Rickie Lambert scored 15 goals for Southampton last year with a strike rate of 13.9%. He made ten assists. He was born on the outskirts of Liverpool, has experience playing in a similar system, would be on low wages, and wouldn't complain about being behind Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in the pecking order. At 32 years of age, though, he's clearly on the down slope of his career. Still, for the right price he makes for an intriguing transfer target.
With Sky now reporting a potential £9M deal to bring him to Anfield, questions about overvaluing an ageing striker who arrived at Southampton for £1M in 2009 are going to be inevitable. Conflicting rumours, though, suggest Liverpool's interest in the player maxed out at around £5M, and still further there have been clear statements made by Southampton's chairman that no players would be bought or sold until the club had brought in their next manager.
Ignoring that last, admittedly rather important part for a moment, if one speculates the Lambert deal is tied to Lallana the £9M fee can almost be made sense of as a way of helping to split the difference between Southampton's valuation of the midfielder and Liverpool's. Here, it pays to remember Southampton's demand of something north of £25M for Lallana always had something to do with owing 25% of any fee to Bournemouth.
In order for Southampton to keep £20M, they needed Liverpool to pay nearly £27M for Lallana alone. Throw Rickie Lambert in on top of that at the £5M Liverpool were rumoured to be interested in him at and it turns into a total cost of £32M for the two players—far more than Liverpool were willing to spend. Liverpool, meanwhile, wanted to pay £20M for Lallana plus £5M for Lambert, for a total cost of £25M.
If Liverpool were to agree to pay £9M for Lambert, though, and £18-20M for Lallana, it would mean Southampton would keep between £23-24M after paying out Bournemouth's 25% while Liverpool would pay around £27-29M for the pair. In essence, weighting the combined fees more heavily towards Lambert—but not so heavily Bournemouth would have grounds to challenge the moves—would mean Southampton keeps a little more and Liverpool pays a little less.
If that all seems unlikely, convoluted, and vaguely like the sort of thing a conspiracy theorist would come up with, that's because it kind of is. But then 32-year-old Rickie Lambert for £9M doesn't make a whole lot more sense. And this way just about lets Liverpool and Southampton split the difference on their valuation of the two players when their fees are looked at together rather than individually.
Though of course, even were one to embrace the madness of linked deals for Lambert and Lallana, it would mean Southampton would have to be in a selling mood. Which they probably aren't.