Early Doors

Is Bellamy Dalglish’s best value signing?

Early Doors

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Craig Bellamy tries his hand at opera

This morning's Early Doors is about Liverpool. ED feels duty-bound to point this out now, as merely mentioning the club's name is enough often enough to raise the hackles of a small but highly vocal minority of Reds fans.

Following Cardiff's win on penalties over Crystal Palace on Tuesday, last night's exciting conclusion to the second Carling Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Manchester City was another that did the much-maligned competition justice.

The Reds pegged back City not once but twice on the night to reach their first final at the new Wembley, where they will face Cardiff City. Facing a team from the Welsh capital has a nice ring to it for Liverpool. They lifted six trophies during the seven-year period in the last decade in which the Millennium Stadium was the FA's rented accommodation.

A more current link to the Bluebirds would be that of Craig Bellamy, the Wales striker who scored a well-taken goal 15 minutes from time, which proved to be the tie's winner and capped off an exciting second leg.

Bellamy played for Cardiff on loan from City last season before he was allowed to move to Merseyside on a free transfer. Strikers signed in the Mark Hughes era at City - Bellamy, Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez, Roque Santa Cruz, Jo, Robinho - all had an alarmingly short shelf life at the club.

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish praised Bellamy for his tireless performance against his former club (one of his eight former clubs, in fact), and admitted he would be happy to consider taking any more of City's cast-offs.

"He works hard but the quality of the boy as well - the second goal was fantastic, how he took it," Dalglish said.

"We are delighted for Craig and we are delighted with Craig.

"If City have got any more like him that they want rid of, we are only down the East Lancs Road.

City boss Roberto Mancini, by unsurprising contrast, had to swallow the fact that a player he froze out at City came back to haunt him.

When asked what he thought of seeing Bellamy run rampant over his Premier League leading side, the Italian said: "What do you want me to say to that?

"I am disappointed because I didn't get to the final. What changes if Bellamy scores, or Gerrard or Carroll?

"I am happy with the players I have got. Bellamy scored. I am also happy for him."

Bellamy is now in his second spell at the club, and at the age of 32 there cannot have been many who predicted he would be more productive upon his return than he was in his one season at the club five years ago.

Upon making his £6 million move from Blackburn in 2006, the mouthy forward had a mixed year at Anfield under Rafael Benitez. He scored just nine goals in that campaign, although one of those was a strike in a 2-1 win over Barcelona made memorable for his golf swing celebration, made in relation to an alleged incident of him swinging a club at then team-mate John Arne Riise.

That was enough for Rafa, who was relieved to be able to ship him off to West Ham and turn a £1.5m profit in the process.

Four years and three clubs later he is back and better than before. He has already eight goals this season, just one fewer than the whole of his first spell at the club. Not only that, but he has done so in just 22 appearances, half the number of games he chalked up in 2006-07.

His return to Anfield began slowly with most of his league appearances coming from the bench. In the past month, however, the absence of Luis Suarez has seen him fit far easier into the team and assume a more pivotal role.

Liverpool have spent a huge amount of money over the past 12 months on the likes of Suarez, Andy Carroll, Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Jose Enrique. Of that sextet, only Suarez and Enrique can arguably be labelled as outright successes, although Adam has been unfortunate to have been shunted around the midfield into positions where he struggles to thrive since joining in the summer.

Those six signings have an average age of 25 and cost a combined outlay of almost £110m.  Yet it is an over-30 on a free transfer who has been pound-for-pound the best singing for Liverpool under Dalglish.

That should add at least a little weight to the otherwise paper-thin 'net spend' argument.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "It wouldn't be a consideration. Patrice Evra is a football player who plays for Manchester United. If he is fit, he is considered to play like any other player. What has happened has happened. What has been said has been said. You are talking about a football match now and I think it will be a very good FA Cup tie." - Manchester United assistant manager Mike Phelan confirms that Patrice Evra will be available for selection when the Red Devils travel to Anfield for Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round clash.

FOREIGN VIEW: "I am not insinuating anything. You are the ones who understand football, I understand less. Although I don't read or listen much to the sports press I will wait for your reports to find out your opinion." - Jose Mourinho's increasingly tetchy relationship with the press was again apparent as he reacted to losing yet another Clasico with all the good grace we have come to expect from him.

COMING UP: Didier Drogba and co will be in action as Ivory Coast take on Burkina Faso in the African Cup of Nations at 19:00, but not before Sudan face Angola at 16:00.

Elsewhere we'll be putting another Premier League player Under the Microscope and The Fantasist will be dropping by with its weekly Injury Report.

Away from football, you can catch live coverage of Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal if you are early enough - that first Australian Open men's semi-final kicked off at 08:30 - while England's cricketers are in bat against Pakistan on the second day of the second Test.

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