Reds need bigger boost

Reds need bigger boost
Roberto Firmino
PHOTO: AFP

The big-money move for Roberto Firmino should come as a relief to Liverpool fans.

That it was done early in pre-season meant that there would be no repeat of the panic buying that took place in the final days of last summer's transfer window, when the hapless Mario Balotelli dashed through the Anfield turnstiles.

Secondly, the 23-year-old Brazilian, while no out-and-out striker, should add some much-needed class to a lightweight attack that proved to be their downfall in the previous term.

The arrival of young striker Danny Ings provides more depth to an offence that can now boast of a mouth-watering triumvirate of Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, with Ings, Balotelli and Divock Origi providing backup.

But there remains a big hole to plug in the engine room.

It was clear from last season, when Steven Gerrard's prowess went into rapid decline, that Liverpool sorely lack a midfield fulcrum, a launchpad for their attacking sorties.

The Reds have the orchestra. What they now need is a conductor.

Jordan Henderson has plenty of heart but lacks the cultured approach and technique to make a team dance to his tune.

Joe Allen clearly has his limitations.

Manager Brendan Rodgers doesn't seem to see the promising Emre Can as a possible successor to Gerrard, judging by his reluctance to plonk him into the midfield role when he had the chance to last season.

The industrious James Milner, who recently came on a free transfer, doesn't fit the bill either.

To get back among the Champions League places, Liverpool need a Galactico-potential signing to fill that position.

GAMBLE

Juventus' Paul Pogba can certainly give them that much-needed boost, but while he's ideal, he will almost certainly seek greener pastures.

What Liverpool can't afford to do, however, is to stop trying to tussle for the big names. Neither can they shy away from making calculated gambles.

There are excellent midfield candidates in the market still.

Chile's Arturo Vidal, judging by his 2014 World Cup and ongoing Copa America exploits, appears to be hitting his prime.

Borussia Dortmund's Ilkay Gundogan is considered the heir apparent to Bastian Schweinsteiger in the German national team.

Belgium international Radja Nainggolan is highly prized, although he is apparently keen to stay with Roma.

Asier Illarramendi has seen limited opportunities at Real Madrid since his move from Real Sociedad two year ago.

Croatian Mateo Kovacic's fan base is growing in Italy, where he plies his trade with Inter Milan.

All of them come with the right pedigree.

Of the lot, Kovacic, 21, and Illarramendi, 25, seem to be Liverpool's best bets.

They fit the club's preference for youth, and they already understand the pressure of playing for a big club.

Reports suggest that the Reds have made, or are close to making multi-million pound bids to secure their services.

But, like in most cases, big clubs may swoop in and steal their targets from right under their noses. Or the players themselves may eventually decide that Anfield's not the place for them.

It's ultimately a game of wait-and-see. But it's also a game Liverpool must play for the next two months.

The prize is a midfielder they can't afford to do without.

garylim@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 25, 2015.
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