Free Transfers: Liverpool’s mixed bag

Yet again Jimmy Milner had us all purring with another wonderful display, against West Ham last weekend.

The evergreen veteran is showing no signs of age and his obvious desire to win and drag the club over the line means he has massively endeared himself to the fans and his manager.

Mane scores
Milner reaches the ball at the by-line and cuts back for Mané

His free transfer from City in 2015 arrived at a time when supporting the club came with a prescription for anti-depressants. Gerrard had left, Sterling was going and Rodgers was wobbling, so the shrewd piece of business done by the club went under the radar somewhat.

We are now though, no doubt reaping the benefits of Milner’s labours, and the fact we nicked him on a free from a rival club makes it all the more sweeter. However when it comes to freebies Liverpool haven’t always been as successful. In recent years especially there have been a few stinkers brought to keep us all on our toes. Here’s a quick look at some of the real contrasting business done on a free by Liverpool in recent times.

Markus Babbel

Monsieur Houllier was one shrewd operator in the first half of his spell as Liverpool Manager. His free signing of Germany and Bayern Munich stalwart Markus Babbel was a great bit of business and a real steal. He formed part of one of the most sold backlines in the club’s history.  On top of that, his goals and work rate made him a very popular member of that side.

The right back was sublime in the treble winning season of 2000-01. Able maraud forward and double back at will, he was the perfect fullback. An excellent defender and reader of the game, he looked set for half a decade of success at the club before a rare debilitating illness struck him down when he still had so much to offer.

Verdict: Great work. Zero paid for a player who’d be worth circa £50 million in today’s market.

Phillip Degen

Oh dear; from one top class defender to an out and out liability. Phillip Degen was not one of Rafa Benitez’s better ideas. The Swiss International never looked anywhere near the standard required to make it at a top club.

Very quick, but extremely lightweight and lacking any composure in the tackling department, Degen really was a player to forget. In fairness, injuries were not kind to him, but his arrival in the first team, albeit briefly, was a sign that things were starting to go very West indeed. Red cards, broken ribs and playing second fiddle to Glen Johnson was about all he was able to muster in his two year spell at Anfield.

Verdict: overpriced

Joe Cole

Yet another sign that things were going to pot at our beloved club. Joe Cole is a great example of how badly a shrewd looking gamble can backfire.

The former Chelsea and England winger was no doubt a top talent in his day. However injuries and a loss of form meant he turned up at Anfield way, way past his best.

He was never abysmal for us in fairness, he often lacked the energy and let’s face it, the willing, to put a shift in. When you’re on £100,000 a week you could at least pretend to look interested. Maybe he was too honest.

Verdict: his comment about Liverpool being the biggest club in the country when he signed, was a good start at least, the less about the rest, the better.

Gary Mac

What can you say about Gary Mac that hasn’t already been said? Another coup by Houllier as the Frenchman began his Anfield rebuilding work, McAllister to the uninitiated, was brought in aged thirty-five from basement boys Coventry City.

Eyebrows were well and truly raised. People questioned the logic in moving for a man who was way past his best at that age. How wrong some can be! Gary Mac was a revelation for Liverpool.

A lovely passer of the ball and a great influence on the youngsters in the midfield at that time, the veteran Scot was vital to the club’s success in 2001. Winning goals against Everton and Barcelona made him immortal, and his love for the club was obvious from his emotional farewell against Ipswich in 2002. Many, including the man himself, wish we’d got him earlier in his career.

Verdict: hero status earned and not a penny spent. Nice.

Andriy Voronin

A footballer who looked like Triple H and was supposed to be second only to Shevchenko in his homeland; Voronin had all the makings a of a cult hero. Until, that was, we saw him in action.

Another weird piece of business saw Rafa swoop for the former Levekusen forward in 2007. Bloody good thing we got Torres in the same window, as it some became clear that Voronin could offer next to nothing.

Ponderously slow, no instinct in front of goal and in possession of a woeful first touch, it’s hard to think what such a good manager was thinking when he made the decision to bring him in. The pony-tailed forward should make it in to anybody’s all time Turkey XI.

Verdict: He would struggle in Sunday League.

James Milner

The man of the hour.  James Milner has been an absolute delight since coming down to the right end of the M62.

Yorkshire’s finest has been a real joy to watch in the famous Red. He gets on with his business with minimal fuss, never moans and always leaves everything on the pitch. His natural fitness and brilliant final ball make him perfect for Klopp’s high press and devastating attack.

Whether it be his stoic spell at left back or his determined performances down the middle, Milner is up there with one of our best signings over the past few signings. He should be allowed to stay for as long as he is able to kick a ball.  Like Gary Mac, he is also a wonderful influence on the kids coming through the ranks.

What an assist for Mane at the weekend as well!

Verdict: see above.

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