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Inside FutbolInside Futbol

England

Chelsea and Liverpool Take Deadline Day Gambles





As bankers’ bonus season approaches, the similarly reality-challenged world of Premier League football has been indulging in its own spot of risky business. In the most dramatic denouement of a transfer window since Robinho left the listing ship of Real Madrid for the bright lights of Manchester City, Fernando Torres has gone from ‘Liverpool’s No. 9’ to Chelsea’s high price, high risk hope for European glory. In his place has come the rough (in more ways than one) diamond Andy Carroll in a new-look frontline, with Uruguayan Luis Suarez joining Kenny Dalglish’s Anfield revolution.

Fernando Torres’ departure will obviously be an incredible loss to the Merseyside club, as even in this underwhelming campaign he had nine goals from 23 injury-plagued league matches, but the years of boardroom wrangling and on-pitch malaise had clearly taken its toll. Steadily since his first season at Anfield the Spaniard’s scoring record has been less prolific, in no doubt related to his increasingly frequent absences through injury. In fact, despite his obvious pedigree and a consequent label as arguably the most lethal striker in world football, the catalogue of strains, wears and tears on Torres makes such a huge outlay – some £50M – a substantial risk on Chelsea’s part – not only will Torres’ arrival necessitate a likely change to 4-4-2 in a side without much pace or guile on the wings, but his galvanising effect on an ageing squad could be undermined if his series of niggles means he continues to miss matches regularly.

There is a reminder of the signing of Andriy Shevchenko in 2007, it being a Roman Abramovich-led pursuit in order to clinch that elusive European Cup, and though 26-year-old Torres is in theory reaching his peak rather than passing it like the Ukrainian, the tale of Michael Owen is an example of how pacey forwards’ careers can quickly taper off. It thus makes unarguable sense for Liverpool to cash in now when the former Atletico Madrid man is obviously disaffected, with the risk entirely being taken by the Stamford Bridge outfit, after the Spaniard’s poor injury record has taken an ominous turn since the World Cup. A £30M profit on any player is outstanding, and as it allows the Reds to replace one world-class striker possibly on the wane with two potential world-class strikers definitely on the rise, it is a price worth paying.
 

Of course anyone associated with Liverpool will be mourning the departure of one of the world’s most feared goalscorers, especially when thinking about how good the intended partnership Dalglish had lined up could have been. New Anfield arrival Luis Suarez is a top quality player: pursued by Manchester United among others in the summer, he had an excellent World Cup campaign for Uruguay where, despite being outshone by team-mate Diego Forlan and remembered mostly for his notorious handball (and celebration after Asamoah Gyan missed his penalty) against Ghana; Suarez also scored three times, including an excellent late winner against South Korea in the last 16. He may have only scored at a rate of about one goal in two games this season, but the season before the Uruguayan scored a scarcely credible 49 goals in 48 games – the weakness of the Eredivisie compensated for with a string of strong European performances, and his creative role in bringing in and setting up other team-mates augurs well for a Liverpool side often pedestrian in the absence of Steven Gerrard.

Question marks have been raised over Suarez’ temperament, with his recent seven-match ban for biting an opponent a cause for alarm, but the forward proved an able and willing captain for an Ajax side whose stumbling recent history is an even paler reflection of their glorious past than his new club’s. Considering Suarez was being touted for £35M last summer, for Liverpool to have brought him in for £23M may come to be seen as good business.

If the fee for Suarez could possibly be described as a bargain, then the astronomical £35M paid for a 22-year-old striker with only 41 Premier League games under his belt certainly cannot, and represents a risk even greater than that which Chelsea have taken on Torres, being so extravagant even Manchester City would have baulked at the asking price. Andy Carroll may be one of the best young players in England this year, scoring eleven goals and leading Newcastle’s resurgence upon promotion, but he has been injured for nearly a month with a troublesome thigh, the result of one of several extracurricular misdemeanours that have plagued his fledgling career.

Carroll’s transfer fee has more or less quadrupled since August, with the mind-boggling fee smacking of a classic January panic buy which, even considering his youth and possible greatness, will leave little room for making a sell-on profit, but there is obvious hope for the Kop. The club has previously known great partnerships between bruising No. 9s and diminutive and creative forwards behind them, and there is every chance the young Carroll and Suarez can mature into a duo to compare to the legendary John Toshack-Kevin Keegan and Ian Rush-Peter Beardsley pairings. With Gerrard and Raul Meireles pushing on behind, a bit more reinforcement out wide – Charlie Adam in the summer would be likely – and a quality full-back could bring Liverpool back to parity with Tottenham Hotspur and on the cusp of a return to Europe’s top table.

Liverpool fans, having been hit with the sucker-punch of Torres’ transfer request on Friday, have suddenly found the blow softened with the arrival of £60M of prime, young attacking talent, and from this most despondent of seasons that began with Roy Hodgson’s negative football of fear, now arises a new dawn of hope. Deciding their prized asset was not too big to be sold and bailed out by "King Kenny" when facing footballing meltdown, Anfield hopes its new boys red can turn the bleakest recession in a generation into a new golden age.