FIVE January signings to make Liverpool more competitive in Europe

With memories of their many prior triumphs on the continental scene, including their Champions League title in 2005, there’s been an aura of excitement around Anfield this season as Liverpool welcome back top tier European football for the first time in four years.

But Group B has provided a rather rude awakening for the Reds – after sneaking a win against new-boys Ludogorets, losing to FC Basel and receiving an absolute schooling from reigning champions Real Madrid yesterday evening, clearly the Merseysiders aren’t as competitive as they’d like to be in Europe.

Thus, being the helpful bunch we are at Football Fancast, here’s FIVE signings that could remedy the situation, providing added quality and perhaps most importantly, experience in the European game.

[ffc-gallery]CLICK ON BRENDAN RODGERS TO REVEAL

Rodgers[/ffc-gallery]

PETR CECH

Petr Cech
You can hardly hold Simon Mignolet at fault for Liverpool’s 3-0 defeat to Real Madrid yesterday evening, or for that matter, any of their unconvincing performances in the Champions League.

But with the Belgium international, along with centre-back Dejan Lovren and No.3 Alberto Moreno, novices in the competition, some added experience between the sticks could breed a new calmness and organisation in the Reds’ chaotic backline. Brendan Rodgers clearly doesn’t favour free agent Victor Valdes:

So enter Chelsea’s Petr Cech, arguably the greatest goalkeeper in Premier League history but unfortunate enough to find himself overtaken in the pecking order by 22 year-old Thibaut Courtois – a sensational young talent, I think we’d all agree.

The Czech international has vowed to fight for his place at Stamford Bridge and boosting Chelsea’s goalkeeping depth enormously, Jose Mourinho is under no hurry to sell.

But even struggling for game-time in the auxiliary competitions so far this season, it’s likely the 32 year-old can be prized away in January.

Cech has registered 473 appearances for Chelsea, including over 100 in Europe, and his mixture of experience and quality would be a massive boost to Liverpool’s backline.

But whether the Blues would sell to another English side remains to be seen and there’s already a plethora of foreign clubs queuing up for his signature:

NIGEL DE JONG

Click De Jong
Liverpool possess more than enough quality on the ball but they’ve lacked balance in Europe this season and, as evident to great extent against Real Madrid, the type of players who can put in a more convicted, attritional and disciplined performance.

5 foot 8 ‘Lawnmower’ Nigel de Jong provides an interesting solution. Despite recently insisting he wants to finish his career with current club AC Milan, the Netherlands international’s contract is set to expire at the end of the season, suggesting the San Siro side could be forced to cash-in when the transfer window reopens.

The 29 year-old’s bone-crushing style may not be pretty…

But it’s proven in the Premier League and internationally, winning the English title with Manchester City back in 2012 whilst also claiming a runner-up and third-place medal at the last two World Cups. Here’s a look at the kind of ball-winning service De Jong provides:

Experienced and proven, including in Europe where he’s made 71 appearances to date, De Jong has a lot to offer Liverpool’s midfield. One can already envisage him providing protection for Steven Gerrard in his new-found quarter-back role.

But any interest from Anfield will undoubtedly be rivalled by Manchester United, who have been tracking the former City midfielder since the summer:

EZEQUIEL LAVEZZI

Ezequiel Lavezzi (Argentina):
Liverpool have already been linked with Argentina international Ezequiel Lavezzi ahead of the January window:

A versatile, tenacious, pacey and skilful attacker, he could well prove to be the likeminded Luis Suarez replacement the Reds failed to find during the summer.

The 29 year-old has played an important role for PSG and former club Napoli over the last few years as a scoring and providing influence from the left-hand side, as detailed below:

lavezzi

But it appears his Parisians tenure could be coming to an end, having made just two Ligue 1 starts this season out of a possible eight, with little room for him in Laurent Blanc’s 4-3-3 formation.

Utilisable up front or out wide, Lavezzi fits Brendan Rodgers’ continued template of ‘multipurpose signings’. He comes with that all important European experience too, having helped PSG reach last year’s quarter-finals where he netted this stunner against Chelsea:

Juan Cuadrado

Colombia v Uruguay - FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 - Second Round
Not a seasoned Champions Leaguer like the aforementioned suggestions on this list, but Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado is the man who could inject that pace, intensity and aggression from last season back into Liverpool’s attack.

The 26 year-old, famed for his endless stamina and incredible top speed, wreaked havoc in the Italian top flight last season and brought his form to the World Cup:

Cuadrado stats (2)

In fact, nobody bettered the Colombian international’s four assists at Brazil 2014, including this athletic knock-down to eventual Golden Ball winner, James Rodriguez:

Combining pace, athleticism, trickery and netting prowess, this goal typifies Cuadrado’s game:

And he’s incredible versatile, as shown below:

cuadrado positions

Allegedly weaving a £27million release clause into his new contract…

…the South American should be within Liverpool’s financial reach. But recent speculation suggests Chelsea are already lining up a January bid:

FABIAN SCHAR

Argentina v Switzerland - FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 - Second Round
It may seem rather counter-intuitive to suggest a 22 year-old defender could rectify the problems of a Liverpool defence that’s already struggling to integrate summer signings, or subsequently, improve their performances in the Champions League.

But statistically speaking, FC Basel prodigy Fabian Schar was the best centre-back in Europe’s top competition last season, as detailed below:

schar cl

And also produced a Man of the Match performance against the Reds last month, as the Swiss side claimed a surprise 1-0 win in Group B:

Schar vs Liverpool

The Swiss international comes with an exciting front-footed presence, once netting this wonder-strike during his FC Wil days:

Previously linked to Barcelona, and with his contract entering its final term, Schar looks set to be one of the January window’s most sought-after defenders.

It’s likely Liverpool wouldn’t have to pay more than £10million for his services, but the 6 foot 1 centre-back is known to be on the radars of Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan, as well as Arsenal and Spurs:

Here’s another look at Schar in action: