Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and the Reds’ supporters will have been fairly pleased with the overall business conducted by the club in the summer transfer window, but with several new players being drafted into the squad, competition for places in the starting XI looks set to heat up. The Anfield outfit may currently sit at the top of the Premier League table, with three victories and three clean sheets in as many games, but Rodgers still opted to splash the cash on two European defenders just before the period for signing players expired.
Tiago Ilori, the 20-year-old, London-born, Portuguese centre-back sealed a switch to the Merseyside club from Sporting Lisbon, while Liverpool also made their star signing of the summer by purchasing exciting French defender Mamadou Sakho from Paris Saint Germain in a deal reported to be worth in excess of £15m. With centre-backs Kolo Toure, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel already on the books, Rodgers now has five players to fill two positions.
Vice-captain Agger and experienced free signing Toure began the campaign as the Reds’ first-choice pairing at the heart of the defence and managed to keep two clean sheets in the process, while Slovakian Skrtel slotted into the back-line as a replacement for the injured Toure against rivals Manchester United and performed well. With that in mind, some fans would be curious to ask – why did Rodgers opt to bring in both Ilori and Sakho? Do Liverpool really need five fit centre-backs in the squad? Can all five be rotated adequately and kept happy at the same time?
Given the way Skrtel has dropped down the pecking order in the past year, it would appear as though he may be the one who will lose out most from the activity this summer. Toure and Sakho are seemingly ahead of Skrtel in Rodgers’ estimations, while youngster Ilori, too, could overtake Skrtel as a more reliable option at the back. With that in mind, it was somewhat surprising that the 28-year-old defender was not sold during the transfer window, even though Rafael Benitez’s Napoli were reportedly interested in acquiring his services. Skrtel was being linked with a £20m move to Manchester City just over a year ago; his value has dropped considerably since then. Unless the former Zenit Saint Petersburg player is involved with Liverpool more regularly over the coming months, his value is likely to drop even further.
For all the talk of trimming the wage bill by replacing underused high earners with youngsters on lower salaries, it seems there has been something of a miscalculation when it comes to Skrtel’s situation. Both the Slovakian and the club would have benefitted from a permanent or temporary parting (just like Pepe Reina’s loan move to Napoli), yet Rodgers now has a bloated list of defenders to choose from. Skrtel may yet still be in the manager’s plans, but if he is not, then the questions about why he was allowed to stay at Anfield will continue to be asked.
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