Buying a kit is like choosing a spouse. You are making a huge commitment to a person, and you hope that commitment is reciprocated. When you arrive somewhere with your kit, you want to make a splash, but the good kind that gains you immediate respect, the opposite of showing up with your old Torres kit. You want to spend your best years with any prospective kit, but you know if it ends badly you can just burn it. We here at The Liverpool Offside encourage you to choose wisely, so we've put together what we hope will be an annual guide to buying your very own Liverpool kit. Choosing which of the three unbelievably stylish kits to buy is hard enough, but then you also have to pick a name and a number for it. We're here to help. And towards that end, here are a few rules any kit-buyer should heed.
1) The Longevity Rule: This is probably the hardest rule to follow, since only Trev can actually see into the future, but take a moment to think about the commitment you're about to make. Then think, will this guy be a Liverpool player two or three years from now? Will my commitment be repaid? If you can't say 'yes', don't buy the kit.
2) The Not Creative Rule: Take a look around next time you're at a Liverpool gathering (be it Anfield, your favorite pub, or in my case my sexual fantasies). Quickly and roughly calculate the percentage of kits that have Gerrard or Suarez on the back. The number will be high, won't it, too high in fact, and you can do better than that. Acceptable exception to the rule: if you don't already have a Gerrard kit, you really should get one at some point. If you can afford to buy two this year, make sure you have a Gerrard in your closet.
3) The Ahead of the Curve Rule: You want to be the person who has the kit of the player who is about to break out, not the one who already has.
4) The Current Player, Current Kit Rule: Don't buy the kit of a player who didn't wear that iteration of the actual kit. So while it's awesome to buy a Dalglish #7 Crown Paints kit from 1983, getting this year's Warrior kit with the King on it smacks of non-commitment. Don't be that person.
5) The Youth Jersey Number Rule: On the one hand, it would be kind of cool to be the one who bought the Steven Gerrard #17 kit before he became #8. But really, and according to the Longevity Rule, your kit needs to stay current for at least a few more seasons, so hold off on youth players we expect to graduate to squad numbers more befitting of their stature (cough, Raheem Sterling).
Right, then, onto the squad.
Brad Jones, Sebastian Coates, Stewart Downing, Oussama Assaidi,
Pepe Reina, Martin Skrtel, and Kolo Toure would all seem to violate rule #1. It is with great chagrin that I consider Luis Suarez disqualified for the same reason.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, all of the following can be disqualified on the basis of rule #4, if rule #1 doesn't get them first: Suso, Raheem Sterling, Conor Coady, Samed Yesil, Jon Flanagan, Ryan McLaughlin, Jordon Ibe, Stephen Sama, Jerome Sinclair, Jack Robinson, Adam Morgan, Lloyd Jones, and Danny Ward. Andre Wisdom and Martin Kelly are interesting cases, because I think they may stick with their numbers, even as their status rises within the club. They remain in contention.
Based on rules #2 and #3, we disqualify Steven Gerrard (barring the exception mentioned above), Glen Johnson, and Jose Enrique. Our vice-captain candidates Lucas and Daniel Agger are also disqualified on account of rule #3. The time for them was two-to-three years ago, I'm afraid. Dani Pacheco is disqualified based on a rule that fittingly doesn't appear on our list: The You Must Exist In Order to Have a Kit Number Rule.
The Dark Horses:
Simon Mignolet looks set to be a big part of whatever it is Liverpool is going to achieve in the coming seasons. He's looked strong in preseason, has exceptional off-field qualities as well as leadership ability, and is the right age to boot. The problem with Mignolet is that he's a keeper, and nobody buys keeper kits. Fabio Borini is an intriguing choice. On the one hand, he hasn't shown much with Liverpool yet. On the other, he's really young, and Rodgers seems to believe in him. I wouldn't bet against him sticking around for a few years and getting his chance. And remember, risky does not necessarily mean bad for kit-choosing purposes. Martin Kelly and Andre Wisdom seem adjoined in the minds of many Liverpool supporters. Both are potential building blocks of the next great Liverpool side, and you could do much worse than choosing #34 or #47 for the back of your kit.
6) Daniel Sturridge: Sturridge had his mini breakout last year which is the only reason he isn't higher on this list—we're bound to see quite a few #15s floating around this season. That being said, if he can build on what he started last year, stay fit, and not violate rule #1, I think Sturridge may well be an astute choice this year.
5) Jordan Henderson: I had a hard time deciding who to place higher between Henderson and the Welsh Xavi. They're of similar ages and apparent standing with Brendan Rodgers. Similarly, you wouldn't bet against either of them being part of the Liverpool set up for the next handful of years. Ultimately, the fact that Rodgers even entertained the notion of shipping Henderson out last summer is enough to keep him below Allen at this still respectable peg, and, especially around these parts, I expect the #14 to be a very popular choice.
4) Joe Allen: To many, Brendan Rodgers will live and die by his signing of Allen, who some may think of as the ultimate Rodgers player. If Allen can resurrect his early season form of a year ago—and signs are very good so far this preseason—he may win both that intermediate midfielder role (not the most defensive, but not the #10 either) under Rodgers for years to come.
3) Luis Alberto: These next two may be controversial, but that's the mark of a clever kit purchase. Alberto has shown just enough this preseason to leave fans eager to see what else he has in his locker. He's already part of the discussion for the first-team starting eleven and he's only 20; he's got the great combination of outstanding technique and physical presence required to be a mainstay in a Premier League midfield, and with a solid squad number, he's quite clearly a massive breakout candidate for this year.
2) Iago Aspas: Aspas has won over many of his doubters with his 3 goals and 3 assists in preseason so far, and it may be his quiet confidence, it may be the strut in his step, but I think Aspas is nailed on to have a fantastic season. I assume many will overlook Aspas when they choose their kit this year, and I believe this will prove to be a grave mistake. This is truly a testament to Aspas' excellent preseason thus far, going from an afterthought to the runner-up. Disclaimer: at Gerrard's testimonial Aspas' kit said "Iago Aspas" on it, not just his surname. If this is how he plans to wear his kit this season, he may be docked a few places the list.
Your Champion - Philippe Coutinho
You could say he violates rules #2 and #3. You could say he violates rule #1, but then I'd punch you and start to weep. Thing is, once in a while you encounter a player who prompts a corollary all to his own. The Philippe Coutinho Rule: if your team has Philippe Coutinho, you buy his kit. If there was anyone still not totally enamored with this wonderful man-child, show them his goal in Thailand. People are already buying backup pants for those that will be flung asunder this season, Coutinho will be one of the Premier League's players of the year, and your kit choice will be safe for years to come. Ladies and gents, your kit champion of the 2013/14 season is Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool's #10.