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.

Herrera: Ibrahimovic competitive drive insatiable in everything

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Ander Herrera is dishing the goods on his Manchester United teammates while on Spain duty this week, and was asked about Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Swede is a fierce competitor on and off the pitch, which Herrera jokes is an ever-present challenge to personal patience.

[ MORE: Deulofeu laments early Messi talk ]

It almost seems like there’s a bit of envy that Ibrahimovic can charge into public comments the way Herrera goes into tackles.

From Marca:

“[Ibrahimovic] is a genius, he’s very intense because he wants to win everything, even football-tennis,” Herrera said to Radio MARCA.

“He assumes this role of doing or saying what he likes in front of the media because he does not care, he can say that he’ll score 30 goals or is the best because he can afford to.”

There’s certainly something to stature when it comes to saying what you feel (though on the other hand, being egotistical is rarely controversial. It’s not like Ibrahimovic is often railing on controversial soccer or social issues).

We’re sure there are plenty of players across all sports, casual and professional, who don’t understand hyper-competitive teammates, but we love a guy who doesn’t turn it down when it comes to on-the-field activities. Hopefully Ibrahimovic is the Jaromir Jagr of soccer.

Gerard Deulofeu calls early Messi comparisons “detrimental”

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Players often like to brush off speculation or criticism in the moment by claiming they don’t read stories written about themselves, but we all know better.

Former Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu confirmed that sentiment by citing specific comparisons he remembers as a youth with Barcelona, citing stories that compared him to Lionel Messi. Now 23 years old, Deulofeu reflects on those early comparisons and wishes the media wasn’t so quick to jump to conclusions about his career.

“In the end, [the comparisons] were more detrimental than beneficial,” he told weekly magazine Forza Milan. “Normally I don’t read newspapers, but that headline I remember well. It created too much expectation among Barcelona fans. There’s only one Messi.”

With expectations high, Deulofeu made just six senior team appearances without a goal or assist before loan spells at Sevilla and Everton saw him out of the club permanently. His time at Goodison Park was up and down as well, with his ability to dazzle a crowd punctuated by long spells of invisibility, failing to earn himself a consistent starting role.

Deulofeu is now on loan from Everton at AC Milan, looking to revitalize his career. He has started every league game since arriving, and has picked up a goal and three assists in 11 matches. There is speculation he could end up in Milan on a permanent basis this summer, but he’s not focused on that right now.

“My future? It’ll be seen to,” Deulofeu said. “My sights are in the present, from experience I know it’s best to leave the past behind and focus on the present. We’ll see what happens in the future. For now, I just want to enjoy the good time that I‘m having at Milan.”

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)