Liverpool landing Lambert a sign Rodgers ready to rotate?
And so begins the Southampton exodus. Battering ram centre forward Rickie Lambert is the first Saint to go marching in… to Liverpool, 5/1 shots with Coral to win the Premier League title next term.
Valuations of this transfer vary – some sources say he is a snip at £4m plus add-ons, while others claim the fee to be twice that – but Lambert is now a Red after passing a medical and penning a reported two-year deal.
His story from factory worker, because he failed to make the grade in Anfield’s academy, through the divisions of English football, to proven Premier League scorer and international recognition is tantalisingly close to coming full circle. Real Roy of the Rovers stuff.
It is a circuitous route taken by Scouser striker Lambert to the verge of re-joining his boyhood club. He toured northwest towns Blackpool, Macclesfield, Stockport and Rochdale before moving south to Bristol Rovers and the meteoric rise at St Mary’s.
This Cinderella story aside, there are some big questions over what his role will be at the Reds under Brendan Rodgers. Lambert, swept along by the lure of that unfinished business on Merseyside, would do well to remember the role Andy Carroll, who he beat to make the World Cup squad, had under the Northern Irishman.
Carroll was reduced to a bit-part player at Anfield – an experience that, coupled with subsequent injury problems at West Ham, has hampered his development. Can Lambert, at 32, meanwhile, force his way into a Liverpool attack that scored 50 goals plus this season?
Is he there to supplement the ‘SAS’ Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez strike partnership, or play between them? If the latter is in Rodgers’ thinking, then what does that mean for the likes of Raheem Sterling and Fabio Borini, back from a season-long loan spell at Sunderland?
Prospects for Spanish forward flops Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto look pretty bleak, because Philippe Coutinho, overlooked by Brazil boss Phil Scolari for a hosted World Cup, is also ahead of them in the pecking order too. Both may scuttle back to La Liga with their tails between their legs.
The Reds have won many neutrals over by playing fluid, attacking football. Never mind their failure against Chelsea and slip up at Crystal Palace, which cost them the title; even Manchester United icon Paul Scholes had to admire their “swagger”.
Lambert will give Rodgers a different option up front, and food for thought when it comes to rotation. Liverpool have a Champions League campaign to mount next term too; they are 20/1 to win a European trophy, so if they are to fire on all fronts, they must play a squad game.
Coral have also opened special markets on how Lambert will fare in front of goal for the Reds. It’s 11/4 for him to net 10 or more Premier League goals next term, while there’s a 7/2 price on him outscoring compatriot Daniel Sturridge in 2014/15.
Lambert could also come back to haunt a Southampton side that he may struggle to recognise in the new season. Manchester United are still in talks over signing left back Luke Shaw, while Saints skipper Adam Lallana may join the striker at Anfield. Tantalizing odds of 7/1 say Lambert will score home and away against his old club.