The holiday season has a way of sneaking up on you. It's months off and of no concern, and then, almost overnight, you're fighting through overcrowded shops and trying to arrange last-minute travel plans. So too transfer season, as after months of mostly made up and meaningless speculation the world's rumour mongers have vomited forth to fill the gap between the summer window and January's, silly season is little more than a week away.
Whether or not the rumours are any more likely to have a basis in reality now than they would have a month ago is very much an open question, but it's got to the point we can no longer ignore what's coming...
Age: 21 - Games Played: 47 - Goals: 19
Seventeen goals in 27 appearances for Egypt
Sitting near the top of the table with a free-scoring attack, functioning midfield, and probably one too many centre halves, this January may not hold the same kind of urgency for an impact signing as last's did. Still, Liverpool could likely use an attacker comfortable in a wide role—similar to Diego Costa and Willian, two of the club's failed attempts at a big-money summer signings. Queue rumours linking the club to FC Basel's Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah.
The 21-year-old Salah is widely considered the future of Egypt's national team, and while that may not be quite same thing as being considered the future of Spain or Brazil's, it speaks to the promise of a player who has impressed against English competition in the Champions and Europa League. That he plays most of his football in the Swiss league, though, makes it hard to tell how much is substance and how much is hype when it comes to Salah.
Also a touch off-putting are rumours he could cost in the neighbourhood of €15M, and it's almost never a good sign when people start calling a player the "[country name] Lionel Messi." Still, friend, compatriot, and former teammate Mohamed Zika believes Salah is almost certain to join Liverpool and, at least in theory, seems an ideally situated In the Know who might, in a twist on the norm, actually know something.
Age: 24 - Games Played: 28 (CFC), 145 (on loan)
It wouldn't be a transfer window without Liverpool being linked with a move for one of Chelsea's spare parts. Throw in that the club's other position of need is left back, and it's no surprise Ryan Bertrand has been a rumoured target. Liverpool were believed to have made a bid for Bertrand in the summer, but at the time Chelsea wanted to hold on to the promising fullback. However, since then Bertrand has not only remained behind Ashley Cole on the depth chart but also fallen behind right back Cesar Azpilicueta.
With it appearing as though he doesn't have a future under Jose Mourinho, yet another loan for a player who should be nearing his peak rather than sitting on the bench seems pointless and Chelsea may have decided it's time to cut their losses. Bertrand has represented England at every level, including playing two matches for the senior side despite his struggles to see regular football at his parent club. He has spent time on loan at Bournemouth, Oldham, Norwich, Reading, and Nottingham, with his only senior league goal coming with Reading.
It's not a record that screams starter for a side looking to finish top four, but when it comes to raiding Chelsea it may be best to give Brendan Rodgers the benefit of the doubt. And if Liverpool don't land Bertrand, right back Martin Montoya remains a rumoured possibility. Similar to Bertrand at Chelsea, the 22-year-old has found himself on the fringes at Barcelona and has admitted to considering his options: "I will think about leaving. To take that step will be difficult, but I believe each person must evaluate their own role, and as the years pass you want your role to change."
Looking at Liverpool players involved in transfer rumours finds a rather short list this time around—hardly surprising given the club's success in the first half of the season. The one player who seems primed for a move away from Anfield, though, is Iago Aspas, who has struggled to make the teamsheet when fit. A handful of Spanish clubs are rumoured to be interested in the striker on loan, but a more interesting potential deal could see him headed to Swansea on loan when the window opens.
"We are hoping he can come here on loan," was how Swansea's Michu responded to talk Aspas could be heading to Wales, and whether the attacker has any special insight into what Aspas may be thinking, Swansea do seem an ideal fit if Liverpool have any hopes of Aspas making a mark at Anfield in the future. "It would be a pleasure to play with him. Iago has had injuries, but he has quality. He deserves to play in the Premier League. He has been unlucky. At Liverpool, they have Suarez and Sturridge, who have scored a lot of goals."
Meanwhile, Stoke manager Mark Hughes has suggested that Oussama Assaidi, currently impressing on loan at the West Midlands club, isn't likely to be there beyond the end of the season with the player targeting a return to Liverpool: "He's done very well. I think he's enjoying his time here, but I think he has ambitions to go back to Liverpool and show what he can do."
Deep-pocketed PSG splashed just shy of €40M on Javier Pastore in 2011, but the 24-year-old hasn't lived up to his fee and has since fallen down the club's increasingly crowded depth chart. However, after a flurry of rumours linking the player with either a loan or permanent move to Anfield or the Emirates, speculation has cooled. Still, with PSG covetous of Chelsea's Juan Mata, one of their stable of largely sidelined attackers—Pastore, Ezequiel Lavezzi, and Lucas Moura all find themselves in the rather bizarre position of sitting on the fringes in the French league—could be available.
Of the three, Liverpool would be foolish to turn their noses up at Pastore and Moura if either potentially world class player does become available at a cut-rate price. On the other hand, despite his physical talents, Lavezzi's tactical failings remain a flashing warning sign for a player who was often linked to Liverpool before he followed the money to France.