As Rafa Benitez looks for bargains in the January transfer window, one of his top priorities will be to purchase a target man to either perform as back up to Fernando Torres or to provide that much needed support for the Spanish striker during the many tightly contested matches at home. So what are the options for Rafa in the striking department where there is a requirement to be both cheap and talented?
Emile Heskey – One of the most heavily rumoured switches for Benitez is the return of the Aston Villa striker to Anfield. Despite expressing his discontent about the lack of first team opportunities at Villa Park earlier in the season, Heskey now finds himself as a regular in the Villa side alongside Gabriel Agbonlahor as they bid to displace Liverpool in the top four. The England striker no doubt has his strengths, he is powerful in the air, can hold up the ball and has pace to drive into the channels. His contributions have given him a place in the England starting eleven alongside Wayne Rooney as Capello is convinced he provides the best foil for the Manchester United striker’s talents. This is definitely the thinking behind Benitez’s apparent interest in the striker, as he not only provides a different option in attack but also would give Torres greater support and more likely a higher number of chances on goal. But we all know the downsides of Heskey, his lack of goals and lack of belief may make him a mistake as a signing and at 31 years of age, his pace, an important part of his game, will only go one way. Is it worth the risk?
Ruud van Nistelrooy – At 33 years of age, the Dutch striker is no spring chicken and injuries have plagued his latter career at Real Madrid. He has only recently returned from a long injury lay off and has not featured much in Manuel Pellegrini’s side since he has become fully fit. Van Nistelrooy will definitely look to move in January as he looks for first team football to put him in contention for a Holland World Cup squad place. In my mind, a loan or free transfer for the Dutch striker is not really a risk. When he plays he generally scores goals and his age should not be a concern as he has never relied on pace. The general adage about van Nistelrooy is that he is always in the right place at the right time, a goal poacher, something that Liverpool could do with as they seek to gain momentum in their push for fourth place. The only real question mark is whether he is the target man that Benitez is looking for, as although he is capable of playing up front on his own, he will not hold up the ball or bring others into the game, and another question is whether he could form a workable partnership with Torres. For me though, despite his United connections, a van Nistelrooy – Torres partnership seems to be very exciting.
Luca Toni – The Italian international striker is available for a free transfer in January after falling out with Bayern manager Louis van Gaal. Toni needs first team football to ensure a spot in Italy’s World Cup squad and he might be a cheap, useful addition to the forward line at Anfield. Although he has made it clear of his desire to return to Italy, and more specifically Roma, he might be persuaded to try his hand in the Premier League. What I have seen of him at international tournaments, he can have an absolute mare in front of goal but his scoring record at Bayern suggests he has a true goalscoring instinct as he has scored 53 goals in 84 appearances for the German giants. At 32, Toni is another striker with not too many years left in him, but he is more than anything a target man. He combines the two elements that Liverpool are looking for, he can hold up the ball and can score goals but I doubt he will be moving to England as he seems to have his heart set on a return to Italy.
Three strikers that offer different assets, the most likely and best option for me is Ruud van Nistelrooy, who would yours be or would you look at another option?