Dalglish only targeting quality
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish insists it will be "disrespectful" to his current squad not to make top-quality signings in the summer but also did not rule out a return for some familiar faces. The Scot accepts there will be some movement in and out but he will not settle for anything less than the best in terms of new arrivals.
Less than a year ago the club was going through a tumultuous time with manager Rafael Benitez having left and the search for new owners still a few months away from completion. Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett were trying to manage huge interest payments on loans they had taken out and new boss Roy Hodgson, having sold Javier Mascherano and Albert Riera and loaned out the likes of Alberto Aquilani and Emiliano Insua, was unable to replace like-for-like in the transfer market.
The arrivals of Denmark midfielder Christian Poulsen and Paul Konchesky, aged 30 and 29 at the time, did little to quell the growing feeling of concern at where things were heading at Anfield, although Raul Meireles has since turned out to be a decent signing.
But since Fenway Sports Group's buyout in October the future looks healthier both on the pitch and in terms of the bank balance and Dalglish has stressed the club will no longer settle for second-best when it comes to transfers.
"The people we'll be looking at are of the highest calibre, because the players here have done really well since January," said Dalglish. "It would be disrespectful to them not for us not to be looking at a higher level. We've had a great end to the season. There will be lots of work done in the close season and we'll take it from there.
"Although it might affect them, players themselves expect new faces to come in and give the place a lift. It'll happen and they know it'll happen. If we get some quality people in to go along with the people already here that will help everyone - it always helps to freshen up the dressing room. But if we're bringing anyone in they've got to be better than what we've got - and that's going to be a big ask."
And while Dalglish and director of football Damien Comolli cast their nets far and wide in an attempt to secure the best players the manager revealed some solutions may lie closer to home. One of the first things Hodgson did when he took over in July was trim the squad, with Alberto Aquilani, Emilio Insua, Philipp Degen and Nabil El Zhar among those sent out on loan.
Aquilani's departure was the most high-profile, having arrived in a £17m deal the previous summer, but the deadline for Juventus to sign the Italy international permanently has now passed with the Serie A side apparently unwilling to meet the club's valuation of the player.
Dalglish is a known admirer of the 26-year-old and if he is not sold the Reds boss believes he could be like a new signing for the team. "There's a distinct possibility he could be back here. He's a quality player," he added. "He got off to a bad start here with his injuries and never really got going after missing pre-season. He went out on loan and has done very well over there. If he was to come back here, for me that would be like a new face coming in."
Dalglish accepts he has some big decisions to make on a number of players, both those who have been out on loan and some within his squad who have been on the fringe of things since his arrival four months ago, such as Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic.
Those he has worked with on a daily basis will be easier to assess than those with whom he has only seen from his seat in the stands in his previous role as academy ambassador. "They are still our players unless someone comes and takes them away from us," said the Scot. "We've got to assess what we need, and that includes the players who have been out on loan. They'll assess where they've been and the other club will assess them.
"Alberto is the highest profile but we've got decisions to make on those players but it may be dictated to be someone else making up their own mind. We've not had time to sit down and discuss the players who have been out on loan apart from Alberto."