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15 Jul 2011

Kenny Dalglish flew back to Merseyside on Thursday night to seal the deal for Stewart Downing that will see Liverpool's spending reach £100m in the seven months since his emotional return to Anfield.

The Liverpool manager had anyway been expected to come back early from the club's Asian tour to fulfil a long-standing engagement, so the opportunity to meet the player who could provide the width that was badly lacking under Rafael Benítez and Roy Hodgson was one Dalglish was not going to pass up.

It is not hard to see where he felt the fault in Hodgson's sides lay. This summer Dalglish has invested £43m on three British midfielders, none of whom has truly established themselves at international level.

According to Jamie Carragher, who is captaining Liverpool in the far east, Downing's arrival could see Andy Carroll, in particular, receive the kind of service he was deprived of in his first half-season on Merseyside. Carroll, who has Alan Shearer's hunger for a well-delivered cross, managed only two goals.

"It's a terrific signing, there is no doubt about that whatsoever," said Carragher of Downing after an open training session in the Bukit Jalil Stadium, which attracted 38,700 supporters, who greeted every simple pass or shot into an open net ecstatically.

"He will definitely make a difference with his ability to go outside and down the line to get in quality crosses. He was Aston Villa's player of the year and he will give us something we have been lacking – genuine quality on the left-hand side.

"When you look at the players who have not come out here – Steven Gerrard, Pepe Reina, Luis Suárez, Jordan Henderson and Glen Johnson – they would make the basis of a top team. We are not going to make any statements about what might happen next season but it is pleasing things are looking positive once again.

"I know him, so does Stevie. He knows Andy Carroll and Johnno from playing with England so he is not going to be walking into a dressing room and feeling all on his own."

Aston Villa were last night closing in on the signing of Charles N'Zogbia despite a late attempt from Sunderland to hijack the deal. N'Zogbia is seen as a natural replacement for Downing, with Villa planning to spend around half of the £20m they have received from Liverpool.

Sunderland, however, have belatedly entered the race and have faint hopes of persuading N'Zogbia to move to the Stadium of Light. Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, has coveted N'Zogbia for some time, although there is an acceptance that Villa are at the head of queue and N'Zogbia is expected to agree a £65,000 per week deal.


Source: theguardian

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