Power Ranking Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool signings
Not unlike some of his predecessors in the Anfield dugout, the transfer record of Brendan Rodgers in his time as Liverpool manager has been the subject of much debate. It particularly came to light last summer when, with a long-awaited return to the Champions League and a war chest heavily reinforced by the sale of Luis Suarez, a summer spending spree was inevitable. Rodgers has brought 24 players to Merseyside since taking the job in June 2012. Three years on, how many of those two dozen arrivals can honestly say they have backed up the manager’s judgement? I have a go at power ranking the players that Rodgers has signed, taking into account the player’s performance, transfer fee, impact on the team and whether they have much to contribute to the club in future.
Note: Two of Rodgers’ signings, Tiago Ilori and Divock Origi, have yet to play a first team game with Liverpool and hence are exempt from classification.
1. Philippe Coutinho
A magician of a footballer and an absolute steal at £8.5million from Inter Milan in January 2013. The Brazilian has been excellent ever since joining the Reds and although Suarez and Daniel Sturridge took most of the acclaim in Liverpool’s title tilt a year ago, the brilliance of Coutinho was also a significant factor in the club getting so close to ending a 24-year drought. Goals such as those he produced against Bolton, Southampton and Man City in February only endeared him further to the Anfield faithful. I firmly believe he would be a regular starter at any club in the Premier League, he is that good.
2. Daniel Sturridge
I’ll admit to being a tad concerned when, in January 2013, Liverpool splashed £12million on a striker who never made the grade at Man City or Chelsea. Those concerns didn’t last long as Sturridge settled in instantly to life on Merseyside, forming a lethal partnership with Suarez and becoming an England regular. He looked set to become the main man at Anfield after Suarez left for Barcelona last summer but sadly this season has been a tale of injury woe for the 25-year-old. Having been rushed back into the side on more than one occasion during 2014/15, a free summer with no international distractions will enable him to make a proper recovery so that he may well be close to full sharpness.
3. Simon Mignolet
Pepe Reina’s last season at Liverpool was a calamity and his departure for Napoli opened the door for Mignolet to arrive from Sunderland and instantly become the Reds’ first-choice goalkeeper. That status was briefly taken from him last December after a string of costly mistakes, but an injury to Brad Jones offered the Belgian a quick return to action and he hasn’t looked back since. While he still doesn’t command his penalty box as much as Liverpool fans would like, he has made at least one magnificent save, quite often a key one, in the huge majority of games in 2015. Also, the manner in which he has responded to widespread criticism of his form deserves much respect. No tantrums, no social media rages, just honest application in a bid to regain the supporters’ and manager’s trust.
4. Emre Can
The versatile young German was very highly rated at former club Bayer Leverkusen and, with most of Rodgers’ 2014 signings coming under intense scrutiny, his tidy, dependable displays have enabled him to escape the flak that most of his fellow newcomers have copped over the past few months. Rodgers took a gamble on playing him in a back three, but in a rather damning indictment of a few of Liverpool’s defenders, Can has looked more assured in the role than many nominal centre-backs. Comfortably slotting into defence or midfield, elegant on the ball and with plenty more mileage left in the tank, he definitely has a future at Anfield and, for me, he has been the best performer out of those who joined the club prior to this season.
5. Adam Lallana
After sticking with Southampton from the lower dredges of League One to the Premier League top eight, Lallana was finally tempted away from the south coast last July, although some were surprised to see the boyhood Everton fan opt for Merseyside’s red men. At £25m, the England midfielder was not exactly cut price, and like Sturridge he has had to endure an unfair share of injury troubles this season. Lallana has sometimes seemed an easy target for those taking potshots at Rodgers’ summer transfer activity, and reflecting on some of his missed chances he ought to have more than five goals for Liverpool, but he has shown his ability on a few occasions this season, most notably with two goals in the 4-1 hammering of Swansea and a masterful display in the win over Man City. The challenge now is for the ex-Saint to produce that level of performance on a more regular basis, and to improve his scoring ratio. A prolonged injury-free spell may allow him to do just that.
