Football: Liverpool finally get their man

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has opted against joining champions Chelsea, in part because there was a high chance he would have been played out of position at wing-back. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp's magnetism also swayed the 24-year-old.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has opted against joining champions Chelsea, in part because there was a high chance he would have been played out of position at wing-back. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp's magnetism also swayed the 24-year-old.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Oxlade-Chamberlain snubs Blues for Liverpool, six years after rejecting chance to go to Anfield

LONDON • The last time that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was inside Melwood, Liverpool rolled out the big guns as well as the red carpet.

It was the summer of 2011 and Steven Gerrard, the then 17-year-old's boyhood idol, and Jamie Carragher met him at the training ground to talk up the English football club's prospects in the hope of persuading him to add some youth and legs to their age and experience.

As it turned out his career path took him from Southampton to north London and Arsenal instead, although second time around, the lure of the iconic figure shaping the modern Liverpool was too good to turn down. Jurgen Klopp has got his man.

No longer do Liverpool simply beat their rivals on the pitch but also now in the transfer market, with Klopp's magnetism and mystique proving a seductive force against which Chelsea could not compete.

If anything underlines the strides that Liverpool are intent on taking, then it is the £35 million (S$61.31 million) deal, with another £5 million in add-ons, they struck for the England international yesterday after negotiations with an increasingly frazzled Arsenal.

Oxlade-Chamberlain will reportedly earn £120,000 a week, significantly less than he would have earned by signing a new deal at the Emirates Stadium.

Here is a player leaving a direct rival, spurning the champions en route and opting for a club that he sees as England's emerging force.

 

  • £40m
    Total fee Liverpool could pay Arsenal for Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain (£35 million up front, £5 million in add-ons).

  • £120k 
    Oxlade-Chamberlain's reported wage at Liverpool, which is less than what Arsenal offered for his contract renewal.

  • £140m 
    Total transfer fees spent by Liverpool during this transfer window after signing Oxlade-Chamberlain. 

  • £60m 
    Bid put in by Liverpool for Monaco winger Thomas Lemar, in the hope of signing him before transfer deadline.

Whether it works out for him or not, he should have no trouble endearing himself to Liverpool supporters.

Yet this is not an easy move for Oxlade-Chamberlain as he seeks to breathe new life into a career which feels as though it has stagnated under Arsene Wenger. The safer option would have been to stay in London, where a switch to Antonio Conte's Blues would have meant less upheaval.

What will appeal to Klopp is that the 24-year-old is ready for the challenge and is anxious to fulfil his potential. Oxlade-Chamberlain is another player, like Mohamed Salah before him, who caught the German's eye while playing against his Borussia Dortmund side in the Champions League.

Arsenal won and lost in the group stages in 2014 and Oxlade-Chamberlain featured in both matches. His name first came up at Liverpool when Klopp discussed opponents who had impressed him.

He has been signed to compete for a central midfield spot but Liverpool know he can play wide in a dynamic, jet-heeled front three too. That he is young, English and of good character will have endeared him further.

While it is understood that he had reservations about moving to Chelsea and finding himself out of position once more, it does not follow that first-team football is guaranteed at Anfield.

He will hope that his rough edges will be smoothed. At least, there should be no more outings in roles he considers alien.

His dislike for wing-back was obvious even after Arsenal's FA Cup final success.

"I don't mind playing wing-back, playing for Arsenal you get a lot of the ball and I've had minutes," he said. "I'm not one to complain but maybe the central midfield role (is more my position)... I've always wanted to be Steven Gerrard, so I've still got a hope of that."

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2017, with the headline 'Reds finally get their man'. Print Edition | Subscribe