It was quite clear throughout Liverpool’s Premier League debut that the summer’s signings still have much work to do, particularly in developing a rapport while adjusting to manager Brendan Rodgers' tactics. Rodgers started four of his new players, Christian Benteke, Nathaniel Clyne, Joe Gomez, and James Milner, and all showed their potential promise in the 1-0 victory over Stoke on Sunday.
But there was a glaring lack of creativity and rhythm to the attack, even if Rodgers said he was happy with Benteke’s performance overall, and the Reds are still exploring transfer options to liven up the scoring and reinforce the backline.
Most notably, Liverpool is reportedly still targeting Real Madrid midfielder Asier Illarramendi. The 25-year-old Spaniard lost his place after Los Blancos acquired Toni Kroos last summer, resulting in only 10 La Liga starts last term.
The situation has grown far worse for Illarramendi, with the Independent reporting before the Stoke match that new Real Madrid boss Rafael Benitez informed him he has “no plans” for him this season. Thus, the door is open for Liverpool to make a £15-million bid. Illarramendi would be the eighth signature secured by Rodgers this summer, and up the total spent on new players to a little more than £90 million.
Supporters could pounce on Rodgers for his spending, but there is a need for help in the defensive midfield, and Illarramendi can fill that void and even provide support in the attack. Both Jordon Ibe and Adam Lallana failed to muster many opportunities for Benteke against Stoke, and Illarramendi could allow Milner to slide back and forth between the attack and defense.
Of course, Rodgers will need another striker to pair with Benteke and the Telegraph reports that could be Lazio’s Keita Balde Diao. The 19-year-old has been called a “sensation” for the Serie A side, and Liverpool did pursue him last summer only to fall short. But now Balde is reportedly demanding a transfer after he wasn’t started in Lazio’s loss to Juventus in Super Cup play.
Citing reports out of Italy, Liverpool are stepping up their plans for Balde, who’s valued at £11 million and has also drawn interest from the likes of Inter Milan and Arsenal. Originally from Spain, Balde’s scored six goals in 48 appearances since 2013, and could feature far more in Rodgers plans.
The potential move could also be an even bigger sign that Liverpool intend to part ways with striker Fabio Borini. Express reports Fiorentina are hoping to close on a deal in the next 48 hours, much to the delight of everyone involved.
Borini, 24, failed to mesh well at Merseyside after Rodgers signed him for £10.5 million in his first season as manager. Since then Borini’s netted only two goals in a Liverpool kit, and was on loan to Sunderland for the 2013-2014 season. With Benteke and Roberto Firmino signing on this summer, Borini’s chances of playing at all this season lie anywhere other than Anfield.
Turning to the backline, it appears Liverpool will lose out on Paris Saint-Germain left back Lucas Digne. According to ESPN, the 22-year-old has chosen Roma over the Reds and the report hinted it may have to do with his work with former Lille and current Roma boss Rudi Garcia.
It’s a powerful blow to Rodgers plans, especially with left-back now viewed as a trouble spot. Though he’s used as a right-back or central defender, Gomez started at left-back against Stoke even with Jose Enrique and Alberto Moreno available. That’s led to speculation that Enrique could be on the move to West Brom, according to Daily Star.