Liverpool are thought to be closing in on their first signing of the summer, with various sources reporting that Rickie Lambert is set to arrive for £4 million plus add ons from Southampton.
It is a transfer that will catch many people by surprise, with Liverpool having been chasing Lambert’s Southampton teammate Adam Lallana and, indeed, already seeing a £20 million bid rejected for the midfielder. The first thought is to question why Liverpool, whose resurgence has been centered around youth, are signing 32-year-old who has never played in the Champions League, a competition which Liverpool are looking to build a squad for next season, and has only had two seasons in the Premier League. There are several reasons to justify the transfer, however, not least a fee that entails little risk. If he proves a success, Liverpool will pay more and be happy to do so.
Liverpool certainly need to add a striker to their squad to cope with the demands of competing in the Champions League next season. Brendan Rodgers was able to rely on Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge almost exclusively last season as Liverpool could focus almost entirely on the Premier League. Their signing from last summer, Iago Aspas, started just five Premier League games and failed to find the net once. They will need far more production from their third-choice forward next season.
Signing a player of the required quality who also knows he is almost certain to occupy a backup role is not an easy task. With Lambert a Liverpool native and life-long fan he would see the move as a dream come true and relish his chances in the first team.
He has shown he can score in the Premier League, too, having notched 15 goals in his first campaign in the top flight and 13 last campaign. Importantly, he also provides something different to what Suarez and Sturridge offer. Clearly, his physical stature, and ability to use it, would enable Liverpool to pursue a more direct option and give them a target to get on the end of crosses. If that was all he offered then it would be fair to question -- if you ignored the financial aspect -- why Liverpool didn’t merely hang onto Andy Carroll. Because of his frame and the fact that he has risen from working in a beetroot factory all the way up through the leagues at an advanced age, there is perception of Lambert as an old-school lump of a center forward.
That does Lambert a major disservice. The former Bristol Rovers man is more than adept technically on the ground and is excellent at linking the play and bringing others into the game. His 10 assists in the Premier League last season are testament to that ability. Lallana would doubtless be keen to be able to link up with Lambert again. Lambert has proven doubters wrong time and again when stepping up a level, including to international level last season, and he could surprise many again in the Champions League.
Lambert’s fairytale will continue when going to the World Cup this summer, and before he sets off he could fulfill his biggest fantasy of all when signing on the dotted line for Liverpool.