27 August 2010

Europa League Draw, Mascherano finally sold

It's been an eventful morning.

We'll get the inevitable Mascherano news out of the way first. Unsurprisingly, Liverpool's statement didn't mention the price tag, but the BBC's reporting that Barcelona will pay £17.25m, which is £750,000 less than Liverpool spent to get him from West Ham's reserves. And almost £7m less than City paid to take Yaya Toure from Barca. There might be the usual add-ons that eventually bump the fee up higher, but still. Fantastic. I hope lube was included in the deal or else that raping will be exceptionally uncomfortable.

Unlike I usually do with departing players, there'll be no eulogy for a mercenary who forced his way out of Liverpool at the worst possible time. I loved the player while he was here, but in contrast to the likes of Alonso, Garcia, and Hyypiä, among others, I couldn't care less how he fares in Spain. He was marvelous on the pitch almost every time out, but the fee and the way he left will ruin my memories forever. Hope your wife's happier in Barcelona. But I also hope Busquets keeps you out of the side except for Spanish Cup games, and you rot in the reserves, just like at West Ham.

I'd also hope that Hodgson gets to spend at least half of that £17m or so, but I'm not holding my breath. Adding that £17.25m to my back-of-the-envelope calculations, Liverpool's made around £23m in transfer fees this summer, and that's not including the supposedly imminent Insua sale. The transfer market closes on Tuesday. It's safe to assume it'll pass without Tom Hicks' so-called "big summer" of spending. But with a current midfield of Gerrard, Lucas, and Poulsen (not counting Spearing, sorry), Liverpool simply has to buy someone. And they'll be linked with every available player in the meantime. "We've got the best midfield in the world..."

Now, more important to the immediate future was this morning's Europa League draw, where we learned Liverpool's group stage opponents.

Group K
Steaua Bucharest

There's a bit of history and some tasty ties in that group, even if it's not the easiest. Dossena was sold to Napoli in January. Kuyt's first professional club was Utrecht, where he spent five years. Liverpool's been to Bucharest four times, but only faced Steaua once, in the 03-04 UEFA Cup campaign, drawing 1-1 in Romania before a 1-0 win at Anfield. You'll also remember they faced Romanian opposition last year in the form of Unirea Urziceni.

Napoli's clearly the toughest side. There's the aforementioned Dossena, but more importantly, a fair few names you'll remember from the World Cup: Slovakia's Hamsik, Uruguay's Cavani (on loan from Palermo) and Gargano, and Italy's Quagliarella. They also have Argentinean Ezequiel Lavezzi, who was a rumored transfer target in the summer of 2009. Oh, and Cristiano Lucarelli, on loan from Parma, a striker I've always had a soft spot for. Both legs will be challenging, especially the away leg, as Napoli's always been a difficult destination for English teams.

I know a lot less about both Steaua and Utrecht. I'm unfamiliar with almost all the players in the Bucharest team, and highly recommend the Scouting Romania blog for information about Steaua in the run-up to those matches. Utrecht absolutely wiped the floor with Celtic last night to qualify, winning 4-0 at home to cancel out Celtic's 2-0 result in Glasgow. Supposed Liverpool target (if we're believing Goal.com) Ricky van Wolfswinkel scored three of the goals – two from the spot – while Utrecht's keeper, Michel Vorm, was an understudy for Stekelenburg at this summer's World Cup. Otherwise, I'm fairly in the dark on these sides for now.

The match-ups are as follows:

September 16: Steaua (h)
September 30: Utrecht (a)
October 21: Napoli (a)
November 4: Napoli (h)
December 2: Steaua (a)
December 15: Utrecht (h)

Liverpool opens and closes at home, with the crucial ties against Napoli third and fourth. United away will follow Steaua at home, Blackpool at home will follow Utrecht away, Liverpool will play Blackburn at home after Napoli away and Chelsea at Anfield after Napoli at Anfield, while Villa at home comes after Steaua away, and Fulham at home comes after Utrecht at home. That's about as good a draw as Liverpool could get with the subsequent league fixtures. For once, Platini comes through.


drew said...

As a supporter, it is horrible to have to think about the owners of your club every single day.

This is the problem with Shanks' holy trinity: as Jung pointed out, trinities are inherently unstable and require a fourth element to keep it grounded. But that fourth element is meant to stay in the background; if it becomes more prominent, it drags the shadow into prominence as well. And if that fourth becomes the central figure of the four, then there is some real shit going down.

nate said...

Did you really just reference Jung's concept of the trinity? Man, I thought my references were esoteric.

It's been years since I read Jung, but if I remember correctly, Jung's concept of the quaternity, at least in relation to Christianity's Holy Trinity, added Satan, the manifestation of "evil" as the fourth, missing piece. That'd be a fitting parallel to the how the owners have shoe-horned their way into Shankly's trinity. But I'm really out of my element here (dammit, Donny).

So yeah, Drew, quit making me look (and feel) stupid. Three is still the magic number.

Edward Sasam said...

Nice! Now Mascherano can be like a bodyguard in the midfield to those punks who like taking down Iniesta. Iniesta-Mascherano-Xavi, with Messi hovering close by… is there a better midfield in the world?

drew said...

ha, if it's any comfort I had a big long schpiel about how being owned by them is like being in a hopeless relationship with someone who treats you like shit and moreover sells your stuff bit by bit to fund a serious habit, but maybe finally the stuff getting pawned is big enough that even the most oblivious person will realize that it ain't coming back.

Lowbrow and highbrow I'm all over, it's middlebrow I can't get the hang of.

Raatzie said...

Liverpool's going to have a "lucky seat" promotion at all home matches.

Winner gets to play DM that day.

drew said...

I will be very, very surprised if Meierles doesn't end up a fucking great signing. Full marks for this one, and Poulsen much more defensible now.

Konchesky, now...

Anonymous said...

Nate can I use this space to chuckle at the thought of you at a Ra Ra Riot show?

nate said...

You're more than welcome to, but I've admitted my indie hipster music leanings before, and I'm an absolute sucker for local bands. Hate adding to the general douchebaggery by name-dropping, but I've followed them since they were SU students and couldn't be prouder they're "making it."

Anonymous said...

I could be accused of some hipsterisms as well, but in my head it's still 2004 so I get amused and surprised when "normal" people listen to indie rock.

nate said...

Wait, did you just call me "normal"?

There's four years of evidence on this site that suggests otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I should've just said people who run "Oh You Beauty" as opposed to "Stereogum".