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Rumour Mongering: With Tello Off the Table, Liverpool Join Johnson Chase

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After Oussama Assaidi signed for Liverpool without any paper, pundit, or supposed in the know in fact knowing the club was after the Moroccan winger until after the fact, the sudden sparsity of transfer rumours swirling around Anfield was impossible to miss. It wasn't especially surprising, given every person who makes a living or hobby out of rumour mongering had just been left at least mildly embarrassed by it being made clear just how out of the loop they were. Still, with multiple parties involved in any potential transfer—from clubs to agents to the player and countless others—it's a minor miracle Liverpool were able to keep their last deal entirely a secret until it happened, even if the club itself has grown better at keeping their machinations private…

And some developments on the transfer market don't actually require one to be particularly in the know—they just require the ability to put two and two together to get four instead of purple. On that front, any hopes Liverpool might once have had of acquiring Cristian Tello went out the window on Sunday when new Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova chose to start the young winger alongside Lionel Messi and Pedro as part of an attacking trio that quite thoroughly demolished Real Sociedad in their league opener. Tello tallied a pair of assists on the back of a strong performance, and if there were any doubts before as to whether he had a place in this season's Barcelona squad or would need to head out on loan to prove his future worth, now there is only certainty: Cristian Tello isn't going anywhere.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid's Nuri Sahin remains at the top of Arsene Wenger's wish list, and with Alex Song having completed his move to Barcelona it gives the 23-year-old Turkish-German midfielder not only the opportunity at Champions League action but also a strong shot at the starting eleven if he heads to the London club as is widely expected. With Xabi Alonso and manager Jose Mourinho both reportedly pushing the player towards Anfield, Liverpool were for a time considered frontrunners to land Sahin's services, but the player was always reported to prefer Arsenal as a destination for the coming season and it is widely believed that he will now end up there—at least if he can manage to make a decision before the transfer window closes.

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Nuri Sahin and Cristian Tello won't be playing any home games at Anfield this season, and joining them in that club could be current Liverpool players Charlie Adam, Joe Cole, and Jay Spearing, with all three being linked away from the club over the past twenty-four hours. The most solid rumours involve Jay Spearing, who has been targeted by newly-demoted Bolton as a potential loanee. For the 23-year-old Spearing, who last season proved himself far more suited to playing alongside a holding player than to taking on that role himself and who now finds himself behind Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson, and Jonjo Shelvey—all players younger than him—on the depth chart, such a move would offer the promise of playing time. For Liverpool, still hopeful a local boy might come good and prove himself a useful player for a Premier League side with top four aspirations, that playing time might help provide an answer.

Charlie Adam, meanwhile, may have been told by the club that he too is behind the same three players as Spearing on the depth chart and that if he wants playing time he'd be best off finding a club willing to pay £5M for his services. Though nothing solid has emerged as yet, there are whispers Everton might have some interest in Adam as well as that Liverpool continue to hope Fulham could be convinced to take the player as partial payment in any deal for Clint Dempsey. And speaking of Dempsey, though Liverpool has continued to show interest, Fulham has steadfastly stuck to their £10M valuation of a player who will turn thirty this season and is in the final year of his contract. Alongside his fairly high wage demands, this is more than Brendan Rodgers or Fenway Sports Group are willing to pay, and as a result there has yet to be a formal offer for the attacker despite that interest.

As for Joe Cole, after briefly reporting that both he and Adam had been told to seek new homes, the Times' Tony Barrett backed off and claimed that only the Adam revelation could be verified.

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It isn't all outgoings and players who definitely won't be joining Liverpool for the coming season, though, as multiple sources have added Liverpool to the Adam Johnson sweepstakes alongside Tottenham, Sunderland, and Everton. Johnson has made no secret of his frustration at a lack of playing time at Manchester City, and if he's willing to drastically reduce his £120k a week salary to secure first team football then a deal could be possible. Still, there's a reason the 25-year-old winger has remained a fixture on the bench for Manchester City, and though he might be an improvement on Liverpool's current options on the wing, given he hasn't seen regular football since his move from Middlesbrough in the summer of 2010 even that's difficult to be certain of.

What is certain is that from City's point of view he is seen as a clear step down from the calibre of winger necessary for a title challenging side, and at this stage of his career the people who do see him in training every day—at a time when few have seen him play much competitive football in years—feel it's unlikely he'll ever develop into such a player. Still, given City's vast financial resources, being deemed surplus to requirements might not always mean a player is without his uses. Johnson's case, however, is of a player who moved to City based on promise, promise that has now stagnated, rather than of an already proven player like Craig Bellamy who was unable to fit in following his move and a successful initial run.

Would Johnson improve Liverpool's squad this season? Almost certainly. But is he the sort of player likely to help get the club and its supporters back where they want to be or to some day develop into a top talent? On the evidence, almost certainly not. Last season, a number of Liverpool's more "reasonable" deals were for just the sort of player Johnson appears to be—the sort who most optimistic supporters could convince themselves were stop-gap measures meant to bridge the gap back into the top four. And if Johnson truly is a target, then one can only hope that this time around the decision to pay over the odds for what appears to be average English talent goes better than the last.