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Jun 22, 2011

Deadwood may hamper Reds revolution

Depending upon interpretation, the numbers are awe-inspiring, extravagant or simply exorbitant.

Whichever, in signing three players, two of whom possessed a solitary England cap apiece when purchased, Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli have contrived to spend £77.8 million within a matter of months.

Admittedly, and importantly, much of it was recouped by the sales of Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel, but the signings of Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson have propelled Liverpool back into the big spenders' league. They must register as statements of intent.

With ongoing quests to sign a left-back, a central defender, a winger, another midfielder and possibly a striker, more should follow. Besides giving Liverpool's squad Dalglish's stamp, this is shaping up to be the summer that renders Fenway Sports Group the Americans that Merseysiders can accept.

Yet, much as they might wish it to, Liverpool's past resolutely refuses to disappear. It was the unpleasant legacy both Dalglish and FSG inherited and, halfway through the summer, the hope it would bid a profitable and speedy farewell seems overly optimistic.

Thus far, no one of note has left. While newcomers to the first team hint at a two-tier policy of expensive additions and eager locals, mediocre journeymen, fading forces or frustrating underachievers do not belong in either category. Through no fault of his own, Dalglish has too many of them. As it stands, he - or perhaps more accurately, Comolli - has not succeeded in selling any.

Liverpool's owners may imagine a younger, hungrier and sleeker squad but, unless up to 10 players leave, the danger is that theirs will be a bloated group containing several with little prospect of first-team football, especially in a season that won't involve European football. There are men such as Milan Jovanovic (reported earnings: £120,000 a week) and Joe Cole (£90,000), who prove that free transfers can be a false economy. There are players who were loaned out, forgotten but not gone, but now returned, such as Emiliano Insua, who at least has shown promise, and Philipp Degen and Nabil El Zhar, who have revealed none.

Then there are Roy Hodgson's recruits. Raul Meireles apart, the summer of 2010 was a nadir for Liverpool in the transfer market. Hodgson may not bear sole responsibility for the signings of Cole and, in particular, Jovanovic, but his reunions with Paul Konchesky and Christian Poulsen were all his own work.

Both were unmitigated disasters. The left-back was hounded out of Anfield and borrowed by Nottingham Forest in January. Time may be a healer, but it will not convert an undistinguished tryer into a Liverpool player. Poulsen, meanwhile, is keen to stay. He has slipped behind Jay Spearing and Jonjo Shelvey in the pecking order but with two years remaining of a lucrative three-year contract, his motivation may be clear. In both cases, reputations have been diminished by Anfield careers and neither is overly marketable.

The bid for Roma goalkeeper Alexander Doni suggests Jose Reina's deputy, Brad Jones, is also surplus to requirements. That Sotirios Kyrgiakos made sufficient appearances to trigger a one-year contract extension does not make him any less slow or clumsy. Even the player whose talent appeared to make him bankable, Alberto Aquilani, will be back on Merseyside after a change at the helm of Juventus scuppered hopes of a £14 million cheque.

Besides feeling disappointment, he may encounter congestion. With Henderson's arrival and the possibility Charlie Adam will join, Liverpool's central midfield department threatens to be hugely overstaffed. Like Poulsen, his replacements have arrived or emerged before his departure has been sealed.

In age, earnings and background, these are men who bear the hallmarks of the misfit. They are not the type of footballers Dalglish chooses to advance, being neither the products of a youth system who are belatedly being advanced or the Premier League's costliest young Brits.

Though they have fared better and figured prominently under Dalglish, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Daniel Agger or Maxi Rodriguez would be sacrificed should an offer come in, a scenario that becomes more plausible with each week when Liverpool fail to shift the overly remunerated and redundant.

In the meantime, a financial double whammy is threatened, whereby players cost the club plenty in what are effectively wasted wages while their transfer values depreciate. The unneeded and unnecessary could earn in excess of £500,000 per week between them, a spend that can only harm owners and club.

The original intention, it is apparent, was the most radical reshaping of the squad since that summer of 1999 when Gerard Houllier conducted an overhaul. Dalglish appears to have both the authority and the determination to follow suit, but the job will only be half done if the Melwood training ground is populated by men Liverpool have failed to sell.

Problems arise with planning a brave new world when the depressing old one refuses to go away.

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