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Liverpool outcasts: Who stays and who goes?

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Just two season's ago Brendan Rodgers had one of the worst squads in the league. 

Despite Liverpool coming within a whisker of winning the Premier League title, options from the bench were very limited. 

Rodgers usually had a similar starting XI, give or take whether it would be Raheem Sterling or Philippe Coutinho who played from the first whistle.

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In many games, the Northern Irishman made just one change with Coutinho replacing Sterling or vice versa. On the bench was the likes of Iago Asap, Luis Alberto and Victor Moses who all failed to impress at Anfield and were looked past. When given a chance to shine, they didn't cut the mustard; Aspas' corner against Chelsea is unforgettable. 

Fast forward to the 2015/16 season and Rodgers is in a contrasting position. He has accustomed one of the most saturated squads in the league; in fact, it is probably too big for his own liking.

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There is serious competition for places at Liverpool and the likelihood is that a number of players will leave before the transfer window closes. Some will want to depart as they seek for more game-time elsewhere, replicating Rickie Lambert's move to West Bromwich Albion. 

There were a host of players left out of Rodgers' squad for Liverpool's 1-0 win against Stoke City on Sunday. If the same individuals miss out again, they could seek a move away from Anfield in search of first-team action. 

The question now is who should stay and who should go?

Mario Balotelli

A 'calculated gamble.' 

That is how Rodgers described the transfer when Balotelli joined Liverpool for £16 million from AC Milan last summer.

The Reds needed a striker and, with limited options in the market, opted to go for the controversial front-man.

Balotelli promised to change his attitude and vowed to get his head down at the Merseyside outfit. He

was granted a £90,000-a-week contract in doing so and a large signing on fee. Rodgers and Co. were deceived - the Italian was never going to become the model pupil.

He netted just four goals in his maiden campaign for Liverpool with just one of those coming in the Premier League and was hardly used by Rodgers after Christmas.

Who's Interested?

It's likely that Balotelli wants a move back to Italy if he is to switch clubs.

However, after failed at both Inter Milan and AC Milan, his reputation in Serie A is in tarnish.

Sampdoria have reportedly expressed interest and Lazio are also willing to take him if they get qualify for the group stages of the Champions League.

However, both teams are reluctant to stump up the cash and want to take Balotelli on loan first of all.

Should He Leave?

In simple words - yes

His first campaign at Liverpool proved what most said about the signing - a calculated gambled turned into a ridiculous transfer.

The Reds are willing to cut their losses on Balotelli - and fast. His wealthy wage bill is taking it's toll, especially as he's been banished from Rodgers' plans; he was not taken on Liverpool's pre-season tour of the Far East and Australia despite being fit and ready for duty.

His lack of commitment to adapt to play selfishly around his team-mates was frustrating to watch last term and he has been one of Liverpool's worst signings in history.

Where Should He Go?

Paolo Di Canio recently compared Balotelli to a celebrity.

Where celebrities gain their most popularity is in America.

That would mean Balotelli would have to move to the MLS and it would be a move that would suit.

The pace of the game in the MLS is played so slowly that he could roam around the pitch at the pace he wanted and still succeed. If Bradley Wright-Phillips can succeed in America, surely Balotelli could.

He'd prove popular among supporters and would likely earn a decent purse from shirt sales.

Fabio Borini

Much like his fellow countryman, Borini is firmly out of Rodgers' plans.

Borini was one of Rodgers' first signings when he took charge at Anfield in 2012 and joined for £12 million from AS Roma.

The 24-year-old's opportunities were severely limited at Liverpool during the 2014/15 season and made just 18 appearances and scored just one goal.

Liverpool wanted to sell Borini for £12 million to Sunderland last summer but the striker was determined to fight for his place. That did not work out well at all.

Who's Interested?

The Express reported that Liverpool have until Wednesday to accept Fiorentina's offer of around £8 million.

The Florence-based side finished fourth in Serie A last term and they will be pushing for a Champions League finish come next May.

Borini has also been the subject of interest from West Ham United and, if the Fiorentina deal doesn't work out, Slavan Bilic could make an offer.

Should He Leave?

Borini showed an admirable attitude last summer and was treated a little harshly last season when desperate to impress.

