MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - JULY 20: Neymar of Brazil battles with Joe Allen of GB during the international friendly match between Team GB and Brazil at Riverside Stadium on July 20, 2012 in Middlesbrough, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
After a courtship that felt as though it lasted most of the summer, Brendan Rodgers gets the man he's been chasing, as today Liverpool unveiled Joe Allen as Rodgers' second signing of the summer. News of the release clause being met a few days ago--along with the sighting of Allen in the VIP box at Thursday's match--make this one of the least surprising signings of the summer, but it's one that can be welcomed without any major reservations.
I say that knowing some will bristle at the price tag given the way Liverpool's spending last summer on young/British/young British talent turned out. And £15 million spent is certainly no small amount, especially with much of the discussion around Daniel Agger's future including caveats about the club needing to sell to buy and wage bill balancing and etcetera.
While those reservations may be justified, my hope is that they're not enough to cloud out the positives that arrive with Allen, both on the pitch and off. His presence in the midfield gives Liverpool slightly more dynamism than it currently has, and he's a player that can fill a number of roles without too much of a drop in quality. You get the sense that Allen set the pace for what we'd have hoped to get from Jordan Henderson (and still might), and that he's about as well-rounded as a young central midfielder can be.
The midfield collective that he joins suddenly becomes one of Liverpool's deepest, most talented positions after a season in which we found ourselves very worried about what things would look like when fitness and transfers conspired to leave a small number of central midfielders able to feature regularly.
Liverpool now have Allen, Lucas, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, and Jonjo Shelvey to choose from, and as Nate from Oh You Beauty pointed out last night, it's not only a midfield filled with quality, it's one whose average age--Steven Gerrard included--is 24. A loan move for Shelvey might still be in the works, but even so, that's a midfield with one of Europe's premier defensive midfielders, one of the Premier League's most promising young central midfielders, and one of world football's greatest-ever midfielders, period. And that's excluding Henderson, who's given more than a few glimpses of potential that could see his career blossom.
As mentioned, that's plenty of positivity about the action on the pitch, but for me the Allen signing also indicates a solid direction moving forward off the pitch for Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool, as he has stuck to his guns in gathering the players that will best fit in the type of football he's trying to bring to Liverpool. He spoke about this earlier in the day, and while we'd all like to have seen a bit more action on the way in, the evidence we do have on Fabio Borini is at least comforting.
Allen obviously fits the mold, and Rodgers' joy at the transfer can't be hidden in the standard picture set that accompanies each new transfer. That he's found and been able to acquire another player that fits his plan is terrific, and even better is that in a matter of days, Liverpool have managed to swing the pendulum back towards optimism and hope, all the while promoting a message of patience. There's still a few twists left in the summer, and some may not be so great. But for now, there's an air of expectancy about Liverpool, and that's one of the nicest changes of all.
So welcome to Joe Allen, let's all hope his time at Liverpool sees success for both him and the club.