Monday, 13 July 2009
WHY do Liverpool always seem to get shafted when it comes to selling players?
OK, sometimes they are crap - El Hadji Diouf (in £11million, out £3m) and sometimes they haven't worked out - Robbie Keane (in £19m, out £15m), Stan Collymore (in £8.5m, out £7m).
But sometimes it seems to me that clubs see Liverpool as a soft touch.
This worrying trend seems to have gone for a while now and as the games continue over the future of Xabi Alonso it's rearing its ugly head yet again.
Real Madrid want our player of the season on the cheap. Just like when they signed Michael Owen for a paltry £8million - or Steve McManaman on a free.
Well if they can afford £80m for Cristiano Ronaldo and £56m for Kaka, they can afford the asking price of £35m for Alonso.
If they don't pay, make him stay.
Alonso might have told Rafael Benitez that he wants to leave but he is contracted to the club - he's a Liverpool player with three years to run on his deal at Anfield.
And if his "dream club" won't cough up - tough.
Ideally, Rafa should make Alonso stay no matter what - Javier Mascherano, too.
Because I truly believe for the back end of last season we were the best team in the league.
And why jeopardize that when our rivals look weaker than last time out?
Manchester United have lost Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, replacing these undoubted talents with 29-year-old Owen, Wigan winger Antonio Valencia and little-known Frenchman Gabriel Obertan.
And now that Alex Ferguson has said his summer spending is over, even the United fans are worried.
Chelsea have got another new manager, could potentially lose their captain John Terry to the lure of untold wealth in east Manchester, and, like the rest of the Premier League big boys, are struggling to convince Europe's biggest stars to come to these shores.
And Arsenal? And what? A title-challenge looks highly unlikely to emerge from the Emirates - if anything their miserly dealings in the transfer market put them most at risk to losing their top-four status to the emergence of Manchester City.
So what of City? With Tevez on board, and Emmanuel Adebayor, Joleon Lescott and possibly Terry to follow, they will be no mugs.
But while money can buy players, it can't buy a team. And that's what Liverpool had at the end of last season.
Rival fans scoff at players like Dirk Kuyt, Alvaro Arbeloa and Yossi Benayoun.
But that team was sweeping aside opponents with ease in the golden patch of the final three months of the season.
With Mascherano and Alonso still on board - plus the addition of Glen Johnson and possibly others - there's no reason why the Reds can't pick up where they left off.
But without the first-choice midfield pairing? Who knows? Because with any purchase of a new player there comes doubt.
Will he fit into the team? Will he settle in Liverpool? Most importantly - will he be as good?
For some forum writers it's simple. "Sell Xabi, buy David Villa and move Steven Gerrard back into midfield," wrote one today.
Ignoring the fact Villa doesn't seem interested in a move to England, why would you want to break up the Fernando Torres-Gerrard partnership?
That is THE best front pairing in the league - as United and many others have found out.
But for it to thrive, it needs the passing of Alonso (second only to Jan Molby in my book) and for Xabi to pass, he needs the destructive force of Mascherano.
In other words, we had found the perfect balance - through the middle anyway - and if it is broken up it will be our rivals who are celebrating.
Keep it together and while other teams (hopefully) make a slow start, we can get off to a flyer, put down a marker and make other teams do the chasing for once.
The other argument doing the rounds is 'if they don't want to play for us, let them go'.
In an ideal world maybe - but with funds at a premium, and a transfer market more inflated than Stay Puft on helium, replacements look far from obvious.
Hang on to Alonso and Mascherano for a year - sufficient time to find replacements - and with the World Cup to come it's unlikely you will see a dip in form from either man, no matter how unhappy they are.
It's also Rafa's chance to show what he's made of in the transfer market now he has total control of the ins and outs.
Maybe then we can ditch the tag of being a soft touch, and if a player is to leave Anfield it's for the right money - or more.