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Liverpool’s record with injuries and signings

I wanted to do a piece on Liverpool’s history with signing players with injury problems that have come back to bite the club in the proverbial backside, bearing in mind the Nabil Fekir transfer saga this summer. 

Posted by Andy Thompson
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However as I researched deeper and deeper into our signings over the last 15 years I was more and more fascinated by Harry Kewell’s Liverpool career, so this is a story about Liverpool’s transfer mishaps in the past but also about what ‘might have been’ for Harry Kewell and Liverpool.

Nabil Fekir to join Liverpool this summer is 5/4.

Ah Harry Kewell. This was meant to be the one. The ‘final piece of the jigsaw’ is a concept that used to dominate the minds of Liverpool supporters from transfer window to transfer window, it used to be a stick that opposition supporters would veraciously beat us with, it’s a surprise the ‘football banter’ Twitter pages haven’t picked up on it yet.

For Paul Ince, see Robbie Keane, for Robbie Keane see Jermaine Pennant. Honestly there are so many, the idea of ‘the final piece of the jigsaw’ deserves an article all on its own.

Alisson Becker to join Liverpool this summer is 23/4.

Harry Kewell was one of those players considered to be the final piece of the jigsaw. A player with undisputed quality and technical ability that attracted the attention of the Barcelonas and Manchester Uniteds of the world as well as Liverpool.

There was quite the fanfare, hope and expectation about the Australian’s £5 million move from Leeds United in July 2003. Kewell was supposed to add stardust to Gerard Houllier’s organised and gritty team.

Houllier was interviewed as recent as October 2017 and admitted that he didn’t sign Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo because ‘he already had Harry Kewell’.

Kewell did manage to make 49 appearances in his first season at the club and scored 11 goals, which is not a bad return in terms of numbers and attendance. However, it was a less than successful season for the club and in the summer out went Houllier and in came Rafael Benitez.

From then on, Kewell’s Liverpool career nosedived. Injuries really took its toll on him under Benitez.

Kewell went on to make only 44 appearances in the next four seasons after that, in what was a sporadic period for player, fans and manager.

What made Kewell’s situation even more frustrating is that Benitez clearly rated him as a player – the manager, as well as the fans could see the quality that the Australian could produce.

Benitez started Kewell in his first three cup finals as Liverpool manager, against Chelsea in the League Cup final and versus AC Milan in the Champions League final in 2005, and then also in the FA Cup final against West Ham United in 2006.

The elements of trust and faith shown in Kewell by Benitez is evident by the manager turning to the winger for the very big games.

This defines Kewell’s ability as a footballer.

However the caveat is Kewell was substituted in all three finals, two of them down to injury (Istanbul before half time) – and this perhaps defines Kewell’s career as a footballer.

Injury picked up while representing Australia at the World Cup in 2006 kept him out of pretty much the whole of the next season and Anfield never really saw their wing-wizard at full fitness again.

A player with ability and style but an example of a Liverpool career hampered by injuries that left the club with an expensive problem on it’s hands.

There are so many more examples you can refer to when talking about this issue. For Harry Kewell, see Alberto Aquilani.

The Italian midfielder was signed for £20 million as a replacement for Real Madrid-bound Xabi Alonso in August 2009.

However, Aquilani signed with a pre-existing injury and didn’t play in the league until November against Birmingham City and only made his first start against Wolves on Boxing Day.

Aquilani only spent one season at the club and made just 26 appearances, scoring 2 goals in a stop-start career at Anfield.

The issue the club found was finding a taker for him when they wished to get rid.

Aquilani didn’t leave on a permanent deal for another three seasons, eventually joining Fiorentina after loan spells at AC Milan and Juventus.

No clubs wanted to take a risk on a player with so many injury problems which left Liverpool having to compromise on loan deals where they still had to pay a chunk of his wage. He was the lad who wouldn’t leave the party until 6am despite hints being dropped that the soiree was over hours ago.

All transfers have an element of risk attached to them, a player could break his leg in their very first training session but there are some that are clearly higher risks than others. Maybe it is this predicament that Liverpool are finding with signing Nabil Fekir at the moment.

Reports ‘suggest’ there is an issue with the French player’s medical with Fekir having missed games through numerous issues with his knees in the past few seasons.

Liverpool may have seen something in the medical which has put them off and this may be an example of a club learning from it’s mistakes made in the past in taking huge punts on players that may be more ‘likely’ to suffer spells out the side with injury.

The Fekir saga is all a case of ‘remains to be seen’ and Liverpool may still make Fekir their next signing but if this does come to fruition do not be surprised to hear reports of a heavily restructured deal.

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