Liverpool linked with Southampton star to replace Suarez in January
Southampton forward Jay Rodriguez has been linked with a move to Liverpool in the next transfer window and could replace wantaway striker Luis Suarez at Anfield.
The Burnley native was called up to Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the upcoming internationals against Chile and Germany after playing a key part in third-placed Saints’ excellent start to the Premier League campaign.
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers has kept tabs on Rodriguez for a while and was linked with a summer move for the 24-year-old when Suarez looked likely to leave Merseyside.
A brace against Fulham drew the Uruguayan level with Liverpool teammate Daniel Sturridge and Man City’s Sergio Aguero at the top of the top-flight’s scoring charts, with eight goals in just six Premier League games claimed by the 26-year-old since coming back from a 10-match suspension.
Considering his incredible strike-rate it is little wonder Suarez is the 7/4 favourite to finish the season as the Premier League’s top goalscorer, but rumours about his future at Anfield persist and a move to Real Madrid is thought to be a distinct possibility in January.
Arsenal could also revive their interest in the 71-cap international after botching an attempt to sign him over the summer, but Suarez stated in May that he wished to leave England because of difficulties with the press and the Bernabeu is still his most likely destination.
Despite charging up to second place in the Premier League – just two points behind the league-leading Gunners – Liverpool’s squad is tissue-paper thin and there’s little backup on the bench should their red-hot strikeforce lose its potency through injury or loss of form.
Rodgers certainly can’t afford to sell Suarez without bringing in an adequate replacement if Liverpool are serious about defying odds of evens to finish in the top four this season.
Rodriguez may not yet be at the former Ajax man’s level, but he is similar to Suarez in that he can play as a wing-forward in a 4-2-3-1 formation or as part of a two-man attack.
At hometown club Burnley, the Saints star rose through the youth ranks and made his Championship debut in December 2007 against Bristol City.
Loan spells at Scottish First Division side Stirling Albion and Barnsley followed and despite featuring twice in the League Cup during the Clarets’ sole season in the Premier League, Rodriguez was deemed unready for a top-flight debut in 2009/10 under coaches Owen Coyle and Brian Laws.
Two Championship campaigns and 29 goals later, then Southampton boss Nigel Adkins paid £7m to bring Rodriguez to the newly-promoted Saints in June 2012.
The forward showed he has the ability to perform at the top level, scoring six Premier League goals and laying on five assists in his first season in the top tier of English football.
Three of those strikes came in a three-game burst of Southampton wins against Chelsea, Liverpool and Reading and Rodriguez has started this term in even better form.
His three Premier League goals so far in 2013/14 have all come in the last five games, prompting Hodgson to call Rodriguez up to the England seniors for the first time.
The 6ft 1in hitman will get the chance to stake his claim for a place on the plane to Brazil this summer and Hodgson will not be the only coach keeping an eye on Rodriguez as the season progresses.