Who should Rafa target to improve for next season?
Assuming that Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is at the helm again next season and the fact Liverpool have endured a miserable time of it in 2009-2010, who are the players whom Rafa should be targeting to turn this around?
Let’s imagine for a moment that the Spaniard has a blank chequebook enabling him to sign the players he wants (yes, I know how unlikely that is at the minute at Liverpool, who are probably paying the milkman in Tesco vouchers).
Who should he target for next season?
- Jesus Navas (Sevilla) :
Liverpool’s main problem area, not just this season, but for the past 10 years, if not longer, has been wide midfield.
The fact that Benitez continues to play the likes of Yossi Benayoun (better centrally), Dirk Kuyt (a striker), Steven Gerrard (a travesty when played wide) down the flanks is more an indictment of the form of Albert Riera and Ryan Babel than an endorsement of the players abilities as a winger.
Liverpool need a fast, tricky winger to stretch teams in the same way that Nani or Valencia do for Manchester United, particularly down the right where Glen Johnson has done a manful job this season, but needs far better support.
Navas of Sevilla is the man. He is an outstanding young winger who would be a huge asset to Liverpool used down either flank.
2 Gareth Bale (Tottenham) :
Insua may be a decent left back technically, but his lack of height and pace has been exposed time and time again this season.
Liverpool need to upgrade here and upgrade quickly and the best option for them would be to make a move for Gareth Bale of Spurs.
The Welsh youngster has been in exceptional form this season but Harry Redknapp has plenty of options and if a fee could be agreed, he’d make an excellent acquisition and a significant improvement over Insua at full back.
- Luis Suarez (Ajax) :
Rafa Benitez needs to dispel this myth that Liverpool are a better team when Steven Gerrard operates best as the second striker behind Fernando Torres, with two defensive midfielders tucked in behind him.
It has been plain to see over the past few games that when Gerrard is teamed in midfield with Mascherano and a partner is played alongside Torres, that Liverpool look much, much stronger.
Unfortunately for Liverpool, striking partners for Torres are thin on the ground, hence a move for a young, world class striker who can ease the scoring burden on Gerrard and Torres. Suarez is that man.
- Micah Richards (Manchester City) :
Richards seems not to be in the plans of Roberto Mancini and as a result he has fallen down the pecking order for club and country.
Liverpool need a powerful, muscular and young defender to replace Carragher and give much needed back up to Glen Johnson.
Richards would do this immediately and would be a long term solution in defence, filling in the role that Carragher plays for the club at the moment, full time centre back, part time right back.
He’s still raw and not yet the finished article, but he would get the chance to fulfil his potential at the club.
- Juan Manuel Mata (Valencia) :
If Navas is going to improve the right flank then a similar quality of player is needed down the left.
Mata fits the bill and Rafa Benitez is already believed to be acutely aware of this players potential, having been strongly linked with the Valencia star for some time now.
Mata would give the side balance, a naturally left footed player who would provide a similar quality of ball from the left as Navas would the right, though they could interchange wings whenever possible to switch the angle of attack.
The thought of Torres, Suarez and Gerrard feasting on their crosses from wide areas is food for thought for every Liverpool fan.
What kind of money can Liverpool spend?
But this flight of fancy needs to be tempered with the harsh reality that Liverpool do not have this amount of money to spend, or anywhere near it.
In order to fund such purchases not only would several players need to be allowed to leave the club, to raise transfer funds, but also free up space on the wage budget.
Therefore the likes of Riera, Babel, Benayoun (though it would be with a heavy heart I’d let the Israeli go), Skrtel, Insua, Aurielo, El Zhar and Degen would all be allowed to leave.
In addition, I’d give serious consideration to the future of Lucas Leivia and Alberto Aquilani and if the right offers came in, I would consider selling either or both of them. The same would be true for Kuyt or Agger.
It sounds somewhat drastic, but it could get worse. The alternative is losing either one or two of Gerrard, Torres and Mascherano and for me, losing either one of those players is worse than losing all of those listed above.