Stephen Eddie is a neutral football fan and freelance journalist currently working in London. Visit his blog at Pulling Shapes.
The news this week that Liverpool might be priced-out of securing the services of Carlos Tevez is a good thing ‘“ especially if he heads to Real Madrid and not one of the Reds’ Premier League rivals (and you can probably include Manchester City in that, if we’re talking title contenders). He just isn’t the man Liverpool need right now, and especially not for the reported Â£25.5m Kia Joorabachian and co are asking for. Also, with Gillet and Hicks’ rickety finances, do they really want to get involved in such a potentially dodgy transfer? Then again, it seems to have worked out fine with former Joorabachain ‘˜asset’ Javier Mascherano.
Rumours that Tevez would head to Liverpool to join Mascherano have circulated since it became obvious he was leaving West Ham in 2007, and while two years ago he could have been a sound buy, now it doesn’t seem to be the best thing for Liverpool. For a start, where would Tevez actually play? To start in his best position he would need to displace Torres or Gerrard, which is unlikely at best, or else he’s deployed as a try-hard winger, Dirk Kuyt-style. Either that or Benitez changes the 4-2-3-1 system he’s been honing for the last two seasons which is now really starting to bear fruit. It would be foolish to break up the central partnership of Torres and Gerrard, too often unavailable last year, or to change a formation that lost only two games in the 2008/09 Premier League.
The same applies to Gareth Barry, should he decide to leave Villa for Champions League football rather than Abu Dhabian money. Where would he fit in? His days of being a left back ‘“ or even a left-sided midfielder ‘“ are long gone and while he might be equal to Mascherano and Alonso, he is no better than either of them. And it’s just odd to replace Alonso, valued at Â£20-22m, with Barry, who Benitez wasn’t willing (and/or able) to pay Â£18m for last summer. Should Alonso go, Barry would be a perfect replacement, but it would be a shame if Alonso was forced out to fund a Barry transfer.
Undoubtedly back up is needed for Torres, but Â£25.5m is an awful lot to spend on back up, especially as the main reason Tevez might want to leave United is that he doesn’t like being Plan B. Other, cheaper, striking options appear to be available to Liverpool from Spain, Italy (especially if the rumoured Serie A player exodus comes true) and South America. If Benitez is going to keep playing one centre forward then it makes sense for Torres’ deputy to have a lower price tag than him and to be willing to wait on the bench. Someone comfortable playing up front on their own, like Darren Bent with his confidence back, would be ideal.
Tevez’s goal scoring record in three Premier League seasons isn’t that great either: 26 goals for West Ham and Manchester United ‘“ the same as he scored in four seasons at his first club, Boca Juniors ‘“ and just five in 2008/09. That’s the same as Robbie Keane scored while at Liverpool and three less than Youssi Benayoun.
Compare that to Liverpool’s current strikers, Torres (38 goals in 56 appearances, a strike rate that makes Henry or van Nistelrooy’s stats look meh) and Kuyt (27 goals, but employed mostly as a right-sided midfielder with more assists to his name than Tevez). Even Andriy Voronin could argue he is in better scoring form, with more than a goal every other game for Hertha Berlin during his loan spell.
Defenders of Tevez might argue that his work rate makes up for his lack of goals, but not if you’re a Â£25m striker, and Liverpool already have plenty of busy players, like Kuyt, Mascherano, Carragher and Benayoun. And there have been games, such as the second half of this year’s Champions League final, where El Apache’s constant running has led to little more than tired legs.
A second striker is needed, yes, and a hard worker would be even better, but there are also other priorities for Benitez in the transfer market this summer. An accomplished right winger would be nice, although Kuyt’s crossing has improved a lot in recent months, and cover in defence is necessary now that Hyypia’s gone. If Benitez learnt anything from the Robbie Keane debacle ‘“ no matter who actually closed that deal ‘“ it’s not to splurge your money on players that don’t fit in.