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Liverpool… here’s the starting Xi you could’ve had

With a crash, a bang and an explosion of Jim White’s head, the summer transfer window has officially closed.

And once again, it’s been a summer of unprecedented spending from the Premier League, splashing out a record-breaking £870million on new arrivals; in no small part due to Manchester City smashing their club record transfer fee twice on Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne.

Liverpool, too, were amongst the Premier League’s busiest during the transfer window, spending just shy of £80million on seven new signings whilst parting with nine players either on loan or permanently.

But we’ve been here before with the Reds; particularly last summer when they reinvested the £75million from Luis Suarez’ move to Barcelona rather poorly. So did the Anfield outfit spend wiser this year? Could they have done better in the transfer market?

Football Fancast takes a look by combining the club’s top performers from last season, new signings and realistic targets they missed out on to create… the starting XI Liverpool could’ve had.

GOALKEEPER – ASMIR BEGOVIC


After two campaigns between the Anfield sticks the jury’s still out on whether Simon Mignolet has what it takes to hold down a No.1 berth at a club as big as Liverpool.

Last season particularly, the Belgium international committed a string of costly individual errors – resulting in him being dropped for Brad Jones in December – leading many to assume Brendan Rodgers would attempt to source an upgrade during the summer.

A number of potential goalkeeping options were reportedly on their radar, not least including eventual Real Madrid signing Kiko Casilla and Galatasaray’s speedy shot-stopper Fernando Muslera.

But we’ve gone with Asmir Begovic, a well-proven goalkeeper in the Premier League who claimed the Young Player of the Year, Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year awards during his five terms at Stoke City.

He joined Chelsea as Thibaut Courtois’ understudy for the modest price of just £8million. More than affordable for the Reds, who could have also offered the Bosnian international the added incentive of becoming their first choice goalkeeper.

Instead, Brendan Rodgers snapped up Adam Bogdan on a free transfer, ensuring Mignolet at least one more season as the Mersey outfit’s No.1.

RIGHT-BACK – NATHANIEL CLYNE


No cause for complaint here.

Right-back has been a real problem position for Liverpool over the last few seasons – in no small part due to the woeful form of Glen Johnson – so Brendan Rodgers deserves huge credit for snapping up Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne; probably the best No.2 in the Premier League last season after PFA Team of the Year member Branislav Ivanovic.

He cost the Reds £10.5million – not bad for a regular England international aged just 24.

CENTRE-BACK – MARTIN SKRTEL


Providing some much-need continuity in an otherwise completely new-look Liverpool defence is veteran centre-back Martin Skrtel.

He’s perhaps just outside Europe’s centre-half elite but there’s no doubt the Slovakian international has been Liverpool’s most consistent defender during Brendan Rodgers’ three years in charge, netting seven times as they honed in on the 2013/14 Premier League title and representing a rare beacon of dependability amid the defensive chaos last term.

CENTRE-BACK – AYMEN ABDENNOUR


Having spent the best part of £60million on centre-backs during his three years as Liverpool boss, Brendan Rodgers elected not to add yet another to the Anfield roster this summer.

Yet the issue of who should accompany Martin Sktrel at the heart of defence is still a rather perplexing one; £25million man Dejan Lovren was nothing short of hopeless during his first campaign on Merseyside whilst Mamadou Sakho is far from the complete package many expected when the Reds shelled out £18million for him in summer 2013.

One centre-half repeated linked with a Liverpool move throughout the summer was Monaco’s Aymen Abdennour, a Tunisian international who hugely impressed during his short stint in Ligue 1, not only providing physicality and defensive quality but real composure and style at the back.

He’s the ball-playing defender Rodgers seemingly eternally desires. But perhaps a little rich for Liverpool’s blood, the 26 year-old went on to join Valencia for £22million instead.

LEFT-BACK – JOE GOMEZ


Primarily considered a centre-back at former club Charlton Athletic, it remains to be seen if Joe Gomez can prove successful as Liverpool’s long-term No.3.

But there’s no doubt he’s made a phenomenal start to his Anfield career, helping the Reds keep three clean sheets whilst averaging 2.8 tackles, 2.5 interceptions, 4 clearances and 1.8 successful aerial duels per match. He also grabbed the assist during Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Stoke City on the opening day of the season.

