Article by Mark Mason @MMason00
With the contracts ending on Daniel Sturridge and Alberto Moreno, we have a defining end of an era. It feels that the last of the pre-Klopp generation is disappearing. With Mignolet seemingly close to the door, the Reds will only five players left who joined us prior to the instalment of our maverick German manager: Adam Lallana Bobby Firmino, Jordan Henderson, James Milner and of course Dejan Lovren.
With the recent renaissance of Henderson and Lallana’s declaration that he intends to fight for his place. The attention of Liverpool supporters has fallen onto the big Croatian.
That has never been so starkly clear as in the last few days as links to a £25m move to Milan have begun to surface. Lovren lovers have been demanding the rejection of the move, sighting Lovren’s fantastic presence in the dressing room. His relationship with Mo Salah. His quality as arguably the best fourth choice Centre Back in the Premier League.
In contrast the Lovren detractors fail to be able to move past his shaky first season and the annual blip he has. They call on Michael Edwards to just get him out of the door.
So, which of the two opposing opinions is correct?
This is the strange thing, for me, they are both right and both wrong at the same time.
Lets get some things straight about Dejan Lovren. Yes, he had a tough first season with Liverpool in a leaky and unorganised defence. Yes, he can have a game where he can lose his head. However, he is a centre back that would start for all but three of the sides in the Premier League. Only Manchester City’s, Tottenham Hotspurs’ and our own defence is currently strong enough to deny Lovren a starting place. He would walk into Manchester United and Arsenal, improving them immediately.
Lovren was, a mere 12 months ago, a vital and integral part of the defences that took Liverpool to the Champions League final in Kiev and Croatia to a World cup final in Russia. He is a highly underrated player. He has strength, desire and a will to win. He is a fantastic character in the dressing room and despite the naysayers belittling this, this is an important quality. To have a player of his level sit on the bench and be a positive influence on the moral of the team rather than detracting from it, shows the quality of the man. Look at teams like Manchester United who have underperformed in the last year due to sulking disruptive influences.
Therefore, due to his quality we should keep him, shouldn’t we? Well, actually, no.
Liverpool need to sell Dejan Lovren for the simple reason that we need to start to operate like a big club again.
Lovren is a very good defender, however his ability to be fit regular is decreasing. The constant niggling injuries he gets means that he is unable to play consistently. He is now firmly behind both Joel Matip and Joe Gomez. It is time to cash in. This is not because Lovren is a bad player.
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In fact, its due to his quality. He is a highly valuable asset. He is a good player for 99% of teams out there, it’s just Liverpool are back in the 1%.
The Liverpool of the past didn’t keep players based on personality or who they were best friends with. Liverpool of the past were ruthless. When it was in our long term benefit to let a player leave, they were sold. There was no sentiment. We moved on each of our European Cup winning captains. Emlyn Hughes was still captaining England when he was sold to Wolves to make way for a young Scottish lad called Alan Hansen. Graeme Souness and Phil Thompson moved on in their early 30s. We needed to make room for the next generation of player. Keegan and Toshack left and were replaced with Dalglish and Rush. In simple terms Liverpool were cutthroat, that’s what made us the best.
Look at the top sides of the last decade. Real Madrid let go of club legends, Raul and Casillas and went on to greater success. Barcelona let go of Ronaldinho to make way for Messi. The recent troubles of both of these sides can be attributed to an over reliance on ageing and declining players. Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United regularly let go of top players on the decline, taking the money to reinvest in the next generation.
Liverpool have seen the benefits of selling well. We sold one of our best players coming into his peak years to fund moves for Allison and van Dijk. The Coutinho move worked out well, however it was not how a top club operate. We let go of Coutinho 3 years too early, because we were not in a strong enough financial position to get in the players we needed. Liverpool are now in a strong position financially and on the pitch. To maintain this, we need to keep winning and start to sell players at the right time, now is the time to move on Lovren.
If Dejan stays, he is going to sit on the bench for a year and depreciate in value and ability. That is not in either Liverpool or his benefit. As has been seen, there will be plenty of teams desperate to get their hands on him. A reunion with the man who brought him to Anfield may end up as one of the best options for him. Brendon Rodgers and Leicester could do a lot worse than accepting Manchester United’s moves for Harry Maguire and using that money to secure Lovren and Youri Tielemans and even turn a slight profit.
So, even though I will miss his videos from inside the dressing room, moving Lovren out and bringing in a 21 year old or younger future player is what Liverpool need to do. Over the next 3, 4, 5 years, it is what needs to happen with many of the current team. It is what a big team does. It is what Liverpool needs to be doing. Lovren needs to be the start of Liverpool returning to being a ruthless winning machine.
Article by Mark Mason @MMason00