He deserves to be at a club who wants him and where he will play every week. There's no doubt he has talent; when on loan at Sunderland for the 2013/14 campaign he netted ten goals and helped the Black Cats survive relegation.

Where Should He Go?

Fiorentina would be a very suitable place for Borini to move to. He'd play a significant role upfront for Viola and be playing in the Europa League. If he hit form, there's a very good chance he could break into the Italy squad.

If he wants to stay in England, the best place for him may not be going far.

Borini is married to a local Liverpool girl and they seem very settled on Merseyside.

Across Stanley Park from Anfield, Everton fans are not happy that Roberto Martinez has signed just two players in the transfer market thus far.

Some Blues fans are not all that convinced by Romelu Lukaku and want another striker to join before the transfer window shuts. 

Borini works hard for his team and has an eye for goal; he would be a welcomed addition for £8 million.

Jose Enrique

Enrique joined Liverpool in 2011 from Newcastle United and has made over 70 appearances in three-and-a-half years at Anfield.

The Spaniard has been very unlucky with injuries and spent most of the 2013/14 season on the sidelines.

With Alberto Moreno joining last summer and Joe Gomez moving from Charlton Athletic last month, it seems Enrique's number is up. He, like Borini and Balotelli, was told to stay at home for Liverpool's pre-season tour and to find another club.

Who's Interested?

Alan Pardew managed Enrique at Newcastle and was looking to reunite their partnership together earlier this summer.

However, it's West Brom who are reportedly close to closing a deal with the left-back as Tony Pulis looks to strengthen his defence.

In one-on-one situations, Enrique can be very tough for wingers to get past and, with Pulis having a tight ship at the back, could be an asset for the Baggies.

Should He Leave?

There's no hope for the 29-year-old in Rodgers squad and no point in staying to not even sit on the bench. 

Enrique is entering the back-end of his career and should gain as much playing time as possible before he has to retire.

Who Should He Join?

West Brom looks a very good place for Enrique to join.

They've got an up-and-coming side having just announced Saloman Rondon's arrival for a club record of £12 million from Zenit St. Petersburg and should be suited to the style played at the Hawthornes. 

Lucas Leiva

Lucas is Liverpool's longest serving player in the current squad having arrived from Gremio in 2007.

He was heavily used by Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish and had racked up over 250 appearances at the Merseyside outfit.

Lucas started slowly at the Reds and had many critics but his improvements have made him a favourite among some.

However, his pitch time has been limited in the past 18 months and, with both James Milner and Emre Can joining in the past year, the Brazilian has dropped down the pecking order at Anfield.

Lucas' seclusion from the Stoke squad has sparked interest he will leave in the next coming weeks.

Liverpool have confirmed that although Lucas is not for sale, they will listen to any offers. In retrospective, if the right price is bid, it will be accepted.

Who's Interested?

Inter Milan were rumoured to make an offer for Lucas back in January but nothing come alight.

Roberto Mancini is seemingly still keen to swoop for the 28-year-old initially on a one-year loan deal. Inter finished a lacklustre eighth in Serie A last season and conceded 48 goals.

With Mancini on a mission to get Inter back to the top, Lucas would offer plenty of stability in the centre-of-midfield playing a defensive role and help break down any attacks.

Should He Leave?

Lucas has been a great servant at Liverpool and has become popular among supporters.

Although his attacking qualities are limited, he still can do a bold job in a holding role. His persistent chasing and high pressure gives playmakers a tough time from the first whistle.

He too is neat on the ball; he'll never hit a 50 yard cross-field ball but his distribution is solid throughout matches.

There are going to be games when the Reds have a lead away from home and need to shut up shop. Coming off the bench, Lucas can indeed do that job successfully.

If Rodgers is to take the Europa League seriously, Lucas will also be an asset. 

He can give the likes of Jordan Henderson and Milner in the early stages and, if Liverpool are to progress to the later rounds, could start games and ensure away goals are not conceded.

Mamadou Sakho

When Sakho's arrival was announced two summers ago, Kopites certainly approved. 

He had a stellar reputation already despite being just 23; Sakho was an established international for France and had captained Paris Saint-Germain at the age of 17.

