Thursday, September 06, 2012

Rodgers Wanted Spiranovic At Liverpool

Recalled Australia defender Matthew Spiranovic could have joined Brad Jones at Liverpool this season - but instead landed regular first-team football in the Middle East. The 24-year-old centre-back, who signed for Qatari Stars League outfit Al Arabi on a lucrative two-year deal in July, received an approach from new Anfield boss Brendan Rodgers the same month, after the Northern Irishman had earlier tried to sign him for his former club Swansea City. 

Rodgers became a fan of Spiranovic after being impressed by his performance for Australia in its 2-1 win over Wales in Cardiff in August, 2011. "Brendan likes ball playing defenders and was impressed with what he saw of Matthew in the game against Wales," a source at Liverpool said. "He initially wanted to take him to Swansea and when he got the Liverpool job, he asked the question. "But the timing wasn't quite right with Matthew already committed to Al Arabi. "It's a tribute to him that Brendan Rodgers rates him so highly." 

Rodgers remains keen on the defender and could conceivably launch another approach in the January transfer window, but is currently far more concerned with recruiting strikers having seen free agent Michael Owen opt for Stoke City, Clint Dempsey head to Tottenham Hotspur and Andy Carroll go out on loan to West Ham United. Former Urawa Reds and Nurnberg defender Spiranovic knew he would have been consigned to the bench at Anfield behind the first choice centre-back pairing of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel. After struggling for game time in his final season in the J.League, Spiranovic readily embraced the certainty of first-team action in the Persian Gulf and a significantly larger wage packet to boot, despite the lure of Anfield - a ground graced in the past by Australian greats Craig Johnson and Harry Kewell. 

Back-up goalkeeper Jones, also recalled to the latest Socceroos squad as a replacement for the injured Adam Federici, and head of fitness and conditioning Darren Burgess remain the club's resident Australians. Spiranovic's switch to Qatar was greeted with incredulity by Socceroos coach Holger Osieck, who said at the time: "I'd rather have him in one of the western European leagues like the Bundesliga or maybe in England. "I think he's got the potential. He is one of the boys I really rate for the future. "I'm not sure if it's an ideal move but I must also say that it is a personal decision. I definitely wasn't involved and was quite surprised when I heard about this move." 

 A run of national team starts ended for Spiranovic after the Socceroos were dispatched 2-0 by Denmark in a pre-EURO 2012 friendly in Copenhagen in June, his place going to veteran Sasa Ognenovski for the subsequent 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Oman and Japan. Spiranovic didn't make the squad for last month's 3-1 loss to Scotland but after Ognenovski and skipper Lucas Neill were badly exposed at times in Edinburgh, he has returned to the fold and is a genuine chance to start against Lebanon at the Saida Municipal Stadium on Friday morning and then the World Cup qualifier against Jordan in Amman five days later.

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