On 30 July 1996, Newcastle United announced the world transfer record-breaking £15 million signing of Alan Shearer. 206 goals later and he became not only a legend on Tyneside but a legend of the Premier League. Alan Shearer remains the all-time Premier League top goalscorer with 260 goals.
Roll on 16 years. Yes, the finance in football has dramatically changed. Promising youngsters cost as much as or as more than the proven Alan Shearer back then. Wages had gone up no end, as have ticket prices, revenue, TV income etc. etc.
After that introduction, Liverpool are on the verge signing of Swansea City centre midfielder, Joe Allen for the same price Newcastle United paid for the Premier League’s greatest goalscorer 16 years ago. OK, I shouldn’t be comparing the two.
Joe Allen will slot into the centre of the Liverpool midfield to start to the new Premier League season once the signing has been completed. At the age of 22, Allen only comes with one season of Premier League experience and 8 senior international caps for Wales (and 5 for Great Britain’s Olympic squad). On top of his 36 appearances (31 starts) in the Premier League there was relatively little pressure on Swansea City. This large price tag will add pressure onto the shoulders of the young Welshman. I cannot predict how that will turn out.
His 91.2% pass completion rate in the Premier League last season earned Joe Allen a lot of praise. He ranked only below team mate Leon Britton (93.5%), Nigel de Jong (92.3%) and John Terry (91.3%). And retaining possession is the second reason for why I believe Brendan Rodgers has bought Joe Allen in.
Liverpool completed 81% of their passes last season (above average), compared to Swansea City’s 86% (2nd only to Manchester City). The Reds’ 55% average possession was below the Swans’ 57.6%. Rodgers is bringing in a player to help improve these stats, and ultimately help improve the results.
In Liverpool’s midfield last season, Dirk Kuyt, Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson were all guilty of giving the ball away on too many occasions. And with the likes of Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing and Adam in the midfield providing the creativity (please don’t mock me for adding Downing on this list) , Allen adds stability to the midfield.
I imagine Allen will sit alongside Lucas in the centre of the Liverpool midfield. Lucas has had some time in Liverpool’s pre-season Europa League tie and looks set to be in contention to start the new season. The Brazilian closes the opposition down and wins possession. Allen, likewise wins possession. No Swansea City player made more tackles than Joe Allen last season.
Brendan Rodgers will have two reliable holding midfielders to protect his back four and pass the ball onto the attacking unit once Allen’s transfer has gone through. That would already be an improvement on Kenny Dalglish’s overzealous to buy attacking players. The Northern Irish manager appears to be balancing the side out.
Joe Allen comes with no sparks. He is not a playmaker, he will not score or create many goals. He’s not a flair player. He’s there to win the ball and play sensible passes. He can do that.
Is Joe Allen really worth £15 million? I’m not a big fan of him. He cannot be compared to Yaya Toure, but can do a job in that holding midfield role. In comparison, Manchester United have Michael Carrick. Arsenal have Alex Song. Tottenham have Scott Parker. And Chelsea have Ramires and Michael Essien. I don’t think it’s a substantial downgrade on all of those and as Liverpool look to get themselves back into Champions League contention, it’s a start.