With the exception of the now injury prone Michael Owen, Liverpool have been cursed with turning potential and proven goal scorers into very average players. If the papers are to believed then Fernando Torres could have gone to Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United or Inter Milan, yet he chose Liverpool. Will this prove to be a mistake, a backwards step in his career? Or will he buck the trend and prove that he is as good as many had hoped? Certainly those at Liverpool will hope so.
Liverpool have failed to lift the Premier League title since its inception, and more horrifically for their fans, they have failed to even come close to winning the title as best team in England, a title they seemed to own in the 80’s. They can point to a Champions League win and a final place in the last three seasons, but the truth here is that they have been a one man team for a long time. Take Steven Gerrard out of the equation and Liverpool will struggle to find a UEFA Cup place never mind a top four finish. The main problem that Liverpool have face, due to the reliance on Gerrard for results, is a match winning, consistent, goal scorer.
The Liverpool name and legend is still illustrious enough to attract big names, usually when Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United don’t come calling, but they have managed to secure many top class, or potentially great, forwards during the last decade or so. However, and many Newcastle fans will be able to relate to this, they have found that the players who have come have never preformed as well as they had else where, or as well as they had hoped.
Robbie Fowler broke all sorts of youth team records and was quickly an established member of the Liverpool and England teams. He was regarded as the most natural finisher in the league by many and referred to by the nickname “God” by the Liverpool faithful. Fowler produced the goods for many years at Liverpool. For the first six seasons he played at Liverpool he averaged over 20 goals a season. And then the goals started to dry up. Over the next 3 years he only scored 14 league goals and was then shipped off to Leeds United for a fresh start. At Leeds he did slightly better, scoring 14 goals in two seasons, but rarely hit the highs of his early years. What followed for a player who should have been in the prime of his career was next to dreadful. He moved on to Manchester City where he managed 27 goals in four years, 20 of them in the league. A player who was averaging 20 goals a season now managed that number in four. He returned to Liverpool for two more seasons, scoring 11 times in that period before being released and is currently weighing up options in lower divisions and Australia. The once devastating striker fizzled out to be an average player living on a past reputation during what should have been his prime years.
Emile Heskey arrived at Liverpool having carved out an impressive reputation at Leicester City. After a strong start to his Liverpool, and England career, he was laughed out of Anfield a joke. He scored 39 times in 150 games for Liverpool, slightly better than the 40 goals he managed in 154 games at Leicester, but at a bigger club, with better service, and more experience behind him, so much more was expected. Heskey is trying to rebuild his deflated reputation at Wigan, after a season at Birmingham, who were relegated in his time there.
Djibril Cisse came to Liverpool after some very impressive seasons at Auxerre in France. Auxerre were not one of the top teams in France at the time, yet Cisse managed to top Liga 1’s scoring charts in both the ’01/02 and ’03/04 seasons before Liverpool paid 14 million pounds to bring him to England. Cisse was the hottest property in France, scoring 70 times in 128 games for Auxerre. Much was expected of him in England. Although he scored on his debut against Spurs, Cisse failed to live up to the hype and ended the season having scored 5 goals in 25 games. He wasn’t help by injuries in his time at Liverpool, including a broken leg, and being used out of position on the wing for much of Rafa Benitez first season at Liverpool. During his next, and last season, at Liverpool he managed a better rate, scoring 17 times in 54 games, but this was still not good enough and he was shipped out to Marseille on loan for the next season, and has since made the move permanent. He has regained his form in France and retained his place in the French national squad, but his time at Liverpool damaged his confidence and reputation.
Perhaps the best illustration of the strikers curse at Liverpool would be the case of Fernando Morientes, the Spanish international striker, who was signed from Real Madrid in the 05/06 season. After impressive spells at Real Madrid, where he managed 72 goals in 282 games, and a loan period at Monaco where he scored 10 league goals as well as 9 Champions League goals, finishing as the Champions Leagues top scorer, he moved on to Liverpool. Where again it all went wrong for him. A superb strike rate at international level of 27 goals in 47 games, could not be transferred to a Liverpool shirt, where Morientes managed12 goals in 61 games. He moved on to Valencia where he managed 18 goals in 28 games. Incidentally Morientes has scored on his debuts for Albecete, Real Zaragoza, Real Madrid B, Real Madrid, Valencia, Spain U/21, and Spain. But not Liverpool.
While Dirk Kuyt can not as yet be described as a failure, scoring 14 goals in 48 games for Liverpool since his move from Holland, if he fails to produce this coming season, he may join the long list of forward failures at Liverpool. He arrived at Anfield having scored a remarkable 83 times in 122 games for Feyenoord. While that may be in a weaker league it could be argued that he should be of a quality to acclimatise to the English game and start banging in the goals, just as Ruud van Nistelrooy did for Manchester United. Ruud managed 36 goals in 45 games in his debut season, coming back from a serious injury and from the same league as Kuyt. Liverpool are certainly expecting more from the Dutch international.
Fernando Torres has carved out a great reputation for himself in Spain, and having arrived for a huge transfer fee, will hope that he is able to break the trend of forward failures that have run onto the Anfield turf, for both his new team and his careers sake