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Liverpool Player Review: Raul Meireles

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Won't you stay?
Won't you stay?

I didn't think I'd be writing this as a possible obit to his Liverpool career. But there's been too much buzz about that to completely dismiss it. And with Alberto Aquilani looking like he's returning for now, the numbers are getting awfully crowded.

I was immediately drawn to Meireles, but then it doesn't take much for a shaven headed white guy with tattoos for me to feel a kinship. But in the sea of Roy Hodgson's buffoonery, I thought from the word go that Meireles was a good signing. He was the only Portugese player in South Africa who didn't play as if he had a bronchial infection or something, and from brief glimpses of Porto he always looked a player.

The opening salvos weren't exactly thrilling, but he didn't let anyone down either. Hodgson shoe-horned him everywhere around the pitch except where he belonged as he stubbornly stuck with a straight 4-4-2. Wide on the right and wide on the left rendered Meireles pretty ineffective, and his desires to drift inside with the fullbacks pinned back by Hodgson's paranoia meant Liverpool got pretty narrow and lopsided.But he still ran and ran, and created chances in those three minutes where the Reds actually had the ball.

It's a continuing theme, but Meireles really benefited from the manager change. Dalglish didn't waste any time putting Raul in the middle again, or behind the strikers in that 4-2-2-2 that completely allowed for his coming inside, as the fullbacks now had license to get forward and a higher line being played. The results were almost instant. Meireles scored in Dalglish's third game, home to Everton, with a straight-up bolt from Zeus. He scored in the next one. Two games later again. And the one after that. And the one after that. Sadly, that was his entire goal total for the year. But that doesn't mean Meireles wasn't effective. He takes a pretty decent free kick, setting up Skrtel's opener at West Brom. He's a good crosser of the ball, evidenced by Andy Carroll's second against City.

Meireles proved to be a dynamic attacker, though perhaps with limited whimsy. He runs and runs, and isn't afraid to get into the box. If there's one knock on Raul, is that if you're looking for a truly gamebreaking midfielder, Meireles might fall just short in every category. Does he score enough? Debatable. Does he get enough chances and into the box enough? Just barely. Does he play enough killer balls for assists? Probably not. But he does all of those things well enough to be a plus on any team.

But will it be with this team? If it wasn't for this contract squabble, which might not even be true, we wouldn't even be discussing this. If Gerrard and Suarez remain relatively healthy, then Meireles can lie back into the supporting role he seems best suited for. He's not going to be a matchh-winner, I don't think. But if Aquilani is going to be around? Well, I think Il Prinicipino can be a match-winner. He has slightly more class than Meireles, though maybe not the graft. And Jordan Henderson is already here and Charile Adam on the way. How much room is there?

I hope Meireles stays, he does too much well, if not great. But will Pool be crippled if he doesn't? Probably not, especially if Gerrard has one last great season or two left in him. But I don't know how you get better by letting good players who don't make too much money leave.