Last summer, Liverpool rather famously spent big on players who created chances. To many, they paid far too much for far too little and the results haven't lived up to the expenditure, but regardless of whether one agreed with the approach at least there was a clearly identifiable approach: Find the Premier League players who created the most scoring opportunities and then start throwing money in their general direction. Now, with Liverpool failing to put away most of the chances they create, there is a major expectation that the club will be going after strikers. Lots and lots of strikers…
The French-born Senegalese striker—by way of Watford, Belgium, and Germany—moved back to England last January with West Ham following a failed medical at Stoke City. That it was his second failed medical following an earlier one at Stuttgart, with his knees being the concern in both cases, had left many clubs hesitant to chase after Ba despite his consistently prolific scoring record in three countries and allowed Newcastle to snap him up.
Beyond the lingering injury concerns, Ba also has a spotty history of engineering frequent moves, refusing to train with Hoffenheim to force his move to England and then triggering a release clause to walk from West Ham on a free when they were relegated. Still, with Ba entering January number two in league scoring behind Robin van Persie and rumours flying that the transient Ba's buyout with Newcastle is a mere £10M, it seems inevitable that he would become linked to Liverpool—or just about any club in need of a striker. The fear for anybody interested in the player will be obvious, with his knees and that he hardly seems to stay put for more than six months at a time bound to raise concerns, but his scoring form would seem to speak for itself and suggest that at only £10M, somebody is going to bite and—if the player is willing—trigger his buyout.
For Liverpool, though, in need of a short-term solution at striker as much as a long-term one—and with Ba's long-term prospects murky at best—the biggest argument against signing the player might well be that he will be gone until the middle of February representing Senegal at the African Cup of Nations. Despite persistent rumours linking Liverpool to the him, if they're looking for help up front Ba hardly provides an instant solution.
The 27-year old Striker from South London* has been the most well-known English name linked to Liverpool over the past few months, leading to a split between fans who look at his scoring record in the Premier League—one goal every 2.4 games—and see a solution to the club's scoring woes on one side and those who see an overvalued poacher and target-man on the other. No matter whether one thinks Bent would help Liverpool achieve a top four finish this season, there's no question that with three and a half years left on his contract and having only arrived at Aston Villa last January for £24M, he wouldn't come cheap. Villa have always been a club that excel at maximising their return in the transfer market, as Liverpool fans will well know from the failed Gareth Barry transfer saga and last summer's purchase of Stewart Downing for £20M—the most the club has ever paid for a non-striker and fourth behind Andy Carroll, Fernando Torres, and Luis Suarez on the overall list.
Looked at in that light, it's difficult to imagine a world in which Darren Bent for the £25M or more that he would cost represents anything approaching good value for money, but a bigger problem might be that there doesn't actually appear to be any Liverpool interest in the player. As least not that Alex McLeish knows about.
It's not frustrating, it's just the transfer window. People like to speculate and use social networking sites and they are having a field day. If there is anybody out there that wants him they certainly haven't contacted me and Darren has said on the record he wants to stay at the club.
Whenever I have asked anyone outside the club I've been told flatly 'No'. I have spoken to Kenny and he said there was nothing in it.
Right. So Bent doesn't want to go, his club and manager don't want to sell, and Kenny Dalglish has told McLeish they aren't buying. Which probably means he's signing on Wednesday.
He's Spanish. He's at a club known for its financial troubles. He's the top scorer in La Liga who doesn't play for Barcelona or Real Madrid. On the other hand, Liverpool is hardly a northern Spanish outpost any more and Valencia is the soundest financially they've been in years. That still hasn't stopped rumours of Liverpool interest, as Soldado joins the likes of of Juan Mata, David Silva, and David Villa on the list of players rumoured to be heading from the Mestalla to Anfield, with the latest being that Liverpool has contacted the Spanish side to at least gauge interest as they consider a formal offer. In the end, however, it seems a move no more likely than one for the likes of Gonzalo Higuan or Edinson Cavani—it just so happens that Soldado has swung back around to flavour-of-the-month status while the rest of the unlikely targets are taking their turn in the shade.
Another name, another striker—no matter the rumoured target, that Liverpool are in search of a finisher above all else appears to be the one consistent. Also, similarly to Bent, Lyon's Gomis is seen as more of a poaching target-man than a fluid creator in attack, and it's likely fair to say that the arrival of either would be bad news for Andy Carroll at Liverpool. In Gomis' case, the late-blooming 26-year-old has only recently begun to shift the conversation from one of idling potential to potential stardom, and some Liverpool fans have even used the club's rumoured interest to further argue the need for patience with Carroll.
However, when it comes to worrying about Gomis, the fact remains that he isn't yet the finished product, and despite clear signs that he is a massive talent there are concerns over a playing style that can at times seem lazy and disinterested—much as is the case with Darren Bent. Much has been made of the player being a similar age and having a similar scoring record to that of Didier Drogba when he moved to England from France, but the fact that he appears to have many of Bent's shortcomings while scoring fewer goals for his club in a lesser league than the Englishman would suggest that the only advantage—at least outside of foolish hopes that he would magically transform into Drogba if signed—would be in him carrying a lower transfer fee.
David "Junior" Hoilett
He's young, he's English (or at least English-trained and from a commonwealth country), he could cost the kind of money most clubs would pay for an impact starter, and before the transfer window opened most people outside of Blackburn wouldn't have known who he was because he's not the kind of player likely to make an instant impact at a bigger club. Which, going on early returns, absolutely screams Damien Comolli and FSG's Liverpool, because given a couple of years the 21-year-old Canadian winger is expected to more than live up to whatever transfer fee Blackburn demands for him—a number that can go as high as £18M depending on who you ask.
So far this season Hoilett's started 17 games across all competitions, appeared off the bench twice, scored three times, and added five assists. He has also handed in a transfer request and as a result was left out of Blackburn's FA Cup match on the weekend. That he is unhappy enough over what he sees as a lack of future opportunity at Blackburn to submit a written request may be enough to drive his transfer fee down into the single-digits, at which point that he's not a player yet ready to lead a club into the top four becomes far less of an issue. He won't make or break Liverpool's season, but if they can get him on the cheap he's a promising attacking prospect and exciting name for the future who fits the club's methodology.
Luuk de Jong
21-year-old Dutch striker de Jong, who has already scored 39 goals in 71 starts for FC Twente (with 14 goals in 19 this season), quickly became the January must-have for every Liverpool fan keeping track of the rumour mongering in recent months. Things became even more heated when rumours began to leak out that de Jong was eager to head to England. Then he was rumoured to be attending a Liverpool match. Then Damien Comolli was heading to Holland. And then nothing, as all of a sudden word leaked out that FC Twente had changed their minds, going from open to the possibility of selling the payer for the right price to dead-set against it for any price short of batshit insane. Some will hope that this move is nothing but a negotiating tactic from Twente, but with almost no new news on de Jong since 2012 began it seems as though this is one transfer that's no longer even on the back burner, even if it's the one that people were most excited about at the end of December.
*He's from Tooting, to be precise. Look it up.