Meet Your Wingers

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If last week saw us bring one new player to Anfield, then this week’s haul of two should be twice as exciting, right?

Well… Not quite.

In an interesting juxtaposition, Rafa signed a player whom we’d been linked to for the whole summer and then a player who Arsenal had been linked to all summer. Yossi Benayoun signed on for four years after West Ham and Liverpool settled on a fee believed to be in the neighborhood of £5M. Ryan Babel comes over from Ajax for £11.5, inking a five-year deal.

The Benayoun move is one which we all had come to expect. While I wasn’t keen on the Israeli, Luis Garcia’s departure vacated a role within the squad that the attacking midfielder should fill nicely. Chances are he and Pennant will share the majority of the duties out on the right wing, as the manager is still keen on Jermaine and I doubt Benayoun would be up to doing the heavy lifting game after game, even if Rafa didn’t rotate.

Five million is decent business for a versatile 27-year old attacking player who knows the Premiership. Yet, I believe he’ll only be relevant for two years before Rafa upgrades, therefore marginalizing Yossi’s role. By then, Pennant will either have made it or rendered himself extendable and one of our thousands of youth players will hopefully be knocking on the door after proving himself worthy of a first team spot.

Babel is a completely different story. Two weeks ago, was he on any Liverpool fans’ radar? Sure you knew who he was, because you kept reading about him and Arsenal. Although Rafa said he’s been aware of him for four years, I wonder how recently he cast a serious eye at the winger/striker. Was it when it became clear Wenger wasn’t going to move for him this summer? The stealth and speed in which this transfer developed publicly and was executed is commendable. For Rafa to be able to ‘sneak up’ on some transfer targets like this is promising for future deals. Being able to lock down a price without increasing a player’s hype and attracting Johnny-come-lately suitors could be a critical skill. But, as the Torres transfer showed us, that won’t always be possible.

pressconf.jpgRyan is already a known quantity at the tender age of 20, yet his best years are still arguably a half-a-decade away (one would hope, at least). While I understand each and every transfer move can’t/shouldn’t be a blockbuster, I absolutely LOVE this piece of business. Babel is obviously ready to wade into battle today, but bringing in such a young, promising player when he can still be molded while contributing to the cause? Brilliant.

Plus, snatching him from under Arsenal’s nose is rather amusing.

Here’s my question; if Babel plays on the left wing, but is right-footed, can’t he be taught to play on the right as well? Wouldn’t that make him a fantastic weapon if he were able to switch flanks mid-game and operate smoothly from either side? Not to liken him to these players, but we’ve seen it from Ronaldo and even Giggs. (Garcia and Kewell both did, but to a much lesser extent) Imagine the possibilities.

The next question is, what now becomes of the left wing? Benayoun has been assigned the number 11 shirt, which was worn by Mark Gonzalez. (Babel, by the way, will wear number 19) Are we to assume that the Faux-Hawk is truly on his way out, presumably to Real Betis? The official site had been reporting on Gonzalez’s progress in the Copa America as recently as last week, so if a decision has been made to take his number away and send him off, it must have been done within the past few days.

Rafa must be assuming that Kewell will be coming back from the Asia Cup injury-free and rolling the dice on his continued health throughout the season. Otherwise, selling Gonzalez could prove dangerous. Or will it be another season-long loan on view for a permanent deal, with an option to recall?

Either way, I’d be surprised if there’s any actual official movement on Gonzalez until Kewell is back in camp.

So, the manager has his squad and by past summer’s standards, has them together early. Let the bedding in process begin! Rafa wanted the team in place early and I believe he has to be happy with the way things have fallen into place. These are exciting times indeed.

Now that Rafa has landed a marquee striker and two new wingers, will there by any more moves? By some accounts, he’s still in the market for one more defender so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another piece of business soon. (Heinze, anybody?) But, with pre-season training starting to hit full swing, my bet is that any new player would be brought in as soon as possible.

I would, however, expect the endless parade of youth signings to continue.

In other Liverpool ‘news’, Scott Carson will be wearing number 26 this season and Arbeloa will switch from 2 to 17. Oddly enough, I feel as if I’m talking NASCAR.

Also, Steve Finnan will be the next first teamer to be offered a new deal and deservedly so.

Now, onto this week’s riff-raff of actual and imagined Liverpool transfers…

Outgoing:

  • Not shockingly, Craig Bellamy made the switch to West Ham this week for £7.5 million. Slightly shocking is how well he handled himself. Upon his exit, Craig didn’t run off at the mouth about Rafa or his lack of opportunities, instead sounding quite like a civilized grown-up. We’ll see how long that lasts.
  • Djibril Cisse to Marseille for somewhere around £6M. Quite a knock-down from the 14 million paid three years ago, but that’s the business of football for you. £13.5 million recouped on the £20-some laid out for Torres isn’t bad business though.
  • Levante are said to be keen on taking Gabriel Paletta on loan for the season. I’m all for sending the kids out to gain first team experience, especially in a competition as good as La Liga. As a defender, he’d be up against world-class talents and would be forced to learn to defend with his mind (no, not like mind bullets but rather reading the game) as well as sharpen his defending skills, because you can’t rely on physical play in Spain like you can in England. Let’s just hope he doesn’t come back all soft.
  • Winger Adam Hammill will be plying his trade at Southampton for the next season. Celtic were also in for the 19-year old midfielder, but all things being equal, the level of competition is probably higher in the Championship than it is in the SPL.
  • Speaking of teenage right wingers going out on loan, Swansea are lining Paul Anderson up for a spell in League One. Once again, loan experience is good, but League One? Not as good. To review: Championship > SPL > League One.

Incoming:

  • 20-year old left winger Ryan Babel for £11.5 million.
  • 27-year old midfielder Yossi Benayoun for somewhere around £4 or £5M
  • TRANSFER SHOCKER! Rafa adds another youth to the Academy. The latest yute to join the ranks is 16-year old striker David Amoo from Millwall. According to Malcom Elias, the newest Red once competed as a sprinter at the English Schools National Track and Field Championships. According to my research, he ran the 100 meter dash in 11.46 seconds… two years ago.
  • Word is, we’re also eyeing another Millwall youth, but this one is a goalkeeper.
  • Gabriel Milito is on his way to Barcelona, so unless we’ve got our Elite Death Squad trying to sabotage that transfer, he’s not coming to Liverpool.

Elsewhere:

  • Ex-Red Vlad Smicer returns to Slavia Prague, the team he left in 1996. The 34-year old signed a one-year contract and will try to help Slavia find their way through the 2nd Qualifying Round of the Champions League.
  • Robbie Fowler could be off to the Land Down Under. Rumor has it the discussions between God and Sydney FC are ongoing, but the possibility of leaving his family may scupper this move. Leicester, Cardiff and even Port Vale are all also among a mass of lower league clubs who are making overtures to God.
  • Xabi Alonso’s brother will be playing in England this season. The midfielder will spent the season on loan at Bolton after his club, Real Sociedad, was relegated from La Liga. I find it oddly amusing Sammy Lee has moved on from signing up former Reds to signing up Red siblings.
  • Jerzy Dudek is set to join Real Madrid on a one-year deal.
  • I don’t know if you heard, but the MLS’s Los Angeles Galaxy have got themselves a new midfielder.
  • Jose Mourinho has admitted that when he’s a crusty old man at the end of his career, he would like to coach in Major League Soccer. Can you imagine how sunny a disposition a 70-some year old Mourinho would have?
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