Silly season is kicking in again ahead of the re-opening of the transfer window on Monday, and thanks to the investment moves from DIC Liverpool are set to be victims of the silliest rumours.
The Times decided to produce a handy little table of their transfer guesses. They say we need a "a world-class striker and a right back" after pointing out that we also "want" the takeover to go through so that Rafa gets a big transfer "war chest". Their guesses for players coming in are Lucas Neill (hardly a secret) and the Livorno 'keeper Marco Amelia. They do point out that Rafa's not – in their opinion – going to be given more than £5million because the takeover is unlikely to be complete in time, but also say "Peter Crouch has attracted interest from Newcastle United while Stephen Warnock could join Blackburn". No fees were mentioned.
The Independent's Jason Burt guesses slightly differently. He says Crouch is being offered to Newcastle for £12million, but that Newcastle want to only pay half of that amount. There's no doubting Newcastle want Crouch, and there's no doubting that clubs do a lot of transfer dealing through the press, but it does seem that Mr Burt has got these figures all by himself. As for whether Liverpool are prepared to sell Crouch in January, leaving themselves with two performing strikers and a Robbie Fowler who's been struggling to get into the team for various reasons, well that's pushing things a little. Mr Burt's thought of that though – he says Liverpool are going to spend £25million on David Villa. Quite where Rafa is going to get that sort of money from remains to be seen. Valencia are still in the Champions League anyway, and aren't going to be in much of a hurry to sell Villa – who would be cup-tied for the Reds in Europe too. The Independent's story smacks of wishful thinking from the Newcastle side of things.
Crouch is Liverpool's top scorer, but those who criticised him at the start of his career at the club but went quiet as he started to produce are back out and complaining again. Rafa Benitez's words are twisted as ever, his complaints about missed chances by Crouch weren't actually complaints that Crouch isn't good enough. The media enjoy finding a player who's not getting as many games as he'd like, and despite being obsessed with Rafa's rotation policy for most of this season they conveniently forget about rotation if they can make a big deal of a player not playing in every game. That's not to say Rafa might be looking to replace Crouch, just that the media are making too many assumptions.
Liverpool haven't got the money to buy David Villa before selling Peter Crouch, and Rafa isn't likely to gamble on being able to sell Crouch and then buy Villa in the space of a few weeks. Love him or hate him, Crouch isn't likely to leave in January. It seems that Newcastle are driving this story, although of course we'll never know this for sure. As for David Villa – quotes attributed to him in the past saying he didn't want to play in England were fake. He's never said he doesn't want to play in England, or for Liverpool. That doesn't mean to say he will be arriving next week, just that those quotes shouldn't be used to assume he won't ever arrive.
When looking at Liverpool's squad lists to help come up with transfer stories Stephen Warnock's name stands out. Blackburn wanted to take him in part exchange for Lucas Neill in the summer but Liverpool laughed at their suggestion. Unfortunately for Warnock he's suffered a few injuries this season and has rarely played. The minor detail of him not being fit enough to play gets glossed over though, and so we're left thinking Warnock's fed up and looking to move. The Guardian say that Newcastle are interested in the 25-year-old, and they say £1.5million would secure his services. Elsewhere the stories seem to be that Liverpool are going to offer the player to Blackburn in part exchange for Lucas Neill.
Warnock may well be starting to feel unhappy at the club, but considering he was happy to stay when interviewed shortly after the closure of the summer window, and considering he's not been fit to appear much this season, it does seem to be that conclusions are being drawn incorrectly. John Arne Riise has had a poor season in the eyes of many people, but with Aurelio and Warnock unavailable for much of the time he's been able to keep his place – he's had no competition for his place. Lucas Neill is being pursued as cover mainly for the right-back berth, so Warnock's departure would seem to leave Liverpool still too short of cover.
Meanwhile the Mirror have decided to link Liverpool with West Ham's Argentine misfit Javier Mascherano. Under their silly-season headline "EXCLUSIVE FOOTBALL SPY" the Mirror's Darren Lewis claims Liverpool are "shock contenders" to sign the midfielder for £6million. The 22-year-old's representatives have been talking to Juventus according to the article but now Liverpool have stepped in showing an interest. The writer does remember that FIFA regulations mean he can't play for another club this season, having also appeared for Corinthians, but "Mirror Sport understands his representatives MSI are 'totally unconcerned' by the ruling". According to the Mirror the player's new club would apply for "special dispensation". The article's credibility falls down in the last sentence: "The Kop deal depends on the sale of the club to a Dubai-based consortium". In other words, we've got a great get-out clause if this fails to happen. We can say it's because Liverpool didn't have enough money (if the takeover fails) or blame it on DIC's money making Rafa change his targets. Easy.
Earlier this week the Mirror were talking of Xabi Alonso's imminent departure to Atletico Madrid for £14million if the Spanish side got their way. Xabi Alonso is worth far more than £14million to Liverpool right now, and unless the player himself was begging to be allowed to leave for home-sickness reasons there's no way Rafa would even consider an offer for him. Liverpool don't sell players just to try and make a profit, unless the player is clearly trying to run down his contract or has made it clear he wants to leave.
There will be many more stories to come over the next few weeks. "Le Gems", Florent Sinama Pongolle and Anthony le Tallec are both out on loan and unlikely to come back to Anfield again, Liverpool would accept any decent offer for either of those. Salif Diao's loan move to Stoke officially expires in the January window – Stoke fans have (surprisingly) taken to him and would love him to stay, but has he done enough to earn a permanent move somewhere? Gabriel Paletta was linked by the Liverpool Echo as possibly joining Diao on loan in Spain for the second half of the season, the club in question being bottom-of-the-table Gimnastic.
Watch out for Djibril Cisse's loan move being made permanent too in the transfer window – if it is then Rafa Benitez is likely to be given a small amount of extra money if he needs it.