With the big man starved of decent service so far, the priority for Liverpool this summer is to buy width. They could do a lot worse that start with Jeffren...
In the dying moments of El Clasico on 29 November 2010, at precisely the same time as Jose Mourinho’s ego spontaneously combusted, a fleet-footed number 11 stole across the Real Madrid defence and side-footed the fifth and final goal past an disconsolate Iker Casillas. Xavi went bezerk, Pep Guardiola gesticulated with glee and Jeffren, the scorer, ran to the bench smiling like a tomcat who had just woken up in the Ambrosia factory and found himself being spoon fed a pot of extra thick by a particularly horny Siamese. Liverpool fans, get on YouTube and think of a song, because the smart money is on him arriving in L4 this summer.
While not having the profile of Bojan on these shores, Jeffren Suarez is a starlet in his adoptive Spain. Born in Venezuela in 1988, his parents moved to Tenerife when he was a year old and it was from the youth system of CD Tenerife that Barcelona plucked him in 2004.
In the ensuing six years he has represented Spain at every age group from U-16 to U-21 and, despite spending most of his time playing for Barcelona B, his cameos in the first team have been frequently dazzling. The problem he faces, and one that should give Liverpool hope, is that, with Messi, Iniesta, Pedro and Bojan ahead of him in the pecking order for the wide right and left positions, he will continue to be restricted to cameos and appearances in Spanish Cup matches unless injury or fatigue to one of his more established teammates forces Guardiola’s hand.
With a left-foot that Chris Waddle would undoubtedly call a can-opener - and a right that he is comfortable using to deliver slide-rule passes - Jeffren is a ‘Playstation’ footballer. Comfortable on either right or left flank, he relies on blinding pace (Waddle: afterburners) and sublime balance to often beat his man by knocking it past him, sprinting onto the ball and whipping in devilish crosses at high velocity. It might sound schoolboy in conception, but the execution is far from the playground.
Carroll needs balls whipped in from high up the pitch that swing away from the keeper and allow him to use his height and prodigal leap to gain advantage.
That is not to say he hasn’t got skill or, with the Premier League in mind, tenacity. Witness his goal against Xerez last season. Cutting in from the right onto a ball delivered inside the full-back by Xavi, he takes control, slips, skins the player with his left while on the floor and rifles home with the same foot from an angle similar to that of Luis Suarez’s recent strike against Sunderland.
Liverpool’s desperation for genuine width has seen legions of players come and go in seasons past. Nunez, Bellamy, Pennant, Babel, Riera and more have all auditioned for the touchline-hugging positions and been found wanting. Nunez was awful, Bellamy belted a team-mate with a golf club and is not comfortable crossing with his left, Pennant squandered chances, Babel didn’t have the minerals and Riera, who started so well, began to drift in-field too often to make a difference. The deployment of Torres as a lone-striker often forced this as he made a lot of runs to the left and, despite his heading ability, has too many other gifts and a desire to score wonder goals to prowl the box and occupy defenders physically.
Enter Andy Carroll. A feature of his performances so far, aside from a bristling physicality and ability to bring other players into the game, has been Liverpool hitting him with long diagonal balls from full-back positions, mainly because Kuyt and Maxi don’t have the pace to beat the man on the outside. If this continues, the chants of ‘what a waste of money’ will rain down from opposition fans. As proven by his time at Newcastle, Carroll needs balls whipped in from high up the pitch that swing away from the keeper and allow him to use his height and prodigal leap to gain advantage.
With Ashley Young likely to cost in excess of £30m, and also probably move to a team that can offer him Champions league football, Jeffren is an exciting, talented and cost-effective solution. He’s 23, will be aware that he needs to leave Camp Nou to further his career and his contract contains a buy-out clause that, at €10m, is only a touch more than the fee shelled out on Bebe by Manchester United.
The good news for Liverpool fans is that two of the ex-Barcelona coaches now at Liverpool’s academy will have played a part in his development, and also that Kenny has seen him play, likes the cut of his gib and will surely have no problem convincing John W. Henry that hee is a snip at that price.
Time for the denizens of The Kop to think of something that rhymes with Jeffren…
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