the transfer window re-opens, suggesting a move could be very likely.

The former Lille youth player is described as a player who possesses “excellent vision, great ball control”, and “provides technical quality”. He is also known for his free-kick and penalty-taking ability.

Making 30 appearances so far this season, he has scored five goals and made two assists. He has been a regular starter for Palace this season, although his form hasn’t been enough to steer the Selhurst Park side away from the threat of relegation.

Cabaye would bolster the midfield and offer that experience in the centre. He would join fellow Frenchman Mamadou Sakho should he make the move to Merseyside.

This could help the Reds’ in their pursuit of luring him away in the summer.