6. Lazar Markovic
Liverpool under the ownership of Fenway Sports Group like to sign players with potential more so than proven star quality, hence the investment of £19.8million last summer in the then 20-year-old Serbian winger. He had shown impressive glimpses in Benfica’s run to the Europa League final a year ago, but Markovic still seemed a substantial gamble and his first half-season on Merseyside was a struggle. However, the lightweight, careless boy of autumn 2014 gave way to a more rounded, intelligent man in the early months of 2015. The pacy youngster still has a lot of improving to do, but at least his performances since the turn of the year indicate that he could make good on that potential improvement.
7. Alberto Moreno
The Spanish left-back earned rave reviews in Sevilla’s Europa League-winning campaign of 2013/14 and £12million seemed a reasonable sum to pay for his services last August. He did not take long to impress the Anfield faithful, producing a magnificent solo goal in a 3-0 thumping of Tottenham in the early weeks of the season, and he has rampaged along the length of the left flank to good effect. Moreno can be susceptible to carelessness on the ball, though, and there have been games where he has been somewhat a luxury item. Overall, though, Liverpool fans can be satisfied with what he has produced, in the belief that better things lie ahead for him in a red shirt.
8. Mamadou Sakho
At £15million, the French international didn’t come cheap when he signed from Paris Saint-Germain in the opening weeks of 2013/14. A towering presence at the back, Sakho offers solidity but only when he is on form. He looks uncomfortable with the ball at his feet and is prone to being far too casual, his preference for a central pass rather than a basic clearance leading to a simple goal for West Ham in a 3-1 defeat earlier this season. To his credit, he was impressive on a consistent basis during the Reds’ 13-game unbeaten streak from late December to mid-March, but he needs to be more dependable considering the transfer fee paid for him and the importance of his role to the side.
9. Kolo Toure
Toure broke the mould somewhat when joining Liverpool on a free transfer two years ago, the veteran standing out amongst a raft of younger signings. He was never likely to become an integral figure in the first team, with his arrival more to do with bringing a wealth of experience to a developing team, although he put in some excellent displays early in the 2013/14 season. His stock plummeted, though, after a two-week spell where a disastrous pass led to a goal for West Brom which cost the Reds two points and he then contributed a comical own goal on a nervy night at Fulham. The Ivorian won’t strengthen Liverpool’s defence in the long-run, but his presence in the dressing room and the absence of a transfer fee at least justified his addition to the squad.
10. Joe Allen
After spending more than £80million on British signings in 2011, only one of whom (Jordan Henderson) could be classified as a success, it seemed that Liverpool hadn’t learned their lesson when they stumped up £15m on ‘the Welsh Xavi’ a year later. Yes, Allen was good for Swansea in their debut Premier League season, but it still seemed a monstrous fee for a player of his limitations and, three years on, there is little sign that he has paid the sum back. His work tends to go unnoticed, given his defensive-minded role in the team, but there are too many games where Allen himself also goes unnoticed. He makes the top 10 only because he is still a frequent enough starter and because there were actually far worse signings by Rodgers.
11. Rickie Lambert
The veteran striker’s boyhood dream came true when he joined his hometown club from Southampton last summer for £4.5million and, with Suarez’s departure imminent, Liverpool were making the logical decision to sign a proven Premier League goalscorer. Lambert didn’t seem to fit into Rodgers’ quick-tempo style of play, though, and has struggled to really make his mark at Anfield, registering only three goals all season. He remains popular with Liverpool fans given his local roots and his genuine effort, but when he was hotly tipped to move to Aston Villa only six months after pitching his tent on Merseyside, it doesn’t bode well for his future in a red shirt.
12. Javier Manquillo
Signing the young right-back on a two-year loan from Atletico Madrid seemed a crafty piece of business and Manquillo made an encouraging start to his Liverpool career, but the winter switch to a three-man defence saw the Spaniard being jettisoned and he has rarely featured since. It was quite harsh on a player who had done little wrong, unlike many of his clumsy team-mates, but with Rodgers unlikely to revert to four at the back any time soon and Manquillo a bit of a forgotten man despite the ongoing defensive question marks, he will have to fight for his Anfield future. I hope he gets a fairer chance next season.
13. Samed Yesil
The German underage international has known nothing but back luck since moving to Liverpool in 2012. What should have been the progressive years of his fledgling career were robbed from him through injuries, restricting him to only two first team appearances, both in the Capital One Cup in 2012/13, in all of that time. Yesil has tried to obtain some degree of match fitness through Liverpool under 21 action, where he scored twice in a recent win over Tottenham, and hopefully an injury-free season will at least see him being given a chance next year. He still has it all to prove, and after being sidelined for so long it may be a struggle, but once he’s fully fit he deserves to be given a go.
