Brendan Rodgers is a peculiar kind of man. A talented manager, yes – the Ulster-born coach excelled at Swansea and is beginning to show a similar level of managerial nous at Liverpool as the Anfield outfit top the Premier League table after four games – but with that talent comes an awkward demeanour and regular comments that verge on delusion.
These ‘Rodgerisms’, as they are known, are in such hot supply that several online buffs are beginning to compile collections of bizarre quotes, outlandish claims and David Brent-esque philosophical statements from the Liverpool manager purely for entertainment purposes. Indeed, it’s hard to tell whether the Liverpool gaffer’s often blind optimism, claiming last year the Reds would qualify for the Champions League whilst they were still in the bottom half of the table for example, is generated from his genuine emotions and self-logic, or rather part of some elaborate act to subliminally motivate his Anfield roster.
Last week, the Liverpool manager claimed that his side’s defence was sorted for the next decade after acquiring centre-back duo Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori, from PSG and Sporting Lisbon respectively, on deadline day for a combined total of £23million.
Rodgers told reporters; “I wanted to try and protect the present and the future of the club.“Centre-halves are so hard to find. You look at some teams and they have ageing centre-halves because it’s a struggle to get a really good one. We were fortunate in that two became available. We had a chance to do that and protect the club for maybe the next 10 years and that is what we’ve done. ”
So with that in mind, it’s now time to ask – Are Liverpool set for a decade’s worth of defensive dominance, or has Brendan Rodgers simply produced another fine Rodgerism?
To be fair to the Reds boss, by all accounts he has two exceptional young talents on his hands, and many pundits consider both purchases as transfer coups considering there’s no guarantees about when Liverpool will return to Champions League football.
Starting with Sakho, the Frenchman made his debut for former club PSG at just 17 years of age, and was shortly after appointed captain, making him the youngest skipper in the Paris outfit’s history, and in the history of the French top flight. The armband was temporary, but then manager Paul Le Guen must have seen something special in the young defender to offer him such a role ahead of PSG’s senior stars.
Since, Sakho’s career has only shown great promise. He’s already racked up 202 competitive appearances at just 23 years of age, and he’s already made 22 outings on the European stage. The France international is strong, powerful and fast, measuring in at 6 foot 2, but his real talent lies in his ability to read the game. Perhaps the greatest testament to Sakho’s quality is the fact PSG didn’t even want him to leave – he’d slipped down the pecking order since the arrival of Thiago Silva, and with the 2014 World Cup a year away, Sakho forced a move for the sake of keeping his place in Didier Deschamps’ France squad.
Tiago Ilori on the other hand, is still very much a young pretender in the making; like Sakho, he comes with a glowing reputation, but the Frenchman has already proved his worth in an established top flight and on the continent. Rather, Ilori is a 20 year-old tipped for greatness and with expectations to live up to.
Converted from a striker into a stopper when he was a youth player, the Portugal U20 possesses rare agility and pace for a centre-back, and reportedly beat Lisbon’s sprint record in training, previously set by Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s emerged as a real talent over the past few years, notching up 33 senior appearances in the Primeira Liga, and like Sakho, he’s a player his former club weren’t too pleased to be letting go.
But reputations alone aren’t solid enough evidence to suggest Liverpool’s defense is safe and secure for the next ten years. Chronologically, both the 20 year-old and the 23 year-old could conceivably still be on Merseyside in ten years time, however, the big ‘if’ still remains whether or not they’re good enough to hold down a place at a leading Premier League club for so long.
Only time will tell; Sakho looked decent enough during Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Swansea on Monday night considering it was his debut appearance, and both have the physical requirements to be effective forces in the English top flight, but it would be unfair to forge an opinion one way or the other without giving Sakho and Ilori enough time to prove their worth at a new club.
That being said, they both fit the Brendan Rodgers player profile perfectly; young, ambitious, talented and with a point to prove. The combination of personality has paid off dividends so far in Rodgers’ Anfield career, and in turn, regardless of whether you can stomach the Liverpool gaffer’s often deluded ‘Rodgerisms’, there’s little doubt they’ve had an incredibly positive effect on the players.
And his most recent Rodgerism regarding the future of Liverpool’s defence could well prove to be the vital ingredient that assures Ilori and Sakho will be a success at Anfield. Defensive domination for years to come, perhaps not. But the ultimate message behind Rodgers’ ambitious statement is quite simply ‘reach for the stars, and you’ll hit the moon’.
Therefore, the centre-back duo may not lead the Premier League for the next decade, and it’s more than likely that both won’t be at Liverpool long enough to receive their ten-year testimonials, but they could prove to be very, very astute signings.
Is Rodgers going overboard or are these the signings to return Liverpool to glory?
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