In what will likely prove to be one of the most astute acquisitions of the summer 2015 transfer window, news broke this morning of Liverpool agreeing a deal with Manchester City star James Milner – as reported by BBC Sport.
Now set to swap the Etihad Stadium for Anfield by way of a free transfer, the 29 year-old is an absolute bargain; he’s home-grown, an impeccable athlete, highly versatile, a consummate professional, creative yet industrious and hugely experienced, with 389 Premier League appearances and 53 caps for England under his belt already.
But why should Liverpool stop there? The likes of Manchester United, City and Chelsea may be planning incredibly lucrative summers but there’s plenty of value-for-money on the transfer market that the Merseysiders would be wise to take advantage of.
So with that in mind, and in honour of Hamez Milner signing on the dotted line, here’s FIVE bargain buys that will hopefully follow Liverpool’s latest acquisition to Merseyside…
Liverpool’s intentions to follow James Milner with another bosman signing in Burnley striker Danny Ings are no great secret – having attempted to whisk away the 22 year-old in January and loan him back to the Clarets for the remainder of the campaign.
The England U21 bagged eleven goals and four assists in 35 appearances this season – a phenomenal return for such a young forward in a debut Premier League campaign, spearheading a side who finished second-bottom in the table.
Ings is fluid, creative and mobile, also capable of playing at No.10. But what stands out most is his intelligence and guile for a talent of such limited experience at the top end of the game.
With his Turf Moor contract coming to an end, Liverpool can sign the former Bournemouth prodigy by way of a £5million compensation agreement this summer.
But in an effort to demonstrate their determined interest in Ings, Tottenham launched a successful £12million bid last month – which could have an effect on the striker’s fee.
Despite drafting in the likes of Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure for rather lucrative amounts since taking the Anfield helm in 2012, Brendan Rodgers still lacks an obvious choice of partner to Martin Skrtel at centre-half – whilst reports this morning suggest the experienced Slovakian could ditch Merseyside in the coming transfer window.
Another option at the heart of defence certainly wouldn’t go amiss this summer and although he might not quite be at the level Liverpool are looking for just yet, FC Basel’s Fabian Schar represents fantastic value for money.
Statistically speaking, the 23 year-old was the best centre-back in the Champions League last season, averaging an imperious 3.3 tackles, 4 interceptions, 6.7 clearances and 1.8 successful aerial duels per match.
And in addition to his defensive qualities, the Swiss international is famed for his front-footed style, comparable to Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen and certainly maintaining Liverpool’s attacking philosophy.
Basel recently activated a one-year extension clause in the 23 year-old’s contract, but set to expire in 2016, he’s still expected to move on this summer after claiming three consecutive Swiss Super League titles.
He’ll likely be available for around the £10million mark – but Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham are all keen on Schar.
With Raheem Sterling’s contract saga still awaiting resolution, the Reds could find themselves on the hunt for a replacement winger this summer.
And although Bayer Leverkusen’s Karim Bellarabi may not be a household name just yet here in England, his £11million release clause represents a punt well worth taking from the Anfield outfit’s perspective.
The 25 year-old has just come to the end of a real breakthrough campaign, bagging twelve goals and six assists in 33 Bundesliga outings.
In the process, he’s averaged 4.7 successful dribbles per match – a return bettered throughout Europe’s five leading top flights by only Chelsea winger Eden Hazard – and recorded the fastest goal in Bundesliga history, just nine seconds into the opening game of the season against Dortmund.
A particularly speedy and explosive winger, the German international could further blossom playing in a Liverpool system that relentlessly beckons fast-paced counter-attacks.
Whether he’d be prepared to quit Leverkusen for a club without Champions League football, however, remains to be seen.
Although James Milner represents a fantastic bit of business on Liverpool’s part, he alone won’t be able to fill the void of MLS-bound skipper Steven Gerrard.
Another stellar addition to the engine room is required – at which point, I turn your attentions to Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira.
He’s widely regarded as one of the top midfield enforcers in world football, affirming such status last summer by lifting the 2014 Champions League title and the World Cup in just a matter of months.
The German international boasts an incredible box-to-box engine, sensational strength and is nothing short of monolithic in the air, but that combination hasn’t proved enough to earn a new contract at the Bernabeu, with his current deal set to expire at the end of the campaign.
At 28 years of age, Khedira is still enjoying his peak years – although niggling injuries have continually plagued him over the last two campaigns.
He’s already confirmed he’ll be leaving the Spanish capital on a free transfer this summer – but speculation thus far suggests he’s heading to Juventus.
Despite a considerably improved level of performance over the last few months, Liverpool seem unlikely to claim Champions League football next season with Simon Mignolet as their default No.1.
And in terms of age, quality, proven Premier League pedigree, experience and price, (barring the likely out of reach Petr Cech) no goalkeeper on the market this summer strikes better value for money than Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic.
The 27 year-old has demonstrated a remarkable consistency as the Potters’ No.1 over the last five campaigns, in that time claiming the club’s Young Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year (twice), Supporters’ Club Player of the Year and Player of the Year awards – so there’s no doubting how he’s highly rated at the Britannia.
And with just one year remaining on his current deal, it’s looking increasingly likely Stoke will be forced to cash in on the Bosnian international this summer. Rather tellingly, Mark Hughes dropped him for the last three fixtures of the season in favour of prodigious understudy Jack Butland – suggesting the Welsh gaffer is already preparing for life without the 6 foot 6 shot-stopper.
According to recent reports, Stoke could sell for just £8million – but Begovic has also emerged as a potential replacement for Manchester United’s Real Madrid-bound No.1 David De Gea.