Signed for a fee believed to be within the region of £3.5million, Liverpool appear to have pulled off one of the signings of the summer in the 18 year-old – especially considering the premium placed on most young Englishmen in today’s market.

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD – WILLIAM CARVALHO


It seems inevitable William Carvalho will join a major European club at some point in his career and those chances appeared to heighten after he claimed the Player of the Tournament award at the summer’s U21 European Championships.

Liverpool, requiring an upgrade on ball-winning Brazilian Lucas Levia for some time, sent scouts to run the rule over the Portugal international during the tournament’s final, suggesting a bid could be in the offing for the 6 foot 2 midfield enforcer.

But perhaps due to Carvalho picking up a stress fracture on his tibia during the summer, ruling him out until October at the earliest, the Reds’ mooted bid never materialised.

As a consequence, Lucas Leiva will enjoy at least one more year as the only genuine holding midfielder within the Liverpool squad.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD – JAMES MILNER


In terms of value for money, James Milner may well be the Premier League’s best signing of the summer – arriving at Anfield on a free transfer.

What’s not to like about this guy? He’s home-grown, two-footed, highly versatile, creative and technical yet physical and industrious, immensely experienced and famed for his consummate professionalism.

The 29 year-old has performed as consistently as expected in Liverpool’s opening fixtures, even wearing the captain’s armband in Jordan Henderson’s absence against Arsenal, which brings us nicely onto…

CENTRAL MIDFIELD – JORDAN HENDERSON


Earmarked as the natural successor to Steven Gerrard’s captain’s armband pretty much since the beginning of last season, Jordan Henderson is one of the few Liverpool players whose Merseyside tenure was never in doubt over the summer.

And with good reason; the England claimed an impressive six goals and nine assists in the Premier League last term, quashing doubts that he lacks the output to truly be considered one of the division’s top centre-mids.

If the 25 year-old can maintain that return this term whilst performing his captain’s duties correctly, Liverpool have a great shot of making it into the top four.

RIGHT WING – ROBERTO FIRMINO


We haven’t seen too much of Roberto Firmino just yet, managing just 156 minutes in the Premier League after arriving at Anfield for £29million.

But the versatile forward comes with a preceding reputation from his spells with Hoffenheim and the Brazilian national team, bagging 23 goals and 21 assists in his last 66 Bundesliga outings whilst also netting four in ten appearances for Selacao.

Brendan Rodgers clearly has high hopes for the 23 year-old but it might take him a while to settle in the Premier League.

LEFT WING – PEDRO


Is it naive to suggest Liverpool could have signed Barcelona star Pedro without the ever-important incentive of Champions League football? Perhaps. But having eventually joined Chelsea for a more than reasonable £22million, he was certainly within the Anfield outfit’s financial reach this summer.

The Reds have never quite replaced Luis Suarez in a like-for-like manner but the Spain international could have provided that kind of presence from the right-hand side. Like his former Catalans team-mate, Pedro is quick, tricky on the ball and versatile but also a phenomenally hard worker who seemingly forces equal industriousness from those around him.

The 28 year-old would have also arrested Liverpool’s relentless lust for a marquee signing, as a three-time Champions League winner still in his prime at 28 years of age.

But perhaps aware that some of the Premier League’s higher powers were circling – particularly Manchester United, Manchester City and the Blues – Liverpool seemed to let their divisional rivals have at it without transforming their interest into a formal bid.

STRIKER – CHRISTIAN BENTEKE


He’s Brendan Rodgers’ most expensive signing since becoming Liverpool boss and the dependable striker they lacked all of last season.

Indeed, Christian Benteke could prove to be a hugely important signing for the Merseyside outfit if he can slightly improve upon his impressive return of 49 goals in 100 appearances for Aston Villa – including three consecutive campaigns of double figures in the Premier League.

Should the 6 foot 3 Belgian battering ram hit the 20-goal mark this term, Liverpool have a fantastic chance of qualifying for the Champions League. He’s scored just once so far in four games, however – a goal that should have been ruled as offside – and it seems Liverpool are still adapting to the 24 year-old’s more direct style of play.

Article title: Liverpool… here’s the starting Xi you could’ve had

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