When one ponders the bundle of benign madness that is José Enrique, it's hard to suppress a smile. The endearingly daft Spaniard is inherently entertaining, you see. Capable of moments of utterly bovine detachment, which can cause minor cardiac episodes in those of us who are a little too invested for our own good, he is also possessed of enough footballing adroitness to be easily the best option currently available to Brendan Rodgers on the left. Whether he's saturating Twitter with a plethora of unnecessarily topless selfies or careening threateningly down Liverpool's flank, your scribbler tends to have a bemused, indulgent grin plastered across his careworn visage whenever the musclebound full back is in the spotlight.
This week, newly recovered from a long term injury, Enrique pranced triumphantly back into said glare. He's ready to challenge again for a spot in the first team and with Aly Cissokho, who helpfully contributed to the crazy last season, no longer around, the bafflingly hirsute defender is the only specialist in his position in the squad. This then, is where the issue arises. Ask any ten Liverpool fans which position they would most like to strengthen and eleven of them (we're a resourceful lot) will say left full back. There are many reasons for this and supporters' uneasiness should not be interpreted as a direct insult to Enrique.
As Liverpool embark on a season of justifiably heightened expectations, even post-Suárez, the area of the team which will most occupy the thoughts of the fans is not the newly bereft striking department, but rather the defence, which precipitated so many Twitter meltdowns over the course of the last campaign. Rodgers' current solution to the central issues seems to be Dejan Lovren, and that, dear reader, is another morning's fraught and grumpy work. Either side of the centre-halves, Glen Johnson appears to be a favoured choice and one imagines that Jon Flanagan will have to be ousted by Enrique, given his stellar work of late.
Those options, however, hardly scream ambition. As the season ended and the rumour mongering began in earnest, it seemed that the Redmen were in pole position to recruit Alberto Moreno, the highly rated 22 year old Sevilla left back. Moreno is the kind of player that gets fans excited. Mobile, technically deft and at the start of a promising career, he seemed the perfect fit for Rodgers' progressive vision. The fact that he resembled the love-child of an illicit tryst between Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard merely added to his appeal. Alas, people claiming to be in the know (love those guys) are now suggesting that any deal is essentially dead in the water and attentions were reported to have switched to the altogether less inspirational option of Chelsea's Ryan Bertrand.
On the Chelsea man, it is probably wise to remember two things; Thing The First -- if noted eye-gouger and all round Machiavellian misanthrope, Jose Mourinho, is willing to let a player go to Liverpool, after the coup the club managed when recruiting Daniel Sturridge for £12m, then one should automatically be suspicious. Thing The Second -- Victor Moses. That's it. Just...Victor Moses.
At any rate, Liverpool's altogether more lovable José, he of the Enrique clan, is ready to reclaim his place in the team and is throwing himself into the pre-season preparation with the kind of gusto one would expect from a man who prefers endless FIFA sessions on his Playstation to, y'know, sleep. To hear him speak of the season to come and his hopes for his own campaign is to hear the ecstatic repetitive gibbering of a man yearning to do what he does best. He is bursting to play again.
"I've been here for a week already," Enrique gushed to Liverpoolfc.com. "I've been here since last week and I'm really happy - I've been waiting for this moment for so long. I'm feeling great. I'm really happy to try to be playing games again. I've been working in the summer and I've been here for the last week. I've been working quite a lot in fitness terms. You can work on your own, but when you work with other people it's different. They told me little by little, I have to be careful, because I don't want a setback. I've been working with the physios; I only stopped for a week but for the rest of the holidays, I have been working because I have to be completely fit for this season.
"Next season we have four competitions so everyone is going to have games. That's even better for my teammates and me as well. If you don't have a chance in one competition, you're going to have a chance in another competition. Everyone is looking forward. Of course, there are still so many players to come from the World Cup. But I see everyone so excited; the atmosphere is amazing, like always, so everyone is really looking forward to it."
These typically effusive words from the Spaniard are part of why it's impossible to harbour any ill will towards him. If he can remain injury free, he will offer Brendan Rodgers what he has always provided for the Antrim man -- a muscular, pleasingly skilful raiding presence on Liverpool's left, an unorthodox but effective defensive capacity in one-on-one situations and a maddening propensity for switching off at key moments. It's the José Enrique shuffle. You may not be a fan, but damn it, he'll make you smile as much as he'll make you wince.