Brendan Rodgers has worked wonders at Liverpool in only his second season in charge. Not only has the savvy Irishman brought Champions League football back to Anfield, the footballing philosophy he has instilled into his players almost secured the Premier League title and earned well-deserved plaudits along the way.
Yet the 2014/15 season could present a greater challenge. Liverpool’s success last season was due in part to a lack of European competition. Playing one game a week allowed the master tactician to focus the group on the weekend game and players were fresh. Next season the players will have two games a week to contend with.
This biggest hurdle for Rodgers this summer is bringing in top quality players for the right price. Liverpool need to improve the depth of the squad, but if media reports are correct, Rodgers will only be given a measly £60m to draft in reinforcements. Compare this to the £200m Louis van Gaal is expected to get at Manchester United, and the options for Rodgers are limited.
A World Cup year always adds value to top players and Southampton are already asking £25m for Liverpool target Adam Lallana. If a deal is not sealed before the World Cup, that price could be inflated above £30m. The Reds value the player at £20m but may be prepared to meet the Saints current asking price.
That only leaves £35m to bring in four players the Irishman has says he needs to cover targeted positions and if Liverpool transfer rumours are correct, BR will not have sufficient funds to bring in the players he wants. Ashley Cole on a free would warrant a major coup, but
with the Chelsea defender nearing the end of his career, he will be looking for a big money move, and FSG are unlikely to match the wages moneybags PSG and Monaco can offer.
Generating cash for players
Rodgers will also be given funds he raises from sales, and with maybe 10 to 12 players likely to leave, the Reds chief could potentially have another £30-£40m at his disposal. But with the £100m he will need to add more than a striker, commanding central defender, two midfielders and a left back to sufficiently build a squad that can cope with the demands of the EPL, Champions League football and two domestic cup competitions. For the prices currently
being quoted, that is a tough ask.
There is of course the question of whether Luis Suarez will make a big money move to Real Madrid. The multi-award winning striker will surely be courted by Los Blancos and the Uruguayan would find it difficult to turn down the opportunity to play for the Spanish giants. Liverpool’s owners may also find it difficult to wave away a potential £100m.
The sale of Suarez will of course solve BR’s cash dilemma, but selling your top players does not send out the right message. The importance of Suarez to Liverpool is untenable – the no.7 cannot be replaced! If Fenway Sports Group have ambitions to compete among Europe’s elite they should not offload Suarez at any price.
Gerrard at centre back?
Providing Suarez stays, BR still has the dilemma of building a squad on a tight budget. Reshuffling his pack and shifting Steven Gerrard to centre back will give him the commanding centre-half the backline craves, and save himself at least £15m in doing so. Toni Kroos or Bastian Schweinsteiger would be ideal long-term replacements.
The Reds' iconic captain enjoyed a formidable season in the deep lying midfield role and take a step back into defence is not far removed from the positions he dictated the game from last season. Gerrard’s range of passing and ability to read the game can still make an impact from central defence and allow BR to set his team up with stronger defensive resistance.
Rodgers will also have to rely on a couple of youngsters to make a breakthrough this year. The Ulsterman has already shown he is prepared to give youth a chance if they have the qualities. Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson have all established themselves as integral members of the first team over the course of the last two seasons.
Andre Wisdom and Suso are expected to return from loan spells as improved players. Vital first team experience for Derby County and Almeira respectively will mean the young hopefuls can step up to cover cup games and injuries when called upon.
Liverpool are also blessed to have several other youngsters in their youth academy that show great promise. Conor Coady, Jordan Ibe and Portuguese wonderkid Joao Carlos Texiera all show exceptional promise and were all given brief opportunities last season. Liverpool fans can expect to see more of the exciting trio over the next year.
With the return of Champions League football, the Anfield faithful can look forward to more exciting nights on the Kop, but unless FSG provide sufficient funds for Rodgers to strengthen his squad with proven quality, it could be a one-season wander in Europe’s top competition.