Rodgers staying put as Reds close in on City star Milner
LIVERPOOL manager Brendan Rodgers will begin planning for next season after a positive meeting with the club's owners Fenway Sports Group.
Rodgers met chairman Tom Werner and Mike Gordon, president of FSG and their key man at Anfield, in the city on Tuesday to review a disappointing campaign in which the Reds boss missed the owners' primary target of Champions League qualification. Sources at the club always maintained the meeting, which is an annual review which has been undertaken by FSG, was not to discuss the manager's job, but that did not stop speculation about his immediate future - especially after the 6-1 final day humiliation at Stoke.
However, after lengthy discussions about what went wrong in the last 12 months, all the parties involved have agreed "a comprehensive plan for improvement" as they look to ensure there is no repeat of the failure which saw the side crash out of the Champions League in the group stages and finish sixth in the Premier League. The debrief was a "productive meeting to review the season" at which it is understood there was agreement by all concerned that everyone wanted to make improvements.
It had been claimed in the last week Rodgers wanted changes made to FSG's way of running transfers by a committee, but the suggestion is there was a harmonious accord struck between all parties. As a result, "the group will move forward together".
That does not mean Rodgers enters next season with a clean slate as, after spending £110million on new players last summer yet going backwards, he will still have to show he is the man to deliver FSG's targets, the main one being the same as the last campaign in regards to a top-four finish.
Rodgers will not have anywhere near the same amount of money to spend as that splurge was bankrolled largely by the £75million sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona, so the club are having to be more canny in their recruitment. As a result, Manchester City midfielder James Milner and Burnley striker Danny Ings, both free agents at the end of this month, are likely to be first through the door at Anfield.
Discussions with Milner, available on a free transfer, are at a more advanced stage and could be completed by the end of the week, but the situation with Ings is slightly more complicated as his age, 22, means Burnley are entitled to compensation. Unless Liverpool can strike a deal with the Clarets then the value of the England U21 international will be decided by a tribunal.
It was widely expected to be within the £4million to £6million bracket, but late interest from Tottenham, with a reported £12million bid, may yet inflate that price.
Milner's arrival marks a departure from FSG's preferred policy of recruiting young, potential talent, as he is 29, but the side are in desperate need of some experience in midfield with Steven Gerrard leaving for Los Angeles Galaxy.
Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher believes the England midfielder, who has won two Premier League titles with his current club, played in the Champions League and made 53 international appearances, could be in contention for the captaincy at Anfield.
"Brendan Rodgers will have spoken to him about where he sees him fitting in, but he's very similar to Jordan Henderson," Carragher said.
"I have no doubt one reason he's joining is to play in a more central role rather than out wide. Could Milner play a holding role? Maybe, but I don't think that's what suits him.
"His main strength is his engine, which could suit him and Jordan to both play alongside a holding midfielder - Emre Can? - but his best position is tucked in from the right in a central role, which is also Jordan Henderson's, so it'll be interesting how those two fit into next year's midfield set up.
"The fact that Brendan Rodgers wouldn't confirm Jordan Henderson as this season's captain even though he was captain in Gerrard's absence last season makes me think him and Milner could be competing for the armband. Was that another thing that enticed Milner to join?"
Werner and Gordon are also running the rule over the club's academy and the current redevelopment of Anfield's Main Stand before the former attends Thursday's Premier League AGM before returning to the United States.