However, his Liverpool career has been quite underwhelming. In two seasons he's made just 34 Premier League appearances, albeit he has struggled with injury.

The 25-year-old has gained a reputation for being poor on the ball and very clumsy at the Reds and excitement from some supporters has switched to skepticalness 

Dejan Lovren didn't have the best debut season following his £20 million move from Southampton last summer, but is seemingly Rodgers' first-choice to partner Martin Skrtel and had a bold game against Stoke.

Sakho didn't even make the squad against Stoke. Instead, Rodgers opted to put 34-year-old Kolo Toure on the bench instead.

Who's Interested?

Sakho has insisted he wants to remain at Liverpool and fight for his place after two frustrating seasons.

If he was to seek a move away, there would be no shortage of clubs trying to sign him.

The 25-year-old is one of France's most consistent performers and is one of the first on the team-sheet.

Should He Leave?

Lovren's first campaign in a Red shit was far from convincing and he still has plenty to prove.

The Croatia international made seven defensive errors last season - more than any other defender in the top division - and another crucial mistake could well see him dropped.

Although Toure was on the bench at the Britannia, nobody is convinced he is ahead of Sakho in the pecking order. 

Sakho has showed good form previously and, with Rodgers reverting back to a conventional back four, he could benefit from the change in tactics. 

He'll get his chance in the Europa League and League Cup and will get his chance to prove to his manager that he's the right man to start.

Tiago Illori

At the tender age of 20 Ilori made a £6million move from Sporting Lisbon to Liverpool in 2013.

He was, and still is, rated one of Portugal's top prospects but still awaits to make his debut for the Merseyside outfit.

Ilori has spent the last two seasons on loan at Granada and Bordeaux to gain first-team experience and has now met up with Liverpool.

Who's Interested?

As of yet, there is no strong reports about anyone wanting to sign the youngster.

However, after impressing for Portugal during the Under-21s European Championship this summer, he would not struggle to attract a number of teams if he were to hand a transfer request in at Anfield.

In June, Ilori's father told radio station Antena 1 that his son would be given first-team chances at Liverpool this season. With Lovren, Toure, Sakho and Gomez - who's best position is centre-back - all ahead, it looks difficult to see the 22-year-old being a valuable member of the Liverpool squad this campaign.

Sunderland have been rumoured to be willing to take Ilori on loan for a season. The Black Cats done similar with Sebastian Coates last term and he did very well before making a permanent move to the Stadium Of Light.

Should He Leave?

Ilori proved this summer for Portugal he has a massive future ahead of him and Liverpool would be silly to sell.

What the London-born defender really needs is Premier League experience and test himself and see if he's up to the physical demands of the Premier League. 

Sunderland wouldn't be a bad destination and he would have the chance to prove his worth for a year before Liverpool decide whether he has a future at Anfield.

Lazar Markovic

After helping Benfica to the Europa League final in 2014, Liverpool beat a host of European club's including Chelsea to sign Markovic for £20 million last summer.

He was part of Rodgers' new-look attack who would again push for the Premier League title.

However, Markovic's debut season wasn't all that inspiring. He had a short spell in December were he impressed but, apart from that, didn't really meet the criteria expected of such a hefty price-tag.

Rodgers has increased his attacking options again this summer bringing the likes of Roberto Firmino, Christian Benteke and Danny Ings to Anfield as well as Jordon Ibe set to play a significant role.

Who's Interested?

At 21, Markovic still has a bright future ahead.

Last month, it was reported that Benfica are willing to take the Serbia international back on loan.

However, that would be a move that would prove unnecessary as he's already proved himself in Portugal and would learn nothing new.

Should He Leave?

Markovic showed the signs he can thrive in the Premier League and is one who has to be persisted with.

He's blessed with blistering pace and, when aggressive, can beat any defender on his day.

Rodgers used Markovic as a wing-back last campaign and it was a role that he was not accustomed to; the likelihood is that he's never been asked to defend before in his life and was put in a role that didn't suit him.

If Markovic is strictly asked to attack and kept out wide then he could well come good.

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Topics:
Football
Mario Balotelli
Liverpool
Lazar Markovic
Premier League

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