James Lawton: Morientes and Liverpool, the perfect fit

Click to follow
The Independent Online

With the exception of the beautifully gifted but currently sidelined Xabi Alonso, Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez's Spanish legion have not exactly invaded the legends of Anfield. However, there is the best of reasons to believe that Benitez will touch the heart of the faithful with Fernando Morientes.

With the exception of the beautifully gifted but currently sidelined Xabi Alonso, Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez's Spanish legion have not exactly invaded the legends of Anfield. However, there is the best of reasons to believe that Benitez will touch the heart of the faithful with Fernando Morientes.

Morientes, as he was quick to point out, is arriving at a place which has some considerable track record in respecting high achievement rather more than the latest rush of celebrity.

Three European Cup winners-medals, a superb contribution to Monaco's unlikely run to the Champions' League final last spring, 25 goals in 38 appearances for a chronically under-performing Spain, are surely credentials enough for a crowd weened on such as Yeats and St John, Hansen and Souness, Keegan and Dalglish. That Morientes has to move so far from his native theatre of action, where he scored two goals for Real early in his first match for the club against Salamanca, no doubt says more about what has happened at the Bernabeu than his own performance and nature.

It is certainly fascinating that as Morientes moves to Anfield, Thomas Gravesen leaves Goodison Park for Real. The combative little Dane has some impressive qualities as a midfielder of craft and insight, but in terms of inherent glamour he is surely nobody's idea of a galactico.

However, times have changed in the most successful club in the history of European football. Gravesen can do something that cannot be achieved in a thousand glitterati promotions.

He can shape the course of a football match with bite and intelligence and, at least in this phase of his career, raw personal ambition.

The only question against Morientes is his age - 28 - and his ability to adapt to a new challenge after the frustrations of his experiences with the club to whom he showed such commitment at the peak of his career.

Morientes no doubt will feel the warmth of a sophisticated football crowd at Anfield - certainly the most knowing one in England - and this may well prove incentive enough.

Benitez is in the early stages of some promising work at Anfield - encouraging enough to provoke the hope that this time he has struck authentic Spanish gold. Here is a rare occasion, surely, when you can take your tongue out of your cheek and suggest that this is a deal where the club and the player do indeed deserve each other.

Comments