We've got a right back called Steve Finnan

Posted by Welshred on September 25, 2006, 10:30:09 AM

…when he plays we’re always winnin’

When signed by Gerard Houllier in the summer of 2003, Steve Finnan was heralded as the best right back in the Premier League. Unfortunately in his first season Steve was unlucky with injuries and suffered from indifferent form which led many Reds fans doubtful whether he was capable to play at right back. Since then, however, Finnan has been an almost ever present in the side, making the right back position his own and has been a model of consistency, taking back his heralded title of “best right back in the league.” When Rafael Benitez joined the club in the summer of 2004, Finnan’s position was in doubt through the signing of Josemi for 2m from Malaga. After seeing off Josemi in the battle for right back, Finnan then found himself up against Jan Kromkamp, who arrived at the club in January 06 from Villareal, in a swap deal for the aforementioned Josemi. Many journalists questioned whether it would be the end of Finnan’s Liverpool career, but Steve kept up his consistent good form and saw the Kromkamp went out the Anfield doors this summer, making him the undisputed champion of the Liverpool right back spot.

This leaves a problem though, Finnan is the only “solid” option at right back, he’ll be an ever present in the side unless he gets injured (touch wood) an with Rafa failing to sign cover, or a possible replacement, in the summer it leaves us short of options in that particular area. We all know the versatility of Jamie Carragher in defence, being able to play all along the back four is impressive, but Carra should only play in central defence where he is at his best – although he’d be adequate cover. The other option in the current first team is our very own right winger/central midfielder/left winger/holding role midfield/second striker/in the whole midfielder and captain Steven Gerrard. Gerrard started his career in the team at right back but progressed into probably the best central midfielder in the world, however he kept Serginho at bay in a little known game in Istanbul back in 2005 sometime (I’m not quite sure) and could certainly do a job. I’m sure we’d all prefer both Carra and Gerrard to play in their best positions all the time, but if needs must they are two emergency solutions.

What other solutions do we have at the club? Lee Peltier played at right back in some pre season games and did pretty well, but the 19 year old reserves regular’s favoured position is central midfield. Would he need to adapt to play at right back for a regular first team place? More importantly, can he? Because of his excellent form during last season for the reserves, Peltier was given a contract extension until 2008, so maybe we’ll see him feature in a few Carling Cup games this year to get a better idea of the lad. Another option within the ranks of the reserve team moved up to Melwood from the Academy this summer. Having captained the youth team to FA Youth Cup success last season, 18 year old Stephen Darby caught the eye during the Youth Cup run last season with some promising performances at right back, defending solidly and getting forward as much as possible, but is probably a few years away from challenging for a first team squad place regularly.

This leaves Rafa with the only other option, to look outside of the club for back up for Finnan – or even a possible replacement. During the summer we were linked with two players, firstly the Brazilian right back Daniel Alves from Primera Liga side Sevilla. Alves has been tracked by Benitez for a few years, and in the past has had clubs like Barcelona after his services, and we were reported to be close to his signature this summer but Sevilla’s price tag of 12 million Euro’s was just a little too much for us. His performance during the UEFA Cup final last season against Middlesborough did him no harm, his excellance on the attack his undoubted but like all Brazilians he can be a little suspect on the defensive side of his game. With the failure to sign him this summer it leaves the option for us to sign Alves in January with the little extra cash we may have then, however from reports coming from Spain it is now believed Real Madrid are his first choices.

Another player who we came within a Stephen Warnock of signing was Lucas Neill, a late deadline day swoop was on the cards, however Blackburn wanted a player in return for their inspirational skipper. Neill wouldn’t have been a popular signing with the fans, many still holding grudges after he broke Jamie Carragher’s leg a few years ago, and with many agreeing the he can be a dirty bastard at times. Barcelona were reported in many tabloids of having an interest in Neill after his excellent performances for Guus Hiddink’s Australia during the World Cup at centre back and Neill’s versatility was most certainly what attracted Rafa to him. The Aussie can play all across the back for, and whilst certainly having a vicious tackle in his armoury he’s quite a competent full back when going forward. It was certain the Neill was never going to replace any of the back four immediately, and at £2 million it was a snip for a defensive cover for the back four, however much to the relief of many reds fans across the World the deal never came to fruition as Rafa wanted to keep hold of Warnock.

Two years from now we have the possibility of bringing back a player who left the club this summer. Antonio Barragan came to the club in summer of 2005 from Sevilla for a fee of £240,000, a promising young right back who was one of the brightest prospects Spain had to offer. Barragan played in a few first team matches before getting injured during his debut season and impressed going forward and certainly looked like one for the future, however first team opportunites decreased as he struggled with injuries during his first season. This summer saw Barragan move back to Spain, joining Deportivo La Coruna after failing to settle on Merseyside, also giving him the chance of some much needed first team action. However the deal with Deportivo included a clause which allowed us to buy Barragan back in two years time if we wanted to for a set fee.

For me though the solution lies in England, in the Premier League. In fact, not far from Liverpool itself, just a little journey down the East Lancs road into Manchester where you’ll see 18 year old Micah Richards of Manchester City play every other week. Having impressed me with his defensive abilities during last season when he broke into the City side, it was whilst watching Match of the Day on Saturday night where I realised just how good he is now, and how good he could be with the right manager guiding him. It was a pacey, powerful run forward in the first half of Saturday’s game where Richards burst into the West Ham penalty area only to narrowly miss from his shot. Strong and powerful in defence, Richards is also quick and uses all his attributes whilst going forward. At 18 Richards is just a rough gem, and under the stewardship of Rafael Benitez he could be polished into the finest right back in England, possibly Europe, he’s a future England international and the way he plays suggests he’s going to become much, much better than what he is now. At the moment Richards would be good cover if Finnan was ever out with injury, and would be an excellent option when Finnan eventually retires, at 30 Finnan possibly has another 3 or 4 good years left in him and with Richards in the squad learning off him and Rafa he’d be the perfect replacement. The stumbling block however may be Manchester City’s price tag, if they’re prepared to let their young starlet go at all. All young British talent is over priced, Richards would probably cost us around 5 or 6 million now which may be the reason why Rafa decides to look elsewhere.

Where will Rafa look? As usual with Rafael Benitez nobody quite knows, but when the January transfer window opens you can be sure that we’ll be linked with every right back under the sun.

© Welshred 2006

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