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Liverpool eye Premier League top four entering next phase of transfer strategy

Having already brought in six players this transfer window, Liverpool, 9/4 with Coral to finish in the Premier League top four next season are about to embark on the second phase of their summer recruitment campaign after boss Brendan Rodgers tried out his new signings in pre-season.

So far, James Milner and Danny Ings (both on free transfers) have joined, as well as young defender Joe Gomez from Charlton, goalkeeper Adam Bogdan, Roberto Firmino and Nathaniel Clyne.

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It is understood that Rodgers still wants a striker and a midfielder, while another centre back is also a possibility. A search for the latter could be over after it was reported that Christian Benteke has travelled to Anfield to have a medical after the Reds met the Belgian’s £32.5m release clause.

While it remains to be seen whether he is the right fit for Liverpool, the signing suggests that Rodgers wants to add some nastiness to his attack and Benteke can certainly bully defenders as well as score goals.

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Whether he is mobile enough to fit into the fluid attacking philosophy that has been installed at the club by Rodgers though, is another point that the Northern Irishman might want to take into account. However, with Daniel Sturridge set to miss the start of the season, Benteke does at least offer a proven option as someone who can come straight in and who knows the Premier League.

He has scored 49 goals in 101 appearances for Aston Villa as well as contributing 13 assists; not bad in a side who often struggle to create chances. Liverpool though have a medley of players capable of creating chances, including the irrepressible Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson, Lazar Markovic and even Alberto Moreno.

This season, they can add at least the talent of Firmino, Clyne and Milner, with the latter scoring one in each of the Reds pre-season games, while Ings has also opened his account.

Having just sold Raheem Sterling to Manchester City for £49m, Liverpool have a considerable amount to lavish on more squad improvement and Real Madrid’s Asier Illarramendi remains a target after Rafa Benitez left the Spaniard out of Los Blancos’ pre-season squad.

It could mean that the Reds resurrect their interest in the 25-year-old and are believed to be readying a fresh £13.8m bid, while they have also been linked to Lyon’s Yoann Gourcuff, who is seen as an ideal, immediate replacement for the departed former skipper, Steven Gerrard.

Benteke’s anticipated arrival, despite reports that Rodgers knows nothing about the move, will give the Reds boss options. Taking into account the Belgian’s scoring ability and the raft of creative talent currently in the squad, he could build the starting lineup around him.

Last term, the problem for Liverpool was converting chances, with Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert often failing in the absence of Sturridge. The main issue for Benteke was lack of chances created for him, when he did return from injury, so thinking about it logically, this could be a move that makes sense, even if the price is inflated.

With West Brom said to be readying a £3m bid for Lambert, Balotelli could be on the verge of joining Sampdoria, which leaves Rodgers with Ings and Divock Origi who was signed last summer from Lille before being sent back there on loan.

It means the latter duo could be deployed in the Europa League, in the same way that Mauricio Pochettino did with Harry Kane last season. The striker made such an impact in the competition, that he had proved himself enough to start regularly in the Premier League and was unlucky to miss out on the Golden Boot.

The arrival of Benteke would also give Liverpool the option of playing a 4-4-2 diamond, providing the perfect foil for Sturridge, with even Ings capable of forming a partnership with either, while Firmino offers an option there as well as in the hole behind two frontmen.

At first glance, the signing of Benteke seems over-indulgent for the fee Liverpool have bid, however, there may just be some method from the board here, who have made shrewd some shrewd recruits so far this summer.