It's often said that the best things in life are free. Craig Bellamy may not fit the new Liverpool mould, but it's hard to argue against the free transfer capture of the volatile Welshman being an inspired piece of business.

When you look at the players the Reds have signed over the past 12 months, it's clear to see Kenny Dalglish has a specific set of attributes needed from any prospective target.

They must be young and talented. If they are ever moved on, they must have a re-sale value. And they also have to have outstanding disciplinary and fitness records. Bellamy is the exception to the rule.

At 32, the former Manchester City forward has suffered with serious knee problems regularly in his career, and also endured his fair share of spats with referees and opponents alike. But, of all the players Liverpool have brought to Anfield in the past year, only Luis Suarez has made a bigger impact.

Bellamy himself believes he is a better player both physically and mentally during his second spell on Merseyside. But while Liverpool's No.39 might have hit a rich vein of form in the goalscoring stakes, improvements to his fitness and overall awareness on the pitch is what has pleased him most over the past six months.

"People who have watched me recently, like my father, will say to me, 'You just seem to be getting better.' I believe it's more to do with, not just the experience I have, but that I'm becoming more intelligent on the pitch," he recently told Liverpoolfc.tv.

"I always worked hard for the team but I made runs for myself at times as well. Now I understand, defensively, where I have to be and how to organise. I don't get disillusioned if I don't get the ball in certain areas.

"My whole awareness and appreciation for the team has grown which I seem to be benefiting from as a player. So that's probably more noticeable to me than anything else."

Bellamy was keen to praise Dalglish and his coaching staff for the way they have helped him remain in good condition over a hectic past few months - something that has been integral in helping him consolidate his status as a Liverpool fans' favourite.

"[My fitness] is down to everyone here at the club," he added. "They monitor me really well, they keep a close eye on me and the manager's been great. He's picked me in certain games and given me a rest in certain games.

"So I've gone into January fresh and able to make an impact off the back of basically the manager and the fitness staff and the coaching staff all looking after me."

Since the turn of the year, Bellamy has enjoyed an impressive goalscoring run, with goals against Oldham, Bolton and Wolves, as well as netting a crucial goal against his old club City, to book Liverpool’s place in the Carling Cup final at Wembley at the end of the month.

He clearly was the difference as the Reds powered into their first major final for six years, and it was intriguing to hear the comparison Steven Gerrard made in the aftermath of the game, when asked to sum up Bellamy's contribution.

"Craig has been superb since he's come in," the skipper enthused. "He's a fantastic professional who works really hard. He was a menace all night – that's what type of player he is. He's in your face, he runs in behind, he doesn't let you settle on the ball.

"I'm sure if he carries on, he can have the [same] impact at this club that Gary McAllister did."

McAllister was another Bosman free signing who arrived at Liverpool in July 2000, and quickly became a fans' favourite after helping the club to an unprecedented treble under the stewardship of Gerard Houllier in 2001.

His experience, and knack of scoring goals at the most crucial times during the end of season run-in - like his UEFA Cup semi-final penalty against Barcelona, or his injury-time free kick against Everton at Goodison Park - means McAllister will forever have a place in the hearts of fans in The Kop.

Bellamy's first spell at Anfield may not have gone as planned, but he is certainly making up for it this time round. He's never looked happier at any stage in his career than he does at this moment with Liverpool.

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#Craig Bellamy
#Premier League
#Liverpool