Transfer news: Goal search drives the January sales

Every club is looking for that prolific striker who will make all the difference, writes Ian Herbert

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The Independent Football

Let’s raise a glass to Burnley – not only because their Premier League survival would be a triumph over the corporatisation of the division but because they have the manager who speaks most sense.

“Strikers make a difference,” Sean Dyche said a few days ago in a generally unnoticed discussion of the position which seems destined to occupy most thoughts in the imminent January transfer window. “That’s why they all drive massive cars. That’s why there is a shortage of them. That’s why the world demands, ‘Can we find a striker?’ Because it changes the whole view of the team. Rarely did your dad speak to you about the right-back. I remember mine talking to me about Ian Rush and other Liverpool strikers. They make a massive difference to the way a team looks.”

What wouldn’t the Liverpool manager give for one of that Rush pedigree? Though Brendan Rodgers suggests that Mario Balotelli will be staying come what may, you really wonder why, given that he also publicly admitted on Christmas Eve that the Italian does not provide the energy and pressing intensity that Liverpool’s new 3-4-2-1 system demands. That, allied to the enduring fitness concerns surrounding Daniel Sturridge, haunts Rodgers.


Efforts will continue this week to bring forward from next summer the 19-year-old Belgian Divock Origi’s move from Lille to Liverpool, who would be prepared to increase the £9m fee they have agreed. The French side’s reluctance has made discussions delicate. Origi has not exactly shone this autumn. Liverpool will contemplate other names.

Divock Origi could return to Liverpool

The lack of contenders is a problem. A former technical director from one of the Premier League top four wonders why Liverpool took that gamble on Balotelli – “a bauble on a Christmas tree”, as an executive at another of the current top four  describes him – when Burnley’s Danny Ings could have been signed last summer. Prising Ings away now looks impossible, and the same goes for West Bromwich’s Saido Berahino – the sale of whom would be a suicide note. Porto’s Colombia international Jackson Martinez would cost Liverpool close to £30m and he turns 29 next year. Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has stipulated that their France’s Alexandre Lacazette – another Liverpool have watched – is not for sale. Palermo would make even higher demands for 19-year-old Paulo Dybala.

The indication from the top at Anfield is that the spending is done. The Luis Suarez money was invested and that is that. Liverpool would probably have to sell to buy. Fabio Borini (still coveted by Sunderland), Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas and Oussama Assaidi could raise £18m. But that wouldn’t deliver guaranteed goals, while the striker department is covered by Origi’s arrival, whenever that will be.

Manchester City know that they won’t get enough quality either, which is why they are unlikely to compensate for their willingness to allow Alvaro Negredo to take his homesick wife back to Spain – via a loan to Valencia – by attempting to persuade Swansea to part company with Wilfried Bony in January.

Wilfried Bony is unlikely to leave Swansea in January

It is the clubs under the cloud of relegation who may spend. Bottom club Leicester are the most desperate. They have already tried – unsuccessfully – to buy Andrej Kramaric of HNK Rijeka and Aleksandar Mitrovic from Anderlecht and last week tabled a £7.5m bid for Ings, knowing that he is out of contract this summer. The prospect of Burnley willingly selling to their rivals for the drop would be unthinkable, but Leicester’s audacious bid was in the hope that Ings will want at least to hear what they are offering. That could be unsettling. Leicester’s Thai backers can certainly make the Englishman richer than Burnley can.

Leicester may revert to joining Queens Park Rangers in the pursuit of Jermain Defoe, who has fallen out with his employers at Toronto FC, though Rangers have been given the indication that the price will be too high. Crystal Palace are more likely to spend than Rangers. Swansea City’s Bafetimbi Gomis was Neil Warnock’s £6m target, but his dismissal yesterday puts a different complexion on that. A loan of Arsenal striker Yaya Sanogo is also possible.

Sanogo could make a loan move in January

Signing a striker brings no guarantees. Steve Bruce was celebrated for bringing in Shane Long and  Nikica Jelavic last January, but neither scored enough goals to make them significant to Hull’s survival last season. Desperate managers prefer to recall Harry Redknapp buying John Hartson and Paul Kitson, which saved West Ham 14 years ago.

West Bromwich seem unlikely to buy another striker and Dyche is also wise enough to see through the sales talk. His club, who have mustered only 12 goals, are reflecting on having made it to Christmas minus the injured Sam Vokes without losing touch. The significance of Vokes’ return on Boxing Day after eight months out with a knee injury was huge and Dyche hopes that Vokes and Ings, whose goals took Burnley up, can fire again. Yes, let’s raise a glass to Dyche and his sustainable football.