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Who should Liverpool target to reverse their slump?
Liverpool ’s dismal start to the season is an open wound on Merseyside and events over the last seven days have thrown a handful of salt into the gaping gash.
Michael Owen reminded Reds fans what an able deputy he could have been for Fernando Torres by firing a clinical Champions League hat-trick against Wolfsburg, while their own campaign came to a whimpering end at home to Fiorentina.
And then Andrei Arshavin, who seems to enjoy playing at Anfield more than any Liverpool player does at the moment, hammered what must be the final nail in their Premier League coffin.
The only positive for Reds supporters that may come from the Russian’s moment of brilliance is if Liverpool ’s increasingly unpopular owners realise that players of Arshavin’s ability cannot be acquired in football’s equivalent of the bargain basement.
And if there were ever a man in need of a spot of retail therapy, it’s Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez.
So assuming there is money to spend, and that is a massive ‘if’, who could Liverpool turn to when the window opens in January to turn their season around?
The problems are there for all to see. A niggling injury to Torres has highlighted the club’s need for striking reinforcements, the absence of Steven Gerrard has shown them to be desperately short of another creative influence in midfield and left back Emiliano Insua shows promise but has made mistakes while standing in for the often-injured Fabio Aurelio.
So here’s a list of the players I think the Reds should be targeting. Think I’ve got it about right? Let me know in the comments below.
Ruud van Nistelrooy (Real Madrid)
The likes of Sergio Aguero and David Villa are out of reach and while Tottenham’s Roman Pavlyuchenko has been mooted, you cannot imagine boss Harry Redknapp allowing the striker to leave for one of Spurs’ rivals for the coveted fourth spot in the table.
But there is a former Old Trafford favourite, currently kicking his heels in Madrid, who could do just the job at Anfield. Van Nistelrooy is not a long-term solution, but he ticks all the boxes to help them in their current predicament.
In six years at Manchester United, he filled his clogs with 95 league goals in 137 starts and his eagerness to secure a place in the Netherlands’ World Cup squad means a loan move or a relatively inexpensive transfer could be a possibility.
Liverpool fans may not warm to a man who used to score at will for their hated rivals, but if the Dutchman were to come off the bench and bag a winner at Old Trafford when the two sides next meet in the league on March 20, than open wound may just be healed a little.
Juan Mata (Valencia)
Benitez has been searching for creative influence that can produce a moment of magic from nothing since the departure of Luis Garcia in 2007. While Yossi Benayoun has shown glimpses of promise, a quick glance at the Liverpool bench on Sunday highlighted a lack of inventive talent waiting in the wings.
Reports said Benitez was rebuffed in a close-season attempt to sign Valencia’s David Silva, while interest from Manchester United may now have pushed the tricky wide player out of the Liverpool’s reach.
But the depth of the Spanish club’s debts is widely known and another of their leading lights, Juan Mata, has caught Benitez’s eye, reports have said. The left-sided midfielder struck 15 goals last season and already has six to his name this time around.
Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich)
Three of the best left backs in the business are plying their trade for Liverpool’s rivals with Patrice Evra at Manchester United, Gael Clichy at Arsenal and Ashley Cole at Chelsea. Liverpool have their own less impressive triumvirate of Andrea Dossena, Aurelio and Insua.
Benitez has shown he is prepared to spend big on full backs when he splashed 17 million pounds on Glen Johnson and 7 million on Dossena and my guess is a bid of somewhere between those two figures could persuade Bayern to part with Lahm, a right-footed left back who was an ever-present in Germany’s World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign.
PHOTO:Real Madrid´s van Nistelrooy celebrates his goal during their Spanish Super Cup final against Valencia in Madrid, Aug 24, 2008 REUTERS/Susana Vera