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Transfer Rater: Jan Oblak to Liverpool

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 By Steven Kelly

Liverpool must keep the battling Agger

Daniel Agger has become a fans' favourite during his time at Liverpool but could yet leave the club this summer.

Supporters become so engrossed in the buying aspect of the transfer window that it's sometimes forgotten the selling side is very much an art in itself. It's as if Liverpool receiving a massive fee for one star had taken the heat off this summer, yet with a lot of the Luis Suarez money already accounted for in the expenditure column, those other 5 million- and even 10 million-pound fees might come in extremely handy.

It's an intricate business. Perhaps a player doesn't want to leave because he feels he still has something to offer at Anfield, or is enjoying a pay cheque he will probably not get elsewhere. Just being part of a squad that challenged for the title last season and might be in the thick of it this year too is preferable to regular selection for a mid-table team.

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In the case of Daniel Agger, it may mean not selling to a club like Arsenal as they could benefit from his presence while immediately weakening Liverpool's squad. Though he seems to have been around forever, Agger isn't even 30 yet -- he's actually three days younger than Martin Skrtel -- but when a club spends such big amounts on Mamadou Sakho and then Dejan Lovren, some unpleasant writing is on the wall.

Brendan Rodgers could actually do with Agger staying a while longer. Though there are fresh faces, the manager must retain some of the wealth of experience in senior players like Agger, Skrtel and of course Steven Gerrard. He must balance out precocious youth with cooler, calmer heads in almost perfect doses and also keep everybody content to stay and contribute to the cause. An intricate business indeed.

It doesn't help if the player has got wind of interest from Barcelona. It's interesting rumours of their interest in Agger should emerge in the week where Pepe Reina finally left the club. He also thought the Spaniards were interested once, so much so that Rodgers moved for Sunderland's Simon Mignolet as his No.1 goalkeeper. For better or worse, the manager has had to back the young Belgian and Pepe now leaves for good, though how much football he'll play with Bayern Munich is a mystery.

With Champions League football back at Anfield, Liverpool need a wealth of options and a strong bench. Keeping everyone happy will be a vital part of the manager's job from now on.

It's not the first time Agger has been linked with a move to the Nou Camp; it's actually popped up every two years or so. Though he isn't remotely past it, he might suspect this is his last chance to play for another giant club. It seems ages ago now that he dazzled everybody with his passing, calmness under pressure and long-range shooting first seen against West Ham in 2006.

His extraordinary equaliser that day in the season's first home match hinted at more to come, yet he's never really hit the net as often as he should. He's scored more league goals for Rodgers in two years than he ever did in the previous six, but all of them came from set-piece headers. There's little doubt however that Agger is the most elegant Liverpool centre half since Alan Hansen.

Though he has the reputation of being shrugged off the ball by more physical forwards he has often shown more aggression than suspected. He came under early fire from Didier Drogba in the Champions League semifinal with Chelsea in 2007, but not only did he stand up to the Ivorian a lot better in the second leg, he scored the goal that gave Liverpool the chance of progression through a successful penalty shoot-out. It remains his greatest Anfield night.

Agger introduced himself to former teammate Fernando Torres in typical no-nonsense style when the pair met back in 2011.

Fans also enjoyed his forearm smash to Fernando Torres' jaw when Chelsea's shiny new 50 million-pound striker tried to get past him at Stamford Bridge.

Some reports suggested the Dane was crying when he pleaded with Rodgers to let him leave. I doubt that. Check out the tattoos, he's probably had more needles stuck in him than Keith Richards so it's unlikely a failed transfer bid would reduce him to tears. For the moment it seems he has joined Steve McManaman and Pepe Reina as stars thwarted in their attempts to sample Catalonia's varied delights after a long Anfield career.

McManaman eventually ended up at Real Madrid, while Reina is now off to Munich. So hopefully Agger can knuckle down for another season and get his last big move once the likes of Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho settle into Anfield life.

No true supporter will forget what Agger has done for the club. He played half the games for Rafa Benitez's 2009 side that is still the best Liverpool team not to have won the league. Nearly all of that team has now gone, showing how swiftly football moves these days.


As we count down to kickoff on Aug. 16, ESPN FC previews all 20 teams in this season's competition. Can Burnley, QPR and Leicester stay up? Will the new signings of Alexis Sanchez, Diego Costa and Adam Lallana help usurp Man City's crown? Will Manchester United get back on track under Louis van Gaal?

Liverpool still need whatever experience is in this squad for what will undoubtedly be a testing season. It's to be hoped Agger can be persuaded to stay and fight for his place. He would probably get more games than he will at Arsenal anyway.

For someone with "You'll Never Walk Alone" indelibly inked into his skin, the leaving of Liverpool may not ultimately be quite so easy. Let's hope so.


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