2006 has been an eventful year in many ways and on the transfer front it has seen Rafa Benitez continue his rebuilding with 12 players brought in 15 departures and numerous others loaned out on deals expected to see them leave the club permanently. We take a look at the year’s transfer dealings which saw many surprises along the way!
Full backs, swaps and failures
The first deal of the year saw Paul Anderson arrive from Hull after a succesful trial, with fellow midfielder John Welsh going the opposite direction to the KC Stadium. Welsh had been on the verge of the Reds first team for several seasons but finally moved on seeking regular football. Anderson would later impress in the reserves.
The next bit of business saw homesick Spanish full back Josemi heading back to his homeland with Dutch wing back Jan Kromkamp coming to Merseyside in another player exchange… Kromkamp’s Liverpool career though went in much the same direction as the man he replaced, failing to settle or impress and he left 7 months later when PSV signed him for Â£1.5m.
After Kromkamp’s departure Benitez looked to sign Lucas Neill from Blackburn before the summer transfer window closed but Rovers wanted Stephen Warnock in exchange and the deal didn’t happen – although it does look nailed on for this January’s window.
On the other side of defence Benitez brought in Liverpool’s first Brazilian player in the shape of Fabio Aurelio on a free transfer from his old club Valencia. The free kick specialist though has began indifferently and used sparingly so far.
Strength in the centre
While Benitez has struggled with his full back cover he did make one seemingly excellent purchase in the shape of Daniel Agger who joined from Brondby for Â£5.8m back in January. The young Dane had niggling injuries at first but since the Charity Shield performance against Chelsea he has been in impressive form and opened up his account with a stunning strike against West Ham on the Kop’s 100th anniversary.
Another centre back brought in was Gabriel Paletta from Argentinian side Banfield FC, for Â£2m. He looks like another for the future.
The return of God
Undoubtedly the biggest surprise arrival occured days before the January window closed, with the second coming of Robbie Fowler. The prodigal son returned to Anfield on a free transfer in a move engineered to kick the Reds on in an important time of the season. The man himself told the world how he felt like a ‘kid waking at Christmas’ and the romantic move left many fans feeling the same. Fowler’s form – which saw him claim crucial goals against Fulham, West Brom, Bolton, Blackburn and Portsmouth – and and improved fitness saw him earn another year contract in the summer.
More Fire Power
The summer saw further strength up front arrive; Craig Bellamy‘s pace and trickery was added in a Â£6m purchase from Blackburn, while Dutchman Dirk Kuyt finally arrived from Feyenoord for Â£9m. The two of them have had good starts to their Anfield career’s with Kuyt in particular gaining cult status almost immediately due to his energy and workrate. Bellamy has started to hit the net more recently since his court case was concluded leaving him a more focussed forward in front of goal. The Kuyt – Bellamy partnership is currently Benitez’s preferred option up front.
Controversial right midfield solution
The summer saw approximately 876 right sided midfielders linked with a move to Merseyside, but few expected Jermaine Pennant – the controversial character who was convicted of drink driving in 2005 – to sign from Birmingham for almost Â£7m. His debut performance against Maccabi Haifa had fans hoping Benitez had found the man to finally fill the void on the right, but since then things haven’t been so great with inconsistent performances leading to certain unrest among fans. His form has picked up somewhat of late but he has been made a scapegoat at times so far.
Building for the future
Also brought in with an eye on the future were goalkeeper David Martin from MK Dons (Â£250k), attackerNabil El Zhar from St. Etienne (Â£200k) and left back Emiliano Insua from Boca Juniors (undisclosed).
Out with the wood
A host of departures in the summer saw several deadwood and un-needed squad players leave the club; Zak Whitbread left for Millwall after a succesful loan period (Â£200k), Bruno Cheyrou was finally shipped out to Rennes (undisc), Ramon Calliste and Robbie Foy were released (Calliste went on to sign for Scunthorpe), David Raven joined Carlisle, Carl Medjani went to L’Orient, Antonio Barragan left for Deportiva La Coruna (although he could re-sign in two years’ time) and Neil Mellor left for Preston after an injury plagued Liverpool career.
Fernando Morientes left in the summer after less than 18 months at the club, heading back to Spain in a Â£3m move to Valencia after failing to adapt to the English game.
Djimi Traore left for Charlton after 7 years at the club and having divided fans’ opinions during all of them years with his erratic defending but somehow showing signs of potential. The Liverpool version of Titus Bramble joined Charlton – where he was sent off in his first match for the Addicks. ‘Cruyf Turn Traore’ scored two memorable goals during his Liverpool career – one a right footed curler in Europe and the other an embarrasing own goal at Burnley.
And Didi Hamann left after 7 season’s at the club and having won every trophy except the Premiership during his time. A World Cup winner, a dependable midfield servant and a fans favourite who scored a penalty in Istanbul despite having broken his foot during the game. A hugely succesful Anfield career drew to a close as he left for Man City (via Bolton in one of the strangest deals of the summer!).
Loans, loans, loans!
Also away from Anfield now are Florent Sinama Pongolle, Anthony Le Tallec, Salif Diao, Scott Carson, Djibril Cisse, Darren Potterand Chris Kirkland. Kirkland’s loan move to Wigan has already been made permanent since the summer, while Carson has impressed at struggling Charlton, Pongolle say’s he won’t be returning after doing well for Recreativo de Huelva in La Liga, Cisse is set to sign for Marseille and Diao is plodding away for Stoke in the Championship, as is Potter for Wolves. Only Carson of those is likely to feature in Benitez’s long term plans.
The addition and implementation of Agger has undoubtedly improved the defence, particularly long term as a replacement for the ageing Hyypia. And with Aurelio adding cover, plus Paletta another for the future. With Neill set to be added shortly too and only Kromkamp departed, the defensive structure looks a lot more secure.
In midfield Benitez has added what we lacked a year ago at this time; pace and wingers – in the shape of Gonzales and Pennant. Although neither have lit the wings of Anfield alight quite yet both are young and have the potential to do so.
And the other area of the squad which needed improving was up front, where now with Bellamy and Kuyt you have a partnership which offers everything a modern day partnership needs. Kuyt being a potential “20-20” player (meaning he is capable of creating and scoring 20 goals a season) and Bellamy being a more Owen-esque finisher with pace and composure.
With the needed additions and the deadwood all but sailed away now, the squad has been shaped very nicely in the last calendar year.