REDS TO NICK BARMBY?
By Matt Pomroy
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Barmby was strongly linked with a move to Liverpool in 1996, but chose Everton on the basis that he would be more likely to feature regularly.
Looking at the Opta statistics - which Gerard Houllier apparently does - indicates that he had an excellent season with Everton last term and would offer Liverpool an exciting alternative.
The little Sammy Lee-a-like set up eight goals last season - which is more than any Liverpool player achieved - and embarked on 108 dribbles and runs, retaining the ball on 80% of the occasions. No current member of Houllier's squad can better that.
Quite where he would fit into the Liverpool team, should he join, is not yet clear. Houllier has stated that he wished to retain the 4-4-2 formation and has already signed two midfielders over the summer in the shape of Bernard Diomede and Gary McAllister.
The Anfield boss also has Patrik Berger, Vladimir Smicer, David Thompson, Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Dietmar Hamann, Jamie Redknapp, and Danny Murphy all fighting over the four places in the midfield. It appears that Barmby would be up against even more internal competition than when he rejected an Anfield move last time.
The key difference could be the change of manager in the red corner of Stanley Park. Roy Evans had a favourite team that he would always try and stick with, while Houllier has said he will employ a squad rotation policy, giving more players a game.
The Frenchman also highlighted the need for more crosses, especially after the arrival of Emile Heskey. Barmby put in 147 crosses last season, which is 90 centres more than the most prolific Liverpool player - left-back Dominic Matteo.
The Everton midfielder is officially on the transfer list and although the Toffeemen will be looking to recoup the - then club record - £5.75m that Barmby cost them, he will be out of contract next summer and could leave for nothing.
Everton can't afford to wait, so Liverpool could have a little Barmby bargain on their hands if the rumours are to be believed.