This summer looks set to be a busy and hopefully productive one with players coming in. With that, players must leave too. John Ritchie explains why we shouldn’t mourn their departures and instead move on…
It’s strange what happens when you’re suddenly faced with the prospect of letting go… Goodbyes are never easy, splitting up with a girlfriend, leaving to begin a new job; realizing that maybe the decision to go there in the first place was the wrong one, the moment of discovering that your dream woman turned out to be not as dreamy as her outer appearances may have suggested.
In football sometimes goodbyes are met with a tear in the eye, sometimes the fans are chasing the player departing out the door with pitchforks; this year we’ve had two examples of each in Jamie Carragher and Andy Carroll respectively.
Yet there’s some goodbyes we need to really look hard into ourselves admit that maybe those things we love, are actually holding us back, yet it’s not something we want to face up to, and we bury it under the carpet for it come up and do more damage at some point in the future.
When it comes to Liverpool, our fans chant the names of our beloved stars; Reina, Gerrard, Johnson, Lucas, Agger, Skrtel… The names go on and on at Liverpool, those stars we put our faith in, those we idolise from the stands each week as we wait on in expectation that today will be our day, this year is our year.
However when we stand back and really assess the reality of the situation these very stars are those who have failed to deliver year after year.
There are some who have individually never really been good enough, some who never gelled collectively, some who have switched off at key moments in the big games or in what is a turning point in season, some who are just so unbelievably good that they’re heads and shoulders above the rest, but who can’t do it all on their own, some are masked because they had a few good games and they’re incredibly nice guys.
When Jamie Carragher retired and when asked why Liverpool didn’t win the league in 08/09, he replied ‘it’s simple, we weren’t good enough’. It’s an astonishing thing to say really, I remember sitting in the main stand week after week being blown away with just how good Liverpool were that season. Yet Carra was firm in his analysis, ‘we weren’t good enough’.
Under Rafa we didn’t exactly play exciting football, but the discipline, belief and systematic nature of breaking teams down usually sent the opposition away from Anfield feeling like a second class citizen to Liverpool. Away from home we struggled at times, far too many draws eventually cost us the ever elusive League title. At the time we were probably one of the best sides around in Europe and yet I still find it astonishing that we weren’t good enough that season, but Carra’s right our team didn’t deliver the goods.
Now Liverpool are edging closer and closer to doing some incredible transfer business early on in the summer, there remains a question to be answered as to who of those current stars will remain. Our editor here at TIA pointed out recently that it’s great we’re close to signing all these wonderful players, but is it pessimistic to believe that these signings are sweeteners for some of the other stars who may be on their way out later?
I’d argue that barring maybe two or three players, losing some of our bigger players wouldn’t be that bad for Liverpool. There’s nothing like a good shake up, so long as those players you bring into replace them have the hunger, desire and the ability and ability in order to really believe they can achieve great things.
The difficulty we have as a club is the fact that some of our more remarkable players are coming to the end of their careers. Carra has just retired and in a few years Gerrard will retire after all the amazing things he’s done for the club.
Glen Johnson will have next to no value towards the end of next season; his long term ambition is to end his career in Spain, a fluent Spanish speaker and a different challenge for the England international. Johnson could well be on his way out this summer, if not, it’d be willing to bet a fair few quid he’ll go next summer.
With Lucas Leiva facing an almighty challenge next season to recapture some of his promise he showed before his initial serious injury, there’s a real need to get someone who could look to challenge/stand in for Lucas next season. If he gets injured again, and we don’t bring in another holding midfielder then Liverpool will have found themselves in the same position without cover in defensive midfield for the third successive season. There’s a point when things that were once unfortunate over time escalate into complete stupidity; failing to bring in cover for Lucas really isn’t an option for LFC this summer.
With the writing on the wall for Pepe Reina, and Luis Saurez’ future looking increasingly uncertain it seems as though Liverpool will have a fairly big injection of cash in the transfer window. With Kolo Toure signed, Iago Aspas agreed and Alberto, Chirvella, Mhkitaryan and Papadopolous all strongly linked with not one player being sold as yet for any value, it is interesting to consider what will happen as pre-season starts to edge closer.
Other players such as Carroll, Spearing, Downing, Shelvey, Coates and Skrtel, have all been linked with moves away from Liverpool of late and if that’s true then there’s nearly another £30m Liverpool would have to spend. However realistically if we can’t shift one or two, then we’ve got potentially another £40-£50m for Luis Suarez if he does decide he wants to leave and whatever fee we could get from Johnston.
I’ll be devastated when the day comes that we do sell Luis Suarez, but we may have to and it’s only sensible we face up to that and plan for life without El Pistolero.
In total that’s nearly £100m including the rumoured transfer budget Liverpool would have to spend in this window and by all accounts they seem to have identified their targets well in advance of the season ending.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying sell the whole team and start again, however if we did sell, say for instance Glen Johnson, then really it wouldn’t be the greatest loss for Liverpool right now. On his day he’s a fine full back yet his form towards the end of this season showed a flaw in his concentration and his ability to actually see out a season playing consistently well. Don’t get me wrong I’m a huge fan of Johnson, however if he wants to go, then i’d see the logic.
There’s a train of thought that could be followed here to say you know what, these stars we idolise haven’t delivered the goods, so as you look to rebuild, then keep a core of your best players who still have the belief, the passion and know what it means to play for Liverpool and those whose head has turned to other opportunities, or lost the belief that Liverpool can be a great side once more, challenge for cups, titles and battle it out with the best in Europe then thanks for the memories, but its time to move on.
Jan Molby interviewed Lucas on his return to the side earlier this year for LFC.TV and interestingly it turned into a Lucas interview of Molby. Think what you like of Molby as a player, and for many he will divide opinion, yet he won 3 league titles, 3 FA Cup’s, one League cup and 4 charity shields. This man was bread into being a winner.
Lucas asked what it took to win the league and Molby didn’t even take time before answering he said ‘belief, we believed right from the outset we could challenge for the title’. Molby then asked the same question of Lucas and he sort of struggled to answer, yet he said he always hoped it would be possible.
If Lucas had given that interview 2 or 3 years ago, then everyone would have understood the why and the rationale behind it given the ownership situation and world class players leaving the club one after the other. Yet to say that now suggests that maybe the ‘project’ we keep hearing about isn’t what everyone’s bought into.
Make no mistake about it, it will take heaven and earth for Liverpool to win the League in the next 4-5 years and next year we may not even qualify for the Champions League. That depends on a number of factors that have to come together and sometimes external factors you cant control scupper the best laid plans. However if we have players at Liverpool with the belief all but gone, then I know I as a fan would want players there who truly thought they were on the brink of something amazing.
Saying goodbye is never easy, yet if it’s the best thing for a longer term objective and that objective is to win trophies, challenge at the top of the league and be competing in Europe once more, then you won’t find me crying.
One thing for sure, it’s going to be one interesting summer!