Barcelona forward David Villa come into contention? He could be just the player that the side are crying out for.
Liverpool sit comfortably in 10th place at the moment in mid-table after 16 games so far this season, but crucially they remain within touching distance of the top four, after their form has picked up despite a slow start which saw them go without a win in their first five games. The 3-2 victory away at West Ham, while far from a classic, displayed a growing sense of maturity and grit about the squad and it’s the first time in several years that they’ve won a game in such a fashion. With Everton just four points off in fourth, the tightly-congested table could prove to their benefit, with none of the teams challenging for the Champions League qualification places showing the sort of consistency required right now.
Nevertheless, scoring goals has proved a problem again this season like it did last, and while they scored three away at Upton Park to secure an impressive result, with Jonjo Shelvey doing well in a ‘false nine’ position in the wake of Luis Suarez’s one-game suspension, this should be seen as the exception rather than the rule. In eight home games this term, they’ve scored just nine goals, and they’ve hit just 22 altogether in 16 games, fewer than 10 other teams in the top flight, failing to score in four separate fixtures. The need for a new striker is obvious.
The names mentioned so far have been realistic ones, ranging from the soon-to-be out-of-contract Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who is also attracting interest from Arsenal, to Celtic’s Gary Hooper and Vitesse’s in-form Wilfried Bony. They’d all be available for a fee in the region of £10m, which is reported to be roughly the sort of budget Rodgers will be handed in January, while a deal for Chelsea’s forward Daniel Sturridge could also come to fruition.
The burden has, particularly in light of Fabio Borini’s struggles with form and fitness and Andy Carroll’s departure on loan, fallen on to Suarez, almost entirely to provide the goal threat required to make the team a top four force. There are no delusions of grandeur this term from the supporters, a top eight finish will suffice in terms of matching expectations, and it appears as if progress is finally being made in terms of the style and substance of their play, but they still lack a clinical finisher, even if the Uruguayan has stepped up to the plate at pivotal junctures this term.
This is where the 31-year-old Spaniard comes in, and after suffering from a broken leg last December at the Club World Cup, he’s struggled to win his place back under Tito Vilanova since returning at the start of the season. The signs were already there last campaign under Pep Guardiola that he was being marginalised and prepped for a summer exit, amid speculation about his fractious relationship with Lionel Messi.
He has played 431 minutes so far in La Liga, across 10 matches and has not completed a full 90 in any of them, yet he sounds as if he is beginning to grow frustrated at his lack of first-team opportunities, stating back in October: “The fact that I haven’t been used to playing regularly means I am less patient. But I’m ready to play and I know my leg will respond to 90 minutes [of action].” This prompted Vilanova, a more reserved figure in the media than his predecessor ever was, preferring to lead from the back, to respond with this somewhat challenging statement: “Villa is recovering the role he had before … but it also depends on him.”
The fact of the matter is that Villa does not walk in to Barcelona’s starting eleven anymore, and while he’s seen as a key squad player, more often than not, in games of importance, the sort he wants to be utilised in, he’ll start on the bench and at best will be used as an impact substitute. He’s fallen foul to the form of both Pedro and Christian Tello this season, while Andres Iniesta and Messi have both been exceptional and remain undroppable and he’s little more than a Copa Del Rey regular; he’s far better than that.
It all depends on whether he wants to bide his time at the best club side in the world, which at his age coupled with the realisation that Messi will always occupy his favoured central position, or move elsewhere for a few years. Liverpool have been linked repeatedly with a switch in the past, namely down to the Spanish influence at the club under Rafa Benitez, but they still represent a viable alternative, even if they would be setting their sights high in their pursuit of a player who just a few years ago was the undeniable best striker in the world game.
In 552 games at club level during his career, Villa has scored 274 goals, just a fraction below the much-vaunted 1 in 2 ratio. He fits in with the team’s style of play superbly and his versatility and ability to drift in and off the flanks could see him dovetail with Suarez to excellent effect. He has a point to prove and while his wages of roughly £5.7 million a year at Barcelona, which equates to roughly £110,000-a-week, while obviously steep, are not out of the realms of possibility given that the club agreed to pay a similar amount to secure Nuri Sahin’s loan deal from Real Madrid in the summer.
With rumours of a move for Neymar refusing to die down, plus the emergence of Gerard Deulofeu and return of Alexis Sanchez, the number of rivals for a first-team spot at the Camp Nou will not be getting easier anytime soon. The player reportedly agreed to join Liverpool on loan before his broken leg back in January of 2012, and for the reasons listed above, if a financial package could be agreed, whether it be a loan fee or taking on the full amount, at the very least a high proportion of his wages, Liverpool could do no better in terms of recruiting a new striker in January.
It may be hopeful, but it’s not out of the realms of possibility and for all of the reasons listed above, this one should be given the green light be the club’s owners, who have been mindful of late about running up costs; there’s no denying that Villa is worth both the juice and the squeeze.
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