Liverpool add another as Spaniard Luis Alberto joins Reds

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It is already turning out to be quite a busy summer for Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool Football Club.

On Saturday Sevilla and Spanish Under-21 striker Luis Alberto joined the Reds in a $10 million deal, with Barcelona turning down the option to buy him.

Alberto, 20, was on loan at Barcelona B last season and scored 11 goals in 38 games.

The striker also scored 25 goals in 75 appearances for Sevilla’s B side but failed to score in seven games for their first team.

So spending $10 million on a player who hasn’t scored in the top division in Spain seems a little strange, does it not?

But that is the way Liverpool’s transfer policy has veered this summer. Rodgers and his staff and getting creative with their buys but one must think that bigger name signings will arrive later in the window, especially if Luis Suárez does leave Anfield.

Daniel Sturridge could take over the leading role, after he impressed with 11 goals in 16 games following his $18.4 million move from Chelsea in January. But Sturridge will be out for up to four months after injuring his ankle while playing for England earlier this month.

However with another Spanish attacker set to join — Iago Aspas of Celta Vigo will complete his $10 million move in the next few days as paperwork formalities are sorted out — bringing in talented youngsters seem to be the main aim for Rodgers this summer. Aspas is 25, but is uncapped by Spain and has been something of a late bloomer.

Yes, Liverpool look to have sealed the signing of Belgian international goalkeeper Simon Mignolet from Sunderland for $14 million. But their other signings, coupled with the capture of 21-year-old Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho last January, propose a shift in Liverpool’s tactics in player recruitment.

(MORE: Mignolet to be a Liverpool player by midweek)

Rodgers will want to mold these youngsters and unearth their potential by continuing to play the possession based soccer he knows and loves at Liverpool. He doesn’t really want players who differ from his playing style and doesn’t want to spend too much time adapting their style of play. He wants younger players who are more receptive to change and won’t be stubborn enough to persist with their previous playing habits.

32-year-old defender Kolo Toure arrived on a free transfer from Manchester City, and many raised eyebrows as to whether Rodgers was going to move forward with experienced pros instead of giving youth a chance.

(MORE: Liverpool sign Toure from Manchester City…Kolo Toure that is)

I think we all know which direction Liverpool are heading in now. Change is occurring and as we saw last season, they’re moving forward slowly but surely under Rodgers’ stewardship.

Sporting Lisbon defender Tiago Ilori is said to be next on the list. Again, he is 20 and can be molded accordingly as Rodgers revolution continues to take shape. Also Shakhtar Donetsk’s 24-year-old Armenian star Henrikh Mkhitaryan is close to joining Liverpool, with the highly touted attacker — who scored 25 goals from midfield last season — said to be valued between $27-30 million.

With Carroll gone and Suárez edging ever closer to the exit door, a new look Liverpool side could conceivably see at least half of their outfield players under the age of 22 next season.

Winds of change are sweeping through Anfield. Exciting times with exuberant youngsters could lie ahead.

Klopp says post-match interview not a big deal

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It wouldn’t be too wild to call Jurgen Klopp’s Sunday post-match interview the most circulated exchange in the soccer world, at least in recent memory.

Klopp was back behind a microphone on Tuesday as Liverpool prepares for West Bromwich Albion, and was asked about his testy exchange with a reporter following the Reds’ 1-1 draw with Everton in the Merseyside Derby.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 1-1 Everton ]

He says it’s in the past for him and pretty much everyone. From The Liverpool Echo:

“Now I’m completely relaxed, I wasn’t five minutes after the game. Sometimes you look into the eyes of journalists and you feel they aren’t too interested in what you have to say. I’m not an actor.”

“It was nothing, I didn’t use any words I have to take back. I don’t like it but I cannot change it because I felt like this at that moment. I cannot act differently, but I can keep myself calm. It’s just an interview. I don’t think anybody remembers it. It was just an interview, nothing else.”

We’ll say this about the 1-1 draw: it still feels hollow, as Everton executed one of the greatest thefts in the Premier League this season. Even the awarded PK — Dejan Lovren‘s two-handed shove to Dominic Calvert-Lewin was a silly play in a non-threatening spot — was one of those, “Well, sure, but…” calls.

Liverpool dominated the game, and didn’t get three points. Everton got a point, but will want most of its day back. Thank goodness we get another chance at an enjoyable Merseyside Derby in the FA Cup next month.

Wenger: Man City, United should look to sumo wrestlers

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Arsenal is readying for a visit to West Ham United, but Arsene Wenger‘s mind took a detour to Japan.

In a wide-ranging pre-match interview touching on Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, and the Manchester Tunnel Fracas (TM), it was the last topic that had Wenger musing on the post-match actions of sumo wrestlers.

[ MORE: Premier League Tues. preview ]

For those who missed it, there was an alleged dust-up between Manchester City and Manchester United after Jose Mourinho and his men objected to boisterous City celebrations in the away locker room on Sunday.

Ever the politician, the rail thin manager called upon rather large athletes to make the point of what he’d like to see. From Sky Sports:

“It happened to us, it’s happened to them. It’s unfortunate. Ideally you would commit 100% on the pitch and be an angel after. It’s not always the case. You want to keep that passion on the pitch.

“It is difficult to take when you lose a game, to see the celebration. When I was in Japan, I liked sumo wrestling because you could never tell who had won. The winner never showed his happiness as there’s a deep respect for the opponent.”

Wenger’s last managerial stop came in 1996 with Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan.

There was plenty more from Wenger, who was asked about the statuses of Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil.

For the latter, it’s relatively straight-forward: There’s still no new contract between the playmaker and Arsenal, though no final offer has been made and Wenger remains optimistic about the hiring.

As for Giroud, who’s been tipped for a move away from Arsenal for some time, Wenger admits it’s tricky. The super sub would start on most teams but is quite valuable to Arsenal as the usual backup to Alexandre Lacazette.

And it’s not like Arsenal has hurt the Frenchman’s stock with one of the best international sides in the world.

“He’s a very important player and I have big respect for him. Look how many French caps he has got since he came here. He’s not wasted his time. I can understand his frustrations. He’s played many games, much more than many speak about. He’s played more than Lacazette for example. When you are at a big club with many strikers, you can’t guarantee.

“Personally I want him to stay at the club until the end of the season. Then we will see.”

If Wenger can massage the full season out of Giroud and then sell him, Arsenal will have to call it a win. But how different might the Gunners look next August, with Giroud, Ozil, and Alexis Sanchez all expected to be out the door?

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

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Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”