Liverpool’s game against Wrexham this afternoon sees them wearing what will eventually become their “European Away” kit, although it may also be described as a “third kit”. Liverpool’s new sponsorship deal with Adidas came about after Reebok and Adidas merged into one company, but there was also talk of a certain amount of disagreement behind the scenes between Reebok and Liverpool over commitments under the previous contract.
The new kit is predominately white, with green trim. The home kit will of course remain all-red; the away kit will be all-yellow with red trim.
One of the players wearing the kit today will be Craig Bellamy. Liverpool have confirmed he’s going to be wearing the number 17 for the new season, which surprised some who’d expected him to get Djibril Cissé’s number 9 shirt. The fact that the whole Liverpool kit range is being replaced means that squad numbers can be reallocated without any worry over who may or may not have already bought a shirt with an incorrect number on it. So, is Robbie Fowler going to get his old number nine shirt back, or is it going to be handed to Peter Crouch? Is Jerzy Dudek going to lose his number one shirt? Jan Kromkamp isn’t expected to stay on into the new season, so his number two shirt will be made available. Or is the number nine being kept back for a new signing? We’ll find out soon enough, we may even get some clues at today’s game, although I’d not read too much into the shirt numbers used today.
Mark Gonzalez is a candidate to get number eleven if Fowler does move to number nine, but he’ll not be wearing it today. He’s been left out of the side as a precaution after he picked up a slight knee injury in training. Reds boss Rafael Benitez says he’ll keep him back for week to be on the safe side. Rafa explained: “Mark has been training really well and I was really impressed. He’s been scoring a lot of goals – with his left foot, his right foot and his head. Then, unfortunately, at the end of the training session he felt something in his knee. It’s not serious but he won’t be playing at Wrexham. He will play at Crewe next Saturday.” The Crewe game is to be played at Gresty Road on 22 July.
Gonzalez was officially unveiled at a press conference yesterday, along with Welsh international Bellamy. Inevitably Rafa was asked about Bellamy’s past, but Rafa said the future was what mattered: “We know about the past, but we think the future can be very good – for him and us. We knew about his problems, and have talked about them. But I think it will be a lot easier for him and us than people think. Craig is a more complete player than Djibril Cissé and he is perfect for the English game.”
Rafa’s eye for a player is not limited to looking at the big names and the big money signings. Had Cissé not been injured just before the World Cup then Rafa would have got – in his eyes – a better and more suitable player plus £2m in cash for exchanging Cissé for Bellamy. Cissé’s qualities and abilities were good, but not the right qualities and abilities that Rafa feels he needs for the games Liverpool play in: “We can go forward with him (Bellamy) and these type of players can be important in difficult games when there is no space. He can beat defenders and score goals, a fine player with talents that we need.”
As for the past, Rafa says he sees a player who has matured and who knows just how lucky he is to be playing for the Reds: “When a player has some problems in his past it is a risk, but from speaking to the player you can see he is more mature now. I think he knows that this move is important for him and he wants to be successful in a top side. This is the opportunity for him. If he starts scoring goals, people will not worry about his past.”
Rafa is also pleased with the fee they paid for him, thanks to a release-clause in Bellamy’s Blackburn contract: “For the English market it was a very good price and maybe he can be the difference for us next season.”