Liverpool forward Rickie Lambert has confirmed that he turned down the chance to leave for Aston Villa on the final day of the January transfer window.
The England international, who performed so well for Southampton last term, earned himself a dream move to Anfield in the summer of 2014, but has found game-time difficult to come by behind the likes of Mario Balotelli, Daniel Sturridge and Fabio Borini.
As such, according to the Liverpool Echo, he became a target for then-Villa boss Paul Lambert, who was at the time searching to put a halt to his side’s woeful run without a Premier League goal. However, though Rodgers made it clear that the Reds would not stand in Lambert’s way if he wanted more opportunities by moving to Villa Park, the player himself has since admitted he just couldn’t depart.
“I wasn’t aware of any interest until deadline day,” Lambert said.
“I got a phone call from the gaffer about 4pm saying Aston Villa had come in. He said he didn’t want me to go but basically offered me the chance if I wanted to play football, which is fair enough.
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“I spoke to my agent, I spoke to my wife, I spoke to Aston Villa and it was close. It was very close. It was touch and go. We agreed everything.
“The deal was agreed, but in the end, there just wasn’t enough time to say ‘yes’ - to make a decision in the space of four or five hours for the next two-and-a-half-years. Not just for me, but for my family as well.
"The deal was agreed, but in the end, there just wasn’t enough time to say ‘yes’ - to make a decision in the space of four or five hours for the next two-and-a-half-years. Not just for me, but for my family as well"
“It was something I just couldn’t do. It was too short notice. It was too big of a decision to make in the short amount of time I had."
Struggles for game-time
Since the close of the window Lambert’s fortunes with regards to minutes on the pitch have hardly improved, and the return to full fitness of Sturridge won’t do his case any favours.
The 33-year-old presents a different sort of challenge for defenders, but unless Rodgers finds himself in an injury crisis or a scenario where he needs to rest his big names, there’s more than one option he would prefer before turning to Lambert.
Fighting for his place
Yet the target man, who spent the majority of his career plugging away in the lower leagues, has insisted he isn’t about to give up on his dream of playing regularly for his boyhood club just yet, and though the idea of a move to the midlands interested him, his focus is on convincing Rodgers he belongs in the Liverpool fold.
“It was something that I would have probably looked back at a few years down the line and regretted if I had moved too early. It was very close but I just couldn’t do it.”
“It’s hard sometimes when you aren’t playing but I’m at the club I love. I’m not willing to give that up easily.”
New striking options
With Liverpool having struggled to cope with the absence of Luis Suarez, having decided to cash in on the Uruguayan last summer, particular pressure has been placed on Rodgers’ front-line, and few have managed to cope with it.
Balotelli has become a target for mass criticism, having failed to settle on Merseyside, and with Sturridge’s injury issues keeping him from the starting line-up, the success of last term has been impossible to replicate.
That’s why Rodgers might look towards the transfer window in the summer with plans to bring a new striker into the fold. Replacing the departing Steven Gerrard could become a priority, but with Lambert, Balotelli and fringe player Borini all looking ill-suited to partnering Sturridge, the acquisition of another goalscorer may be the better option.
Liverpool fans, do you think Lambert was right to stay? Or should he have taken his leave of the club in January?