While rumors about possible Anfield departures have been mostly quiet as of late, there is still a constant tension and anxiety about the unfortunate possibilities and what it would mean to have another star player leave. While much has been made about how a lack of Champions League football will make it harder to sign new players, I feel that less has been made about how the same lack of success is slowly making it harder for the players we already have to stay.
Two summers ago, in the wake of our first completely unsuccessful season in awhile, there was loud talk of possible exits from Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard. While Roy Hodgson was eventually able to convince those two stars to stay, Javier Mascherano left to Barcelona in the first week of the season. With all of Liverpool's club pride and tradition, it was easy to chalk that exit up to the fact that Mascherano wasn't pleased about the departure of Rafa Benitez. Then came the terrible stretch of losing that cost Hodgson his job, sending the club to the bottom half of the table and ringing the alarm bells. When King Kenny took over, the club was in serious jeopardy and there was a certain sense of panic. All of the sudden came a brilliant winning streak that made things seem all better, with Dalglish leading us back into European contention. We bought Luis Suarez and were ecstatic to see him play with Torres. Of course, deadline day came around and we were all shocked to wake up to the news that Torres, who we had supported through his brilliance and his goal droughts, had asked to leave. A star in the midst of his career walking away from Liverpool? The arrogance and feeling of superiority over those "mid-table clubs" was evaporating as our fans began to acknowledge that maybe we weren't too big to fail, that maybe players were beginning to dream of playing for a Tottenham or Arsenal over Liverpool.
Although last summer served mostly as an oasis from the negativity, Raul Meireles did leave and a few quality players such as Mata and Gervinho chose Chelsea and Arsenal over Liverpool. The first half of last season wasn't bad at all, with Liverpool on pace for a serious run at the top four. The second half was a different story. Even with some bright spots (Carling Cup), the second half of the season was filled with more head-scratching, what-ifs, and clanging posts than anything else.
While the above chain of events has left fans deflated, having another important player request to leave would be devastating. To be honest, I can't see us finishing even top five if Suarez, Skrtel, Agger, or Gerrard decide to leave, and if we don't finish top five this season we might not be out of the black hole for awhile. No matter what, no matter how bad it gets, Liverpool will still be full of pride and support. However, I can't handle conversations with my United friends (yes I have a couple) for much longer if this continues.
Now to the question. Will any of our stars actually leave this summer? While I'm sure there will be many inquiries from top clubs, my gut tells me no. Gerrard would do his legacy a disservice by proving not to be loyal right as his career is winding down. Agger seems content for now and would most likely rather play for Liverpool than get less playing time on a better team. I think that Suarez could leave at some point soon if things don't turn around, but probably will stay at least until next January. Skrtel is who worries me the most, but hopefully he'll realize that he looks better in red than blue. I think that Skrtel's well rounded defensive game would make him successful pretty much everywhere he plays, and because of this clubs like Manchester City are bound to make some tantalizing offers.
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