AS the temperature dropped to below freezing at Anfield on Wednesday night and three answered goals were scored in the FA Cup third-round replay against Exeter, none of them could match the amplified volume of Jon Flanagan’s return – 619 days after he last competitively kicked a ball for Liverpool.
Even as fingers and toes felt like they were glued together by the cold, it was warming to see the reaction as the defender entered the pitch on 51 minutes after finally shrugging off a knee injury, which required three separate procedures. Even Brazil legend Cafu took to Twitter to celebrate the comeback of the Scouse version of himself, with the post going viral.
On Thursday morning, it was a different Brazilian trending in Liverpool. And supporters were applauding a different dose of positive news as the club moved to try and tie up a deal for Shakhtar Donetsk’s Alex Teixeira. The 26-year-old from a city in the southeast of Rio de Janeiro, has smashed opposition defences in Ukraine’s Premier Liga, recording 22 goals in 15 games this season.
Ian Ayre headed a delegation that departed to Orlando, where Shakhtar are playing in the Florida Cup, to negotiate a transfer for the attacker expected to be in excess of £25 million.
As ever in these situations, nothing is guaranteed. The Donetsk side, currently atop of their league, could decide to set the price at a ridiculous level. Chelsea, who are also sizing up Teixeira, may opt to flex their financial muscle. The unknown variables in football transactions often outweigh the knowns.
But it is hugely positive that Liverpool are in Florida looking to, well, buy goals.
Five of the club’s top scorers in all competitions this season are injured: Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and Danny Ings. The fifth, and the one who heads the list, is Christian Benteke.
The Belgian has struggled to fit into the first team, and worryingly, looks out of place in the second-string side too. He played a combined 33 minutes against Arsenal and Manchester United last week, and while he directly contributed to two goals against Exeter last night, it was painful watching both his full run-outs against the League Two outfit.
In Devon, Benteke looked disinterested despite wearing the captain’s armband. And during the reverse fixture at Anfield, he actually tried to dominate, but was undone by touches as heavy as his £32.5 million price tag, as well as poor positioning, being awful aerially and over-complicating his game. The striker’s decisive play for the first and third goals were in complete contrast to the rest of his performance.
So, Teixeira then. His 22 league goals dwarfs the combined total of 14 by Liverpool’s five strikers. His haul of 26 in all competitions is better than the 21 they have managed too. And he is not even a centre-forward!
Teixeira is predominantly an attacking midfielder, who can also play off both flanks and has been used as a focal point too.
Based on a few glimpses of the Brazilian in the Champions League, he is quick, robust and tricky, links play excellently and sharply finishes off moves. Apart from being technically brilliant, he also looked tireless. Bonus point: he hardly ever gets injured, with his last reported setback in the 2013-14 season when he missed just two games.
Liverpool have spent in excess of £180 million on attacking players over the past two summers, yet still remain heavily reliant on the injury-riddled Sturridge. That the club have erred so much in the market is a large contributing factor to their on-pitch problems.
While no transfer is guaranteed to be a success and mistakes will always occur, the Reds cannot continue repeating their errors. More importantly though, neither can they afford to dwell on them. The bid for Teixeira is a signal that Liverpool want to repair some damage, instead of simply looking the other way. That they can admit they’ve fucked up and are attempting to atone for it.
A deal may yet not get over the finishing line, but at least Liverpool realise they’ve got to run these races.