So, with all this fictitious money burning the very real hole in my pocket, I came up with five players I'd love to waste Fenway Sports Group's money on this summer. Moving on from attackers Georginio Wijnaldum and Jesé Rodriguez, today's spotlight shines on:
Etienne Capoue - Defensive Midfielder Toulouse
Though much of Liverpool's focus in the transfer window thus far has centered on bringing more firepower to the attack, many fans will argue that the club's biggest needs actually lie further downfield. In particular, Lucas Leiva's status as the only true holding midfielder on the roster has come back to bite the Reds over the past two seasons.
The Brazilian's serious knee injury against Chelsea in 2011 sidelined him for the rest of the Dalglish era, leaving Jay Spearing the herculean task of attempting to make Charlie Adam look like he belonged in a LFC shirt. With Spearing putting the finishing touches on his new Blackburn contract, none of those three still remain at the club.
Of course, Brendan Rogers had barely sat down on the Anfield dugout when Lucas aggravated an injury sustained in the warm-up to Liverpool's clash against Manchester City. It would not be until December 1st against Southampton that Lucas would return to the side. In such time, Joe Allen essentially wore himself out trying to masquerade as a holding midfielder, and his maiden season ended prematurely and with much disappointment.
In short, the club needs a player to compete with Lucas when healthy, replace Lucas when injured, and even play alongside Lucas if the situation demands it. Enter, Etienne Capoue.
The French midfielder has been a rock for Ligue 1 side Toulouse over the past several seasons, with the most recent campaign confirming his ascent to the upper tier of the position.
Appearing in 34 Ligue 1 contests, the 24 year old had defensive averages of 2.4 tackles, 2.6 interceptions and 4.9 clearances per match. The last statistic speaks largely to Capoue's work defending set-pieces, where his 6'2" (189 cm) frame makes him a key contributor.
The real reason LFC should sign Capoue however, is his ability to combine defensive solidity with a tremendous passing ability that outshines most of Liverpool's current squad, save for Saint Steven. His average of 63.9 passes per match compares favorably to Lucas's 58.8. Further, Capoue completed an average of 7 long passes per match which drastically betters Lucas's 2.2 and again is better than all outfield players in Liverpool's squad not named Captain Fantastic.
On a less positive note, it is worth noting that Capoue's pass completion rate of only 80.8% would leave him at the bottom of the pack in the LFC squad, and well behind Lucas's 87.6%. That being said, Capoue's integration into Rodgers's system would surely see his total passes and completion rate rise, balanced by a likely drop in his long range attempts.
While his tackling and passing make him a more than capable competitor and stand-in for Lucas, Capoue's development into a box-to-box dynamo would make it quite possible to pair him alongside the Brazilian in the right situations. As Lucas has pretty much focused entirely on shielding and recycling, letting Gerrard push forward, Capoue makes a rather significant offensive contribution to his team.
His 1.3 shots per game are joined by .7 key passes and a Yaya Toure-esque 1.2 dribbles from deep in midfield. Considering that Capoue added seven goals and three assists to Toulouse's cause, it's not hard to see why teams such as Arsenal, Spurs, and Monaco have been showing serious interest and why Liverpool should start.
*Stats gratefully borrowed from the excellent Whoscored.com