Thursday, April 16, 2009

Liverpool and the Transfer Market

Rafa: bought more downers than Amy Winehouse

As we get over the CL quarters, I thought I'd pinch an idea from The Likely Lad (well, I am a Scouser, after all) and look at Rafa's work in the transfer market since his arrival in 2004.

With all the momentum lately, as well as the slowly swelling hubbub of speculated Anfield departures, it's worth taking a look at some of the more memorable ups and downs of the fat Spanish waiter's signings and pink slips.

And yes, it's a slow news day as well.

Fernando Torres (Atletico Madrid, 20.2 million, July 2007)

Considering some of the colossal flops up front in Rafa's reign (see further down), Torres was the answer to the striking woes that have haunted the club since the retirement of Ian Rush. A predator, a battler, a trickster and a goalscorer, he's in it for the long haul. We hope.

Xabi Alonso (Real Sociedad, 10.75 million, August 2004)
Dirk Kuyt (Feyenoord, 9 million, August 2006)

If you looked at the Liverpool squad of today, you'd have to credit these two for being far more important to the cause than they're currently acknowledged.

Alonso is that rarest of breeds: a quiet Spaniard, he of the burgeoning face-scruff and alarmingly accurate passing. Known to control games like his country's bullfighters tame angry bovines, Xabi is a perfect, serene counterpoint to the badge-kissing mania of Gerrard and the sweaty, defensive hysteria of Mascherano (another massively important buy, one I excluded from this list).

He is the conductor, the maestro, the straw that stirs the drink, allowing his more fiery teammates to play their natural games without worrying about that patch of grass around the center circle.

While Alonso gains plaudits and praise whenever Mascherano or Lucas get themselves sent off or whenever Stevie G's groin or hamstring crumbles like the Temple of Doom, the facially-challenged Dutchman has been just as vital.

Unlike the large portion of footballers who are arm-flailing, ref-complaining divas, Dirk has played wherever and whenever without complaint, never giving anything less than his best effort (despite sometimes looking agonizingly uncoordinated at times), scoring important/ugly goals and keeping a low profile.

Without 'em, we're looking at the UEFA Cup. Sorry, Europa League.

Martin Skrtel (Zenit St. Petersburg, 6.5 million, January 2008)

Credit to Zenit for becoming the de facto talent machine that was Dario Gradi's Crewe Alexandra in the 80s and 90s. With the big names like Pavlyuchenko (crap) and Arshavin (not crap) taking the spotlight, it's easy to forget that this sure-footed center-back (PLEASE don't use him on the right again) honed his skills there, and was bought for a good price considering how tight the Russkies keep their fists when it comes to transfer fees.

Sure-footed, decisive, and downright scary (I swear I've seen him holding an AK-47 somewhere...), he is an able candidate to hold down one of those CB spots for many years to come. Now we just need Agger to heat his cold feet...

Andrea Dossena (Udinese, 8 million, July 2008)
Philipp Degen (Borussia Dortmund, Free, July 2008)
Jose Miguel Gonzalez Rey (Josemi) (CD Malaga, 2 million, July 2004. Sold to Villareal, Free, January 2006)
Sebastian Leto (Lanus, 2.5 million, July 2007)
Gabriel Paletta (Banfield, 2 million, July 2006. Released August 2007)
Antonio Barragan (Sevilla, 240k, July 2005. Sold to Deportivo La Coruna, 680k, August 2006)

(Yes, that's what Philipp Degen looks like, above)

There are some positions you just don't skimp on. World-class full-backs aren't cheap, and yet this collection of scrap metal have cost about as much combined as perhaps one Bosingwa or Sergio Ramos might on the open market. 15+ million pounds wasted on Argentine rubbish and lesser-known European twaddle.

Dossena's temporarily reprieved because of his knack of scoring late, meaningless goals in heavy wins, but take those two strikes away (and how gorgeous that finish at Old Trafford was, mind you), and you're looking at someone with a worse left foot than Daniel Day Lewis in that movie, and about as mobile/charismatic, too.

This collective of flank-dwelling drivel is perfectly suited to the defensively-carefree frolic of La Liga, where attackers hold sway and fans enjoy seeing 7 goals a game.

