Reds now short of strikers

Milan BarosIf Rafael Benitez is not about to sign a new striker, Liverpool are about to spend a season in difficulties in that department with three items of news today.

First of all was the confirmed departure of Milan Baros – the Czech star has no officially joined Aston Villa in a £6.5million deal after passing his medical. However Liverpool are set to be without two other strikers for at least the first half of the season.

According to the Liverpool FC fanzine The Liverpool Way – a fanzine
which has close ties with many Reds stars – Neil Mellor will not be
available for selection until the end of the year as his recovery from
knee surgery is still not complete. Mellor was an influential member of
the Liverpool team last season during the brief run he got in the first
team, and without his contribution in the Champions League the Reds
would quite probably have not even progressed from the group stages.

Mellor’s has still not been able to return to full training since his
operation in January, and his specialist has told him that he now won’t
be available for selection for at least three months.

Mellor’s goal against Arsenal in the last minute at Anfield was one of
his more memorable moments last season, but not to be forgotten was his
work in the final group game in the Champions League against
Olympiakos. Arriving on the pitch as a second half substitute, he
scored almost immediately to give Liverpool the second of the three
goals needed to go through to the knockout stages. Then came the goal
which gets most attention, the screamer from Steven Gerrard from
outside of the box to make the score 3-1. The shot from Gerrard was set
up thanks to Mellor’s awareness of his captain, his excellent cushioned
header found Gerrard who smashed the ball home and gave Liverpool the
belief that ultimately brought them the trophy.

Those two goals followed on from an equaliser from another Liverpool
sub that night – Florent Sinama-Pongolle. Pongolle’s form and
confidence was improving with every game until he too suffered serious
injury. His return to action in the reserves last week was followed up
with another 35 minutes last night – and he scored in both games. Again
though, according to The Liverpool Way, Flo could be on his way out of
the club altogether. It looks like Gerard Houllier is looking to sign
the player he signed for Liverpool in his days Reds boss. Now boss of
French champions Lyon, Houllier was recently snubbed in his move to
sign Milan Baros. Although it’s unclear at this stage whether the
interest is for the player to move out on loan or permanently, Houllier
has money burning a hole in his pocket after the recent sale of Michael
Essien, and he may well have made a substantial offer.

So now Baros has gone, Mellor is unavailable and Pongolle looks to be
on his way out – even if only temporarily. Anthony Le Tallec has
already gone on loan to Sunderland, so who have Liverpool got left as
strikers? Peter Crouch is expected to be back in action on Friday,
ready for selection alongside Morientes and Cisse. Other than that
there are no out-and-out strikers left at Anfield. So those that feel
Benitez won’t be signing a new striker need to have a rethink.

Dirk Kuyt has once again been linked – and Rafa has confirmed his
admiration for the player – and of course the links with Michael Owen
are as strong as ever.

As for Owen, the funniest quote we heard today was when David Moyes
said that Everton had tried to sign him – and Dirk Kuyt. Moaning Moyes
told a press conference that Everton were serious about signing big
names. He said: "We have been in contact with Michael and his advisers.
Unfortunately he does not see Everton as a team he would choose at this
present time. We offered £10m for Dirk Kuyt and that was rejected on 1
August by Feyenoord. I am trying to reassure fans I am in for most of
the big names. We do have money to spend if the right players are
available – but getting them in is the problem."

The laughter from that quote helps to overcome the slight
disappointment at the farewell being waved to Milan though. Baros
showed so much potential in his time at Anfield that he really did look
like he would become the genuine article. However his constant
complaints about not being selected were unhelpful and he continued to
be unaware of players around him. We’re sure that Rafa Benitez has
someone better lined up, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Baros himself
said it wasn’t easy to leave Anfield, but he is glad his future has now
been sorted out. Speaking to Aston Villa’s official site,,
he said: "Of course I am very pleased to join Villa. It is not easy to
leave Liverpool, but Villa are also a big club, so I am happy to come
here. It is nice to be here and I am looking forward to making my debut
on Saturday against Blackburn at Villa Park, when I will do my very
best to open with a goal. I spoke to David O’Leary at length and he was
a big factor in my deciding to come here. It was a big decision for me,
but if the manager wants you it is easier and David’s influence was one
of the reasons I am here. I used to play alongside Patrik Berger at
Liverpool and also with the Czech Republic. So I spoke to him and he
said so many good things about Villa to encourage me to join. Hopefully
my best years are still to come. I am still young and very ambitious. I
want to achieve things here with Aston Villa."

Baros had said last season that if he left Liverpool he’d want to join
a club at a similar level. He’s going to be missing out on European
football this season, but thinks that won’t be the case next season: "I
think there are some quality players here and hopefully we can qualify
to play in Europe next season. That would be great for the club, the
players and the fans. I am impressed with this club. There is lots of
quality here and together I think we can go forward this season. I just
can’t wait to play and start scoring."

We’d like to wish good luck to Milan for the future.

We’d also like to wish Neil Mellor a speedy recovery and we look
forward to seeing him back in the team – and the same goes for Flo, who
we hope can stay at Anfield and fulfill the potential we can all see in