One of the most incredible stories of any player in the Premier League continues to get better.
Southampton and England striker Rickie Lambert is about to be signed by his hometown club Liverpool at the age of 32. According to reports from the Press Association, a fee believed to be around $6 million plus other add ons has been agreed between the two clubs and Lambert will have a medical on Saturday.
After Mauricio Pochettino left Saints earlier this week to take over as Tottenham Hotspur boss, Lambert is set to follow in his footsteps to join the team he has supported his entire life. Dreams, it seems, do come true.
This is truly a remarkable story as Lambert was released by Liverpool as a schoolboy and is still an avid supporter of his hometown team. A few months ago I asked Lambert a few questions in a press conference and his love for Liverpool was brought up. It is clear he holds the Reds close to his heart. Since Liverpool snubbed him as a teenager, Lambert then worked his way out from the lower tiers of English soccer (which also included a stint of working in a beetroot factory on the side) before joining Southampton at the age of 27 when they were a third-tier club.
The last five years have been a dream ride for the Liverpudlian who has scored 117 goals in 235 games since joining Saints in 2009. In that time he has steered Southampton to two-straight promotions to the Premier League and has scored 28 goals in 75 appearances in the top flight over the last two seasons.
His ability from the penalty spot is also superb as he has never missed a penalty for Saints after scoring 34 straight PKs. However what will have most likely impressed Brendan Rodgers is that Lambert is not just a goalscorer but also a creator as last season he has 10 assists to his name, only Wayne Rooney, Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard had more last season in the PL. Having Lambert come off the bench to help tee up Suarez and Daniel Sturridge would work wonderfully as Lambert isn’t just a target forward, he has a wonderful soccer brain.
In the last 18 months Lambert has gone from a journeyman in the lower leagues of English soccer to a regular goalscorer in the PL who is also going to the World Cup with England.
Now his rags to riches career is set to have the cherry on the top as he will sign for his hometown club Liverpool and see out his playing days in front of the Kop trying to help the Reds win the PL and succeed in the Champions League. Not bad for a lad who used to work in a beetroot factory. Not bad at all.
Manager Eusebio Di Francesco was not thrilled with his side on the night. From ASRoma.com/En:
“We weren’t on their level tonight – we were lacking a bit of strength and physical presence,” he said. “We let them swamp us too easily on occasion.”
A better second leg is almost assured, but can Roma complete another comeback?
“I have total belief,” Di Francesco said. “You can’t just give in during a game, especially in this type of competition. Sometimes you take a few hits, but the team wasn’t able to stay in the game and at times we lost a bit of unity.”
Sporting director Monchi admits that he thought his side was cooked before Dzeko opened Roma’s account.
“Up until the final 10 minutes we were out of the competition,” he said. “Now we still have some hopes, and we must take this small chance and do the same thing we did against Barcelona.”
Former Spurs defender Federico Fazio, now with Roma, thinks it can be done.
“We always focus on the positives,” said Fazio. “We are fighters and we will give absolutely everything until the last second. We are not beaten yet, once again with the strength of our fans behind us we will fight to the last moment to try and turn this tie around.”
The two in the score line came in the final 10 minutes, as Liverpool almost inexplicably lost focus.
Before we get to Point No. 2, here’s Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp on “The Ox”:
“Oxlade-Chamberlain is probably a really bad injury,” Klopp said on BT Sport in England. “That is bad news for us. The squad doesn’t get bigger at the moment so we need to be creative in the next few games.”
As for the Roma goals, Klopp was frustrated but ultimately happy to walk away with a three-goal lead.
Edin Dzeko headed home the Roma opener in the 81st minute before Diego Perotti converted a penalty kick after James Milner handled a ball in the box. Roma collected shot attempts in the final 10 minutes to finish the match 21-14 in Liverpool’s favor.
“Long term perfect performance for pretty much 80 minutes or so,” he said, via the BBC. “We made defensively one mistake. Penalty is not a penalty but that is the situation and now it is 5-2. Of course we would have been more happy with 5-0 or 5-1 but 5-2 is a fantastic result. We go there and try again.”
“It felt as though we were in full control but we basically gave them two goals, you can’t do that in the Champions League,” Henderson said. “At the same time we played well, we will go there with a three goal advantage.”
Reds center back Virgil Van Dijk was visibly frustrated even when discussing the boss-level effort in building a lead which should be very hard to erase in Rome.
“It was a fantastic evening, lot of good goals,” Van Dijk said. “A lot of passion, frustration, but the last minutes stays in my mind right now. … It can’t happen. Obviously we know Roma have a lot of quality but we need to do better. But we have a 5-2 lead to take with us to Rome. It’s going to be very tough, but we’ll be ready.”
So 3-0 or 4-1 would do it for Roma next week in Italy, but that’s far easier said than done. Liverpool fans won’t be booking too many flights for Ukraine yet, but Jurgen Klopp will be scouting Bayern Munich and Real Madrid on Wednesday with an eye toward Kiev.
Roma’s only consolation comes in the form of two goals in the final 10 minutes; The first was an Edin Dzeko marker in the final 10 minutes. The second a penalty given for a James Milner handball that Diego Perotti converted for a second away goal.