Kenny Dalglish has just shown what a great manager he could be for Liverpool in the coming years with his latest transfer dealings.
It was always going to take a real character to finally get rid of Fernando Torres, and Dalglish was just the right guy.
There was no waiting around, no protracting the issue. Within a couple of days of Torres submitting his transfer request, Dalglish showed him the door, and managed to collect a cool 50 million pounds along the way.
Having initially shown a desire to keep hold of Torres and to help him rediscover his form, Dalglish was nevertheless slapped with an unenviable dilemma along with Torres’ transfer request – to sell the player that was just two seasons ago the best striker in the world, or to convince him to stay for a few more months and hope he’ll change his mind somewhere along the way.
And that option has worked before. Steven Gerrard seemed destined to leave Liverpool a few seasons ago, but Rafa Benitez managed to convince him to stay put for another season, and he hasn’t gone anywhere since.
Even right now, Arsene Wenger is reaping the benefits of having held firm on not letting Cesc Fabregas leave, even though he made it much more public that he wanted a move to Barcelona. Arsenal are still realistically challenging for four trophies, and already have a Wembley final to look forward to with the League Cup. Would Fabregas still want to leave if Arsenal won some major trophies?
But Dalglish is having none of that, getting rid of the misfiring Torres in just a matter of days. That’s exactly the kind of no-nonsense managing that a club like Liverpool need after their problems on and off the pitch – a decisive, authoritative voice that leads the way, one that can make tough decisions without so much as the bat on an eyelid.
Instead of trying to convince Torres to stay, Dalglish immediately set out to acquire his replacement, and he did so with equal conviction.
Many have talked about Andy Carroll being the next England No. 9, but so far, none of the big clubs have dared to take a chance on the young striker. You sort of had this feeling that they all wouldn’t mind giving him a chance if it didn’t cost much, but Dalglish immediately splurged a record fee for an Englishman on him – 35 million pounds to eclipse the 30 million Manchester United paid for Rio Ferdinand – even though he’d just signed Luis Suarez as well.
And that also shows the conviction Dalglish has to the style of football he wants Liverpool to play. Roy Hodgson came in and settled straight into the system that his predecessor Benitez had left behind, the 4-2-3-1.
But when Dalglish signed Suarez, the implication was that he was planning to switch to a 4-4-2 and partner Suarez with Torres to make it two up front.
Torres almost wrecked those plans by submitting his transfer request just days before the deadline, but Dalglish would not be foiled. He immediately signed another centre-forward to play alongside Suarez, and I’d suspect to see Liverpool playing with two out-and-out strikers again in the near future.
Credit should also go to Damien Comolli, Liverpool’s “director of football strategy”. I’m sure he would have had a hand in making the Suarez and Carroll deals go through. But at the end of the day, one would suspect that Dalglish was the main guy calling the shots; something you wouldn’t really say about Hodgson, who as great a manager as he is, just wasn’t the right fit for the job.
The way he handled his press conference the other day was brilliant as well. Hodgson took the nice guy thing a bit too far with his over-candid style of responding to the media. Dalglish on the other hand, almost dictates his press conferences.
He has sternly stuck to his “new policy” on not commenting on player speculation, refusing to budge one bit when questioned about players possibly moving around, and reminding the reporters that they were there to talk about the weekend’s game with Stoke City.
At the best of times, facing the British press isn’t easy, but even under the pressure of the last few days, Dalglish has shown that he knows how to keep a hold on them without antagonising them – something his countryman Alex Ferguson hasn’t quite mastered.
Still, all this wouldn’t matter if results don’t happen on the pitch. Carroll will get his fair share of goals in the air, we know that. And Suarez scored 49 goals in 48 games last season for Ajax.
But Mateja Kezman joined Chelsea with a similar goalscoring reputation in Dutch football as Suarez, and look where he is now – playing for South China in the Hong Kong First Division.
He has acted swiftly and decisively in bringing in Carroll, and his comments in the media about being frustrated by the slow progress over Suarez’s transfer must have played his part in expediting the deal. But he will now have to show that he can make the two play football the way he wants them to.