Liverpool went from scoring more than 100 goals to barely breaking the 50 mark. They went from a thrilling title challenge and finishing second in the league to slumping to sixth with Stoke providing an embarrassing, 6-1 defeat of an exclamation point to wrap the season. As in the final days of Kenny Dalglish and Roy Hodgson’s tenures, the players increasingly looked to have packed it in.
Having gone from on the right track to seemingly in need of a complete rebuild, and having pissed away the Luis Suarez money they were given to reinvest last summer—Liverpool’s gross spend was a gargantuan £117M, while their net saw them invest a massive £38M on top of the money recouped from sales—the situation does not look good. The club need help all over the pitch, and could soon need a new manager, too.
The main priority, though, no matter what happens to Brendan Rodgers, has to be at striker. Daniel Sturridge, while one of the league’s best when fit, cannot be counted on to be a major contributor moving forward. Current options Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert, and Fabio Borini have failed to provide adequate cover. Divock Origi, soon to arrive following a season with Lille, has had a disappointing season in France.
As for what the answer might end up being, then, there seems a critical mass building up around a pair of rumours. One involves the club being willing to pay the expected £5-7M training compensation fee to bring in Danny Ings from relegated Burnley. The other involves Aston Villa’s £32M rated big man Christian Benteke, who seems an odd fit at best for a team wanting to get back to fast, fluid, on-the-ground football.
Benteke has impressed for Villa, but at least some of that has had to do with the space given to him by opponents, space that means he isn’t often made to pay for a sub-par touch or made to work overly hard to find space. Space that he wouldn’t be given at Liverpool. The likes of Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema may not be arriving at Anfield, but for the £32M fee Villa are demanding, Liverpool have to be able to do better.
Rumours of Liverpool interest, though, simply won’t go away, and multiple English tabloids are this week jumping on the rumour that Rickie Lambert will be offered up as a way of knocking a couple of million off Benteke’s fee. Villa, after all, did try to sign Lambert on deadline day in January, and so it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think they might value the veteran striker at around £4M.
Without the pressure of deadline day, though, the value of Lambert does drop. Plus there’s only a year left on his contract now rather than 18 months. And even knocking a couple of million off Benteke’s fee means, at best, around £28M for him along with a Lambert-sized makeweight. Which still leaves Liverpool seeming bizarrely focused on making the same mistakes over and over again when it comes to striker recruitment.
Following the disastrous way the 2014-15 season has ended for Liverpool, it’s hard to think of a worse way to kick off transfer season for the club than to spend upwards of £30M on Christian Benteke, and the potential inclusion of Lambert in any deal for him doesn’t change that.