The final week before the Premier League season starts is an easy time for the madness of the transfer window to fade into the background, but with a few notable holes on Liverpool's squad, a couple of long-running sagas, and a handful of players expected to be on their way out any day now, all because the focus is shifting to actual football doesn't mean there aren't things happening in the tawdry world of transfers and transfer rumours…
Ever since Jordan Henderson's sudden and mildly unexpected arrival, nothing has seemed to go quite as simply as Liverpool's management might have hoped, and a week after seriously resurfacing as a target all that's left for Newcastle left back Jose Enrique before his imminent transfer enters Charlie Adam territory is a rumoured daily medical. For the record, he hasn't had one yet. But it's still been a case where almost daily for the past week everybody claiming insight, from the in the knows who probably aren't to the newspapers who probably aren't, has been quick to say the deal's all but done and big news is coming soon.
Sometimes soon can be rather tardy, but with left back Liverpool's biggest hole since time immemorial and Enrique publicly looking to get away from a Newcastle side that appears unwilling to turn its Andy Carroll windfall into an improved product on the pitch, everybody just keeps putting two and two together and coming up with Enrique to Liverpool. Increasingly, though, there's speculation that if this deal is indeed otherwise imminent, the issue could be that owner Mike Ashley is attempting to drag things out until closer to the close of the window so that, similar to the Carroll case, he can claim there wasn't enough time to invest in a replacement, tell the fans they'll spend the money in January, and then pocket it. Which means Enrique could be in Liverpool before the weekend, before the end of August, or maybe before the end of never if nobody in fact has any inside knowledge and it's just people guessing the obvious.
Following his sale to Sunderland early in the window, David N'Gog has been linked to half the Premier League and a few League 1 sides to boot. He's also been playing regularly for Liverpool during preseason, which seems strange for a player who was earlier sold to another club. Still, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again, and the most serious recent suitor in the David N'Gog sweepstakes after his seemingly certain transfer to the north-east fell through would appear to be Owen Coyle's Bolton. By varying reports Coyle is either eager to introduce the French striker into his exciting, attacking side, or N'Gog is desperate to move for regular first team football and begging Liverpool to let him go. Which in reality could all mean that N'Gog is happy to play a bit part at Liverpool on large wages and Bolton has never enquired about him.
Potentially joining N'Gog at Bolton would be defender Danny Wilson, though in his case it's expected that if he does leave it will only be on loan—at least for the time being. Early in the summer the big rumour involving the young Scottish international was a return to Rangers on loan, a move that for many would have made far more sense had it taken place immediately following his acquisition last summer. With nothing coming of that and Liverpool apparently both preferring current veteran options at centre half over the youngster while also by most accounts actively searching for new names to add to their defensive roster, rumours of Wilson's departure on loan have resurfaced, and this time they have him heading to the Wanderers.
If nothing is simple when it comes to player acquisitions, nothing seems simple in the outgoings department, either, with the deal to send Daniel Ayala to Hull running into complications over a week after it became common knowledge that the young defender was deemed surplus to requirements by the club. In his case, the complications come due to a late push from Premier League newcomers Swansea to sign the Spanish centre half who would count as home grown for an English club.
While having another side interested in acquiring a player hardly seems a bad thing when the club is seeking to offload, the recent announcement that the club had agreed a fee with Hull City only for the deal to seemingly stall has echoes of David N'Gog's earlier sale to Sunderland as part of the Jordan Henderson deal. In any case, when the club publicly announces that you're persona non grata as it has here, it's hard to imagine the player having a long-term future sticking around, with means that Ayala joins Jack Hobbs and Mikel San José (above right) as promising centre half prospects in recent years who were never seen as good enough by the club to displace the likes of Sotirios Kyrgiakos as fourth choice and from there work slowly into the first team.
With the aforementioned talk of sending Danny Wilson out on loan, it seems too as though Liverpool is already setting up the next centre back prospect who won't quite be able to make it with the club. None of which is to say that Hobbs, San José, or Ayala—or even Wilson down the road—would have become stars if their road into the first team and with it Premier League experience had been made a little easier, but with the conventional wisdom amongst many who follow Spanish football being that San Jose is set to join Barcelona following this season as the successor to Carlos Puyol, it's hard not to watch the production line of young Liverpool defenders stalling when they run up against the club's overabundance of unexceptional veterans with more than a little concern. After all, in retrospect it looks more and more as though Liverpool wouldn't be in the position they are now, worried about a natural successor to Carragher and a lack of top-quality options at centre back, if they had only managed at the very least San José's development a little better.
Which brings things around to what many see as the best readily available solution to the current lack of an elite (and healthy) solution at centre back: Bolton's Gary Cahill. He might not be in the conversation when it comes to the top defenders in European football, but similar to Stewart Downing he's a player who would almost certainly walk straight into the club's first eleven, likely at the expense of Carragher if Daniel Agger was fit, or alongside Carragher or Skrtel if the classy but oft-injured Dane wasn't. This is in contrast to Liverpool's other rumoured centre half target of recent weeks, Birmingham City's Scott Dann, who most agree is a solid player but who to many would appear not to be a clear upgrade—another player adding to the numbers, and an improvement on fourth choice Kyrgiakos, but hardly a lock to walk into the starting lineup. If one wanted to view Dann in the most negative light possible, it could even be suggested that he would be just one more body for the next Mikel San José—be that current fringe player Danny Wilson or promising prospect Andre Wisdom—to have his development blocked by. Cahill might not be the sexy pick, the instantly recognizable big name like Germany and Werder Bremen star centre half Per Mertersacker, but he would make the best side Liverpool could put out next season better than it is now. Given the position that the club is in and their efforts to climb back into Europe and becomes a serious contender for silverware, that would have to be seen as a good thing. Unless in the end he goes to Arsenal like many expect, in which case Liverpool never needed him in the first place.