14. Fabio Borini
The Italian striker was Rodgers’ first Liverpool signing back in July 2012 and while he may have outlasted quite a few newer arrivals since then, his future almost certainly lies elsewhere. He was OK in flashes in his first season at Anfield, but once Daniel Sturridge arrived, Borini saw little first team action and was shipped on loan to Sunderland, where he impressed enough to be recalled a year later. His rejection of a permanent move to Wearside showed no shortage of self-confidence, but in a season where Liverpool have lacked a potent striker, Borini has not seized his chance to become a regular starter. He is not going to be the long-term answer up front for Rodgers.
15. Victor Moses
The Nigerian was an intriguing loan signing in 2013 from Chelsea, where first team opportunities were limited, and a well-taken goal on his Liverpool debut in a 2-2 draw at Swansea suggested that Rodgers had got it bang on. Sadly that was as good as it got for Moses in a red shirt, his only other goal for the club coming in an FA Cup win at Bournemouth, and he showed none of the form which prompted Chelsea to cherry-pick him from Wigan in the first place. He was restricted to substitute appearances as Liverpool’s title charge collapsed and missing an open goal in injury time in the fateful 3-3 at Crystal Palace was the last straw.
16. Oussama Assaidi
The young Moroccan arrived from Heerenveen in 2012 for £3million and was generally restricted to Europa League and Capital One Cup action, where he only showed sporadic glimpses of his ability. He never managed to force his way into regular first team contention and it was little surprise that he was let off to Stoke just a year later. It is said that Assaidi’s best contribution to Liverpool was a stunning injury time winner for the Potters against Chelsea in December 2013, which doesn’t say much for his time at Anfield.
17. Iago Aspas
The £7million signing from Celta Vigo in June 2013 was handed the number nine shirt at Liverpool but instead of being the next Robbie Fowler or Fernando Torres, he was more El Hadji Diouf and Djibril Cisse material. The Spanish striker netted just once in competitive action for Liverpool, in a 2-0 FA Cup win against Oldham, and his time at Anfield is best remembered for the corner which he passed straight to a Chelsea player in the crushing defeat late that season. Aspas lasted only a year at Anfield and he won’t be remembered fondly by Liverpool supporters.
18. Dejan Lovren
With Liverpool’s defensive problems proving costly in 2013/14, luring the burly Croatian from Southampton looked an ideal remedy, albeit one which cost £20millon. Having impressed for the Saints and previously at Lyon, Lovren ought to have been a good fit for Liverpool. Instead he turned out to be a tortoise-slow, tactically clueless flop who cannot be trusted. How Southampton fans must look at Jose Fonte and Toby Alderweireld and laugh their heads off when they see Lovren turning in another dismal performance elsewhere.
19. Nuri Sahin
The Turkey international was outstanding at Borussia Dortmund before joining Real Madrid, where he found the going much tougher. Rodgers brought him on loan to Liverpool in August 2012 for what should have been a revitalisation of Sahin’s career. He lasted just five months before the Reds terminated the deal and he is on record as saying he was unhappy during his time at Merseyside. A classic example of a move that just didn’t work out for any of the parties concerned.
20. Mario Balotelli
Surely Rodgers must have known what he was getting into when he brought this fella to Anfield last August? OK, Balotelli has shown that he’s got talent, but far more abundant is his lackadaisical attitude and general nuisance-making. This season it appears that even his talent has deserted him, with a pitiful return of just four goals, although two of those were vital strikes against Ludogorets and Tottenham. Still, the ease with which those goals can be recalled sums up how much of a disaster Balotelli has been. You expect so much more for £16million and Liverpool will be extremely fortunate if they can move him on for anywhere close to that fee.
21. Luis Alberto
After joining from Sevilla for £6.8million, Alberto swiftly became a regular at Liverpool…on the bench. Currently on loan to Malaga, it is most unlikely that he will ever see first team action again for the Reds. Another forgotten man of Liverpool folklore.
22. Aly Cissokho
Within 10 minutes of his Liverpool debut in a League Cup tie against Notts County, Cissokho got injured. When he came back, the wing-back looked unconvincing defensively and harmless going forward. He’s Aston Villa’s problem now.
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