With the European transfer market in full swing, one of the most active teams in terms of potential comings and goings is Liverpool, which is coping with ownership strife as well as financial restrictions that don’t plague teams like Manchester United and Chelsea. SBI correspondent Carl Setterlund takes a closer look at the Reds and what they are doing this summer.
One of the most interesting cases in the European transfer market this year has been the case of American-owned British team Liverpool. With owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett prepping for a new stadium at Stanley Park, funds have been in short supply for one of Europe’s old soccer powers. Rafa Benitez isn’t exactly in Arsene Wenger’s self-proclaimed situation, but in order to buy, Benitez will have to sell players to raise the funds. In order to do business, one deal hinges on another and it’s made for an interesting situation to keep an eye on.
First, Benitez sold out-of-favor John Arne Riise to Roma for a rumored £4 million ($7.9 million) to Roma in order to facilitate replacement buy Andrea Dossena to come in from Udinese for £7 million ($13.8 million). Now, as recently reported on SBI, England international Peter Crouch has been sent to Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth squad for £11 million ($21.7 million). We know what Benitez wants to happen next, it’s a matter of whether or not he can get it done smoothly.
Standing in Benitez’s way of an easy and productive offseason is Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill who won’t let this 800-pound gorilla do whatever he wants, especially since he knows Rafa is on a budget. O’Neill signed Steve Sidwell from Chelsea for £5 million ($9.9 million), yesterday, as an obvious replacement for departing skipper Gareth Barry. Although a deal is expected, Barry to Liverpool hasn’t happened yet because O’Neill is demanding £18 million ($35.6 million) for the 27-year-old, which is a little overpriced for a player of Barry’s caliber and an amount that penny-pinching Rafa is unwilling to part with… yet.
One reason for the excessive cost may be that O’Neill is giving a response to the valuation Benitez has leveled on 22-year-old goalkeeper Scott Carson, on loan last season at Villa Park. O’Neill was looking to seal a permanent move for his first-choice keeper, but hasn’t been impressed with the £10 million ($19.8 million) price tag slapped on Carson. O’Neill needs a good goalie to maintain last year’s level of play, but it seems like neither player will move at their exaggerated cost. It seems like both teams are genuinely interested in making these deals happen, but how the money will settle is anyone’s guess.
Also on the horizon for Liverpool is a possible swoop for Tottenham striker Robbie Keane. It’s reasonable to think Juande Ramos might sell one of Keane or Dimitar Berbatov, but there’s is almost zero chance that he ships off both players. If Rafa is to get this deal done, he’s going to have to make haste before another major European club makes a move on Berbatov.
The problem is that Benitez doesn’t yet have the funds to make this happen, unless he wants to put Barry’s deal on hold. Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso has long been rumored to Juventus, but Benitez says he’s not convinced he’ll sell Alonso. However, this is probably just posturing as he aims to milk £15 million ($29.6 million) or more out of the deal.
In all, Benitez has brought in £15 million so far, with somewhere between £20-25 million coming in if he completes the sales of Alonso and Carson. On the other end, Rafa has spent £6 million on Dossena then add in another £18 million for Barry and that would still give him upwards of £12 million to move in on Keane. Complicating matters is that Liverpool are still probably trying to offset the £18.6 million they spent to make Javier Mascherano’s move permanent.
Although not a great deal has happened yet, much appears poised to go down in the near future. It makes for an uncomfortable situation for Benitez who has to operate like an NBA GM up against a salary cap. It’s not unusual for a player to be sold in order to afford another, but the scale of Liverpool’s situation makes it a fun story to monitor over the transfer season.
What do you think? Is Benitez pinching his pennies where there’s no need? Will all Liverpool’s rumored deals collapse underneath them? Should he change his attention to cheaper targets?
Share your thoughts below.