Ryan Babel (Ajax, 11.5 million, July 2007)

You know the type; the player with tons of talent and tons more ego who secures a big move to a marquee club only to falter, languish, before flourishing and living up to full potential elsewhere.

I fear this might be the case for young Ryan. When he begins his mazy gallop upfield, you just know it's a matter of time before he either trips over the ball or surrenders it meekly to whatever opposition traffic cone stands before him. It's frustrating to watch, and it's a big reason why he's found himself warming the pine behind Riera and the Super Jew.

That said, these things take time; could he eventually blossom, or is his confidence shot for as long as he's at Anfield? All these prodigious young talents need to marinate. Walcott was thrown in at the deep end but eventually proved his worth, and once he did, a spot in the starting lineup was assured.

Babel's glaring open-goal miss against Pompey might have been the final nail in his coffin, but let's be honest; the lad does try, albeit a little too much. When introduced late in games, he will dribble until his feet detach at the ankles, and that's part of the problem. Strapping the team to your back in search of a late winner or equalizer is noble, but he forgets that there's 9 other numpties in Red stood around him, trying to accomplish the same goal. In short: FUCKING PASS IT SOMETIMES!!!

With his raw pace, lazy dribbling and erratic finishing, he'd be perfect at Arsenal, although knowing our luck, he'd become the new Thierry Henry (settle down, NY Kid).

Jermaine Pennant (Birmingham City, 6.7 million, July 2006)
Mark Gonzalez (Albacete, 1.5 million, July 2005. Sold to Real Betis, 3.5 million, July 2007)

When I was a teenager, Steve McManaman had the right flank on lockdown, and rightly so; he was a gangly, awkward looking fella, but he was deadly moving forward. Scored a boatload of goals from the wing, gave defenders nightmares, and always had fun in the process. Fast forward to the present day, and we can't find a right-winger to save our lives, so much so that our workhorse striker has been converted into a solution out wide.

Robbie Keane (Spurs, 19 million, July 2008. Sold to Spurs, 15 million, January 2009)
Peter Crouch (Southampton, 7 million, July 2005. Sold to Portsmouth, 11 million, July 2008)
Fernando Morientes (5.5 million, January 2005, Real Madrid. Sold to Valencia, 3.1 million, May 2006)
Andrei Voronin (Bayer Leverkusen, Free, July 2007. Loaned to Hertha Berlin, July 2008)
Craig Bellamy (Blackburn Rovers, 6 million, July 2006. Sold to West Ham United, 7.5 million, July 2007)

All of these guys have a pedigree of sorts, and yet they were all shite at Anfield. Proof positive that not all great players can be great everywhere they go. Maybe we had these one/two season wonders during their crisis of confidence phase, and we were just unlucky. Maybe there's no such thing as a sure thing up front.

Maybe Rafa's just not that good at evaluating talent, although to be fair, you can go back a lot further than Benitez to find agony up front: Stan Collymore, Djibril Cisse, El Hadji Diouf, Emile Heskey, Anthony Le Tallec, Milan Baros, Florent Sinama-Pongolle, Titi Camara, Karl Heinze Riedle.

If you add up the money spent on these 5, plus the other 9 I mentioned, and you have nearly 70 million pounds.

Fuck. The mind boggles.

How many David Villas does that buy?


The NY Kid said...

So you're saying that Babel = SWP?

Steve said...

I think 70 mil buys you one David Villa, but then again, that's all you'd ever need.

Eladio said...

So there's a football team in Liverpool? Had no idea.

Mike Georger said...

When Babel was bought, people compared him to Henry. Two months into his stay, I commented that he was indeed the new Henry, because he would be misused as a midfielder with his first team, then sold to a team that would use him as a striker to great success. I could end up being right for a change.

I'll chime in on this later though, when I'm in the right frame of mind (not trying to wing a presentation on the DMCA)

machine gooner funk said...

we'll take babel

Anonymous said...

I'd like to point out that the money spent on strikers is nearly a wash with the money received on selling the same players.

If you get to try a half dozen strikers and see if any of them perform in your system for essentially free, what's the harm? Other than the stress of watching Keano let yet another wide open chance go begging> or Nando Morientes wander around the pitch lost.

Wingers? Yeah some real crap there.

I can see us selling a lot of players this summer to get a few expensive ones back.