With Brendan Rodgers set to be handed a £60 million transfer budget, who will be his summer targets?
According to the Daily Mirror, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is set to land the biggest transfer budget in the history of the club as a reward for masterminding the club’s return to Champions League football.
After a tremendous second half of the season – in which the club have recorded a run of 11 straight victories – the Reds can now finish no lower than third. What’s more, with just three matches remaining and a five point advantage at the top of the table, the Merseyside outfit have the opportunity to claim their first ever Premier League trophy.
The Northern Irishman’s reward for success will be in the form of gold, with the club’s American owners set to give him a summer budget of at least £60 million, which will increase with any funds generated from player sales.
With a substantial kitty, the Red’s manager will have a free license to improve the side where he sees fit. With this sort of money, and with an astute eye for a bargain, he could easily bring in between four and five top quality signings.
With Jon Flanagan and Glen Johnson being Brendan Rodgers’ first-choice full-back pairing, on-loan Aly Cissokho’s time at Anfield appears to be nearing an end. In addition, with Jose Enrique still injured, Liverpool are in need of a left-back. Barcelona’s Adriano should be high on Rodgers’ list of potential targets, whilst Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno and Borussia Dortmund's Marcel Schmelzer would also be realistic purchases.
Liverpool are well-endowed in central defence, with Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Mamadou Sakho and the returning Tiago Ilori – who has enjoyed a successful loan spell with Spanish outfit Granada. This is the area in which the Reds have the most sufficient cover, yet Rodgers may remain unsatisfied based on certain performances this season. He could look at Sporting Lisbon’s Marcos Rojo, or Kyriakos Papadopoulos of Schalke.
The Reds' leaky back four have conceded 44 times this season – a total superior (or inferior, in this case) to any other top five team. The club need reinforcements in defence, there can be no doubt about that, and this is an important area for Rodgers to focus his attention, but ultimately investment in more advanced areas will prove more urgent.
Squad depth will be key next campaign, especially considering the club’s return to European football. Rodgers has managed extremely well with such a slim squad throughout the campaign, but the club’s title challenge has been assisted somewhat by the continental distractions harboured by their closest opponents.
The Reds will find themselves in a significantly different situation next season and without the luxury of a less congested fixture list safety in numbers is going to prove vital. Rodgers will do well to bring in perhaps two or three additional midfielders.
He has opted to alternate his midfield system this term, switching regularly between a 4-3-3 and a 4-4-2 diamond, and this is likely to continue into the 2014/15 campaign. In my mind, to cater for his interchanging tactics, he will need to bring in at least one wide player and two central midfielders.
The club could, and are likely to, renew their interest in Ukranian Yevhen Konoplyanka of Dnipro. The 24-year-old midfielder was a January target for the Merseyside outfit, but his club's president blocked the deal right at the last moment. Ex-Reds trainee Tom Ince - currently contracted to Championship side Blackpool - would also prove a shrewd target. Either of these players would provide a solution to the lack of depth out wide.
Rodgers should set his sights on securing at least one high-profile attacking signing and considering Xherdan Shaqiri’s name has popped up frequently with speculation linking him with a move to Merseyside, the Northern Irishman should certainly pursue the Swiss if anything further materialises. Securing his signature would be an outstanding coup.
It would also be wise to target a long-term replacement for Steven Gerrard – someone capable of playing in the centre of the park alongside Jordan Henderson. Plus, with Lucas finding himself injured far too often, Rodgers needs to invest in this area.
Sevilla’s Ivan Rakitic is an extremely versatile option, or perhaps Liverpool could look at long-term Manchester United target Ander Herrera? Having said this, neither would fulfil the holding role as well as the current club captain. More adept defensive midfield players could come in the form of Porto’s Fernando or Rubin Kazan’s Yann M’Vila. It is going to a mountainous task replacing Steven Gerrard, simply for the leadership and passion he brings to the side.
It has also been suggested that the club could intensify its interest in Derby youngster Will Hughes, or alternatively, make a second attempt to bring Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Anfield - both of whom play in attacking midfield. However, Philippe Coutinho has proved his case in the last few weeks, and with Suso set to return from his loan spell, Liverpool are well accounted for in this department. Sterling, of course, can also play in this role.
Despite its successes this season, the Liverpool forward line suffers from a worrying lack of depth. Between them, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have notched 50 league goals them this campaign and it seems inconceivable that current back-up option, Iago Aspas, would be capable of reaching anywhere near these kind of totals if handed a regular starting berth. Fabio Borini has shown more of what he is capable during his loan spell at Sunderland, but still Reds fans will be left wanting more.
Liverpool will be left searching for another established finisher and French forward Antoine Griezmann, who currently plays his trade for La Liga outfit Real Sociedad, is one such player who could become available this summer. Benfica’s Rodgrio has also been involved in rumours within recent weeks.