By Daniel Moxon – @dmoxon_
Over in sunny Spain, re-signing players that failed to make the grade at youth level after they’ve gone on to make a name for themselves elsewhere is all the rage, and the two biggest culprits are the elite pair of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Alvaro Morata, Mariano Diaz, Denis Suarez and Gerard Deulofeu are just a few of the plethora of players who have found themselves heading back to the Blaugrana or Los Blancos after successful spells away in recent years, aided by cunning buy-back clauses inserted in their sales.
Liverpool Football Club, on the other hand, doesn’t have much history in this area – John Aldridge and Ricky Lambert are rare example of youth players who made their way back to Anfield later in their careers after failing to establish themselves in the senior side the first time around, while only a handful more have had had a second spell back on Merseyside.
One of the latest products of the rumour mill, however, has the Reds using this tactic once again to bring academy graduate and current Wolves captain Conor Coady back to the club.
It’s not hard to see why this particular link has surfaced – the 25-year-old is in terrific form for a club on the rise and is a real talisman at his new home in the West Midlands, while Liverpool are enduring something of an injury crisis among defenders, with only one fully fit centre-half available since the New Year and Fabinho deputising there in the meantime.
But form and injuries are, of course, temporary – so would it actually make sense to bring Coady back to Anfield?
A midfield player during his time on Merseyside, Coady has since been turned into an out-and-out defender during his time in Wolverhampton, and has been ever-present in the Premier League so far this season for a side performing very well.
He’s a real fans’ favourite at Molineux, a tigerish tackler who isn’t scared of battling with anyone and wears his heart on his sleeve. He represents the club and city well as the captain, speaks his mind, comes across very down-to-earth in interviews and is universally adored in that part of the world – he’s one of those players who is difficult not to like.
More than that, he has improved his game as Wolves have made their way back to the big time and has been one of the better central defensive players in the Premier League so far this season.
That said, I’m not naive enough to think that Coady would slot straight in as a first team regular in the centre of a defence that may possibly belong to the defending Premier League champions come the summer.
Despite the rumours of potential moves for Kalidou Koulibaly, Kostas Manolas and Eder Militao to name a few, I personally see Liverpool’s long-term central defensive partnership to be Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez – the latter was sensational before his injury and looks to have turned into a world-class player while under the tutelage of his Dutch defensive ally.
Gomez has shown his proneness to injury, however, and, as superhuman as VIrgil is, even he will pick up an injury or need a rest from time to time, and that is when you need able deputies to step-up and perform.
The much-maligned Dejan Lovren has had mixed fortunes on Merseyside. I like him and think he is a very good player – the fact that he led a Croatian defence that made it to the World Cup final last summer demonstrates this – but he does have a tendency to have a shocker from time to time, while Joel Matip can be equally inconsistent.
Added to that, Lovren will be 30 by the time the next season kicks-off, and he and Matip have also been rather susceptible to knocks, tweaks and strains over the years.
This is where Jurgen Klopp must think about the future of Liverpool’s backup options in this position, and Conor Coady fits the bill perfectly.
He is yet to hit his prime despite being a consistent performer at a high level in the Premier League, he knows and loves the club and would no doubt be open to a return to the side he supported as a boy.
It would also be a pragmatic move for the team due to his home-grown status – he was trained at the club so would help Liverpool meet the required quota of players for both domestic and European competition, and would help offset the potential permanent departures of Nathaniel Clyne and Adam Lallana this summer.
Also important, perhaps a little bizarrely, is the simple fact that he is a Scouser. I personally feel that a little bit of Scouse grit and pride has been missing from the first team since Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher left.
Trent Alexander-Arnold has represented the local lads since he broke into the first team, but Coady could come in and add even more of an element within the team.
He may not be a massive superstar, a big name to excite the worldwide fanbase and boost shirt sales or a world-class defender, but Conor Coady has all the right attributes and benefits to make bringing him back to the club a worthwhile endeavor.