Lallana a nice fit in Reds' midfield
Liverpool have finally captured their number one summer transfer target as Southampton skipper Adam Lallana has been announced as Brendan Rodgers' latest deal.
It's easy to see why Liverpool were so keen to bring the boyhood Evertonian on board. Lallana looks to be a perfect fit for the Reds; in fact he might be the most "Rodgers type player" in the Premier League. Technically excellent, hard-working, bags of flair, scores goals, makes goals, two-footed and extremely coachable... What's not to like? Well there is the small matter of the inflated 25 million pound price tag, but if Lallana proves to be a hit, then the fee will be quickly forgotten. Fans only ever dwell on transfer fees when the player doesn't perform.
I wrote a blog post several months ago on how I'd love to see Rodgers make a move for Lallana and his Southampton teammate Luke Shaw, but realistically Liverpool were not in any position to be paying close to 30 million pounds for an 18-year-old left back so Shaw was never an option. If left back was the only position of need then perhaps they could have provided some serious competition for Manchester United in the chase for Shaw, but with numerous other positions requiring strengthening this summer, the Reds needed a much cheaper alternative than the young England man.
For a time it looked as though Lallana would also prove to be too costly as Southampton rejected the Reds' opening gambits. The reported fee is high for a player who at 26 years of age has just two seasons of top-flight experience to his name, but Southampton were never going to allow their captain and star player to leave for anything less than top dollar. Liverpool have probably overpaid by several million pounds, but that was his value to Southampton and -- just like Liverpool with Luis Suarez last summer -- they held the cards.
Liverpool either had to agree to the asking price and get the deal done now, or play a waiting game and hope that Lallana would be able to eventually convince his club to lower their demands. That would have been a high-risk strategy, as there are no guarantees Southampton would back down, especially having received an influx of cash for the sale of Shaw to United.
Another alternative would have been to walk away and pursue other targets of course. That they chose to pay the fee and apparently got the deal completed shows just how much Rodgers wanted the player and, just as importantly, how much the player wanted Anfield.
Perhaps Lallana appeals so much to Rodgers as he's a "Swiss army knife" of a player; someone who has all manner of uses due to his versatility. Rodgers showed last season that he often mixes things up when it comes to his systems and tactics, so a player like Lallana gives him numerous options. Having captained Southampton he also brings leadership and a good character to the dressing room.
He's comfortable in the wide attacking positions as well as in the "number 10" role, but I suspect he may see a lot of action for the Reds in a slightly deeper role in midfield alongside Jordan Henderson and just in front of Steven Gerrard.
Rodgers is well stocked for "number 10s" with Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling having split playing time at the position in the closing months of last season when Rodgers switched to a midfield diamond. Lallana provides another quality option there but it remains to be seen if he's a better bet than Coutinho and Sterling.
In the wide positions he'd be up against Coutinho and Sterling once more, not to mention any other new recruits who may arrive in the coming weeks. The Reds are being strongly linked to Benfica winger Lazar Markovic, while there is still talk of Xherdan Shaqiri and Alexis Sanchez among others. If just one of those arrives, then competition for a place in a front three will be incredibly fierce, regardless of what the future holds for Suarez.
That's why my gut feeling is Lallana may be used mostly in midfield, where he'd be vying with Henderson, Joe Allen and fellow new boy Emre Can. Only time will tell what role Rodgers has in mind for the silky skilled Lallana, but having shelled out such a large chunk of his transfer kitty to secure his services, the Northern Irishman surely has a set role in mind for him.
It's sad to see what is happening at Southampton though. Amid reports of financial problems, they initially lost their promising young manager Mauricio Pochettino to Tottenham and that appears to have sparked an exodus of their top talent. Centre forward Rickie Lambert was allowed to complete a dream move to his beloved Liverpool and now newly installed boss Ronald Koeman has lost his two prized assets as the "big boys" swoop to pick at the carcass.
Saints fans must be wondering, who's next? Liverpool are still pursuing Dejan Lovren, Morgan Schneiderlin will have plenty of admirers and Jay Rodriguez is said to be interesting Spurs.
Who knows, perhaps Koeman will be able to keep the rest of his newly inherited squad together and build a new team using the funds they've accrued this summer. I hope so as Southampton have been a breath of fresh air since returning to the Premier League and it would be a great shame to see it all fall apart.
Dave Usher is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.