Agger set to arrive to high praise from Rafa

After a lot of negotiating behind the scenes, it finally looks as though Daniel Agger will become a Liverpool player tomorrow. We were led to believe that the signing would have been completed today, but some delays cropped up meaning that today was a little optimistic. All being well the player should be unveiled tomorrow.

The reported fee of £5.8million or €8.5million will be a record for Liverpool for a central-defender. Current central defenders Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher cost £2.5million and nothing respectively; Hyypia was a bargain find by Gerard Houllier and Carra was a product of the Liverpool Academy. Already in the full international side for Denmark – he played well against England in his country’s 4-1 victory – Agger has been talked up as being the best Danish centre-back in a long time. Carra and Sami can expect competition for their places now, for the first time this season.

According to some reports today Liverpool had also enquired about the latest Manchester United signing, the Serbian Nemanja Vidic, and indeed Rafa did speak to Vidic. After speaking to the player and considering other matters Rafa felt he wasn’t quite right and so it was back to Agger. Liverpool had already made enquiries towards the end of the last transfer window but Brondby weren’t willing to sell.

Now Rafa has spoken about why he and Rick Parry have tried so hard to sign the Dane: “Daniel is a player we have been following for a long time. We first spoke to Brondby about the player when we were in Monaco playing the Super Cup final but at that time, their chairman said he wasn’t for sale. We had scouted him for a long time but then he picked up an injury.”

So having already decided he was good enough, it was then just a case of ensuring he was fit enough after his injury for the Reds to make a move. He still has to get through his medical but Rafa says a short appearance from the Dane convinced them that the player had recovered sufficiently for the European Champions to make a bid: “When he returned to fitness we watched his first game back and we knew he was at the kind of level we require, even though he played only 25 minutes.”

At 21 years old the player is already earning a lot of respect, as Rafa revealed: “We’ve been told he’s one of the best centre-halves in Denmark for 20 years. A lot of scouts have spoken highly of him and there has been lots of interest from other clubs. People will remember he played particularly well in an international against England earlier this season. We’d already watched and asked about the player before then. That match surprised a lot of people, but it confirmed to us he could play at a particularly high level, which is why we’ve continued to follow him.”

Rafa gave a quick overview of the player’s qualities, along with some pointers to where he may need to improve: “I wouldn’t say he was a particularly aggressive style of player, I think he is a very clever type of defender – his positional sense is very good, for example. He reads the game well. Of course, there are areas he needs to improve, but he is young and we will help him. He will be an option for the first team within a short space of time. First he will need to improve his physical condition but then he will put both Sami and Carra under pressure for their place. This is an area where we’ve had no competition until now.”

The signing of Agger will bring both competition and flexibility to that area of the park for Liverpool. Sami isn’t getting any younger and Carra would also benefit from some time off from time to time, although for this season at least they look set to continue as the two centre-backs in Europe for Liverpool: “He can’t play in the Champions League, but when you sign a player who’s only 21 years old, he is for the future of the club, not for a competition in which we have a maximum of seven games left.” As Rafa says, Liverpool won’t be complaining if they do have to play that maximum number of games: “If we have to play seven more games in Europe without players who are cup-tied, it will be a welcome problem.”

Agger’s national boss, Morten Olsen, feels that this move will allow Agger to improve his game a great deal – as long as he isn’t left on the bench too much: “He is confident about what he can do at the moment – he still has something to learn and he has a good mentality and if he goes to Liverpool I can only say they will have a top-class player. He certainly has to play 25 games because only in that way will he become a better player, and he is only 21 so he is not a player for the bench.”

Speaking to Sky Sports News, Olsen said he saw this as a good move for both the player and his country, because, “the Premier League is a top-class league. Of course he has got to accept he maybe cannot play in the first team in every game but I am sure he will show that he is a top-class player.”

If he’s as good as everyone is making him out to be, there’s one person who’ll be desperately unhappy to see him in a Liverpool shirt – Everton manager David Moyes. According to reports today, the under-pressure Everton boss had a look at Agger in the summer but decided to go for his compatriot Per Kroldrup instead.