After coming close to starting a career in Scotland this month, the Reds’ Neil Mellor will be feeling he made the right decision after his game yesterday. Mellor set up the first and then scored the winner in his debut for Wigan after his loan move from Liverpool. Rafa Benítez will have been impressed and if Mellor carries on like that he’ll be in with a better chance of playing a part in the Spaniard’s plans for next season.
According to today’s Sunday Times, Mellor seriously considered the early offer from Hearts to sign him earlier this month. The paper claims a fee “close to £1m” had been agreed, but the player’s recent recovery from double knee surgery meant they were worried about a permanent move at this stage. By changing their minds and only offering him a loan deal the attraction was cut significantly. Mellor’s agent, Mick McGuire says Heart’s original offer was very attractive: “Neil loves Liverpool but that would have tested his resolve. Hearts’ offer was top class.” Mellor is desperate to make an impression at Anfield and says he wouldn’t leave unless he was told he wasn’t wanted. After Rafa told him that a loan move to Wigan would help him more than spending the rest of the season in the Reds reserves he jumped at the chance.
Hearts have for some reason delayed in their move to sign Liverpool’s reserve midfielder but now it seems the move will finally go through within 48 hours. Potter briefly broke into the Anfield first team earlier this season, but he knows he’s so far down the midfield pecking order that it would take a lot of injuries for him to break into the side on a more regular basis. The fee is believed to be £750,000 and involves a weekly wage for Potter of £10,000 per week. Also set to move north is the Reds 18-year-old midfielder Francis Smith.
There is still no word on the future of goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek, despite numerous rumours. As the transfer window moves into the final full week there may be some movement, but Dudek at this stage doesn’t look likely to get his reported wish of some first-team action somewhere before the World Cup finals. The main hope still seems to be a move to Portsmouth, who were beaten 5-0 yesterday and would certainly keep Dudek busy should they sign him.
Theo Walcott’s move to Arsenal came after the Southampton youngster made his own decision to move there. According to the Liverpool Echo last week, Benítez had been ready to sign the youngster – for the right price. The paper says Rafa was prepared to buy him in the summer, for the fee that would be decided by a tribunal – probably £3million. By moving to Arsenal Walcott joined the club that seems to have been his second choice, but as a result the club that brought him through got a lot more money for him. His agent also gets more money that way of course, and some on Merseyside feel that his agent was probably his biggest influence on his final decision to become a Gunner.
All the talk of Walcott being a Reds fan wasn’t lost on Rafa, but as the Spaniard says, if he really was a Liverpool fan he’d have been able to play for his favourite club by just holding on for a bit: “We know Walcott is a good player and his family say he’s a Liverpudlian, but if he’s decided to go to another club, we can’t do anything about it.”
Hinting at the agent’s involvement, Rafa said: “If a player says he wants to go to a particular club, it must not be the agent who decides what that player should do. It always depends on the players. Walcott is a player I like, but the final decision about which club he joins is his.”
Rafa only wants “hungry” players, something he’s said on many occasions previously, and he intimated that maybe Walcott wasn’t hungry enough to become a Red: “If the player decides to go somewhere else, maybe it’s better for us.”
Neil Mellor wasn’t the only Liverpool player to score yesterday. Anthony le Tallec got the only goal of the game in the relegation battle between West Brom and Sunderland. Or at least he thought he had. As is tradition this season with Liverpool goals, the credit has been taken away from him and has been given – for now at least – as own goal by West Brom’s Steve Watson.