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Five players Liverpool should sign

Sports Mole picks out five players who could help transform Liverpool into Premier League top-four contenders next season.

When Brendan Rodgers was named the manager of Liverpool this time last year, he was quick to play down any talk of instant success at Anfield. He insisted that for the Reds to become a force again, it would take time.

Most supporters accepted that and there were signs towards the end of the campaign that things were moving in the right direction under the Northern Irishman.

However, they still finished behind local rivals Everton and will have another season without Champions League football. While the majority of fans have shown patience over the last 12 months, they will want to see even more progress this time around.

Rodgers has acted swiftly in the transfer market by recruiting Kolo Toure, Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto, with Simon Mignolet also expected to sign shortly from Sunderland. More work is needed, though, and so Sports Mole has picked five more players who may well help Liverpool's charge towards the top four.

Inigo Martinez, Real Sociedad

His legs may have gone, but the loss of Jamie Carragher - for experience alone - is a big one for the Liverpool rearguard. The arrival of Toure covers that to a certain extent, having won some of the game's biggest prizes with Arsenal and Manchester City. He surely can't be more than a squad player, though.

If the season started tomorrow, Rodgers would probably select Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger to feature in the heart of his defence. However, the rumour mill has linked the duo with exits. It is unlikely that both would be allowed to depart, but reportedly one of them could head for pastures new.

Sebastian Coates had been signed as the defensive prospect in 2011, but at times he has resembled Bambi on ice. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him moved on either.

He may only be 22 - the same age as Coates - but Martinez's performances last season for Real Sociedad are thought to have alerted numerous clubs across Europe. The likes of Antoine Griezmann, Asier Illarramendi and Carlos Vela may have hogged the headlines with their neat and intricate football, but it was Martinez who was named in most people's Team of the Season.

Left-footed centre-backs are hard to come by, especially one who reads the game in the same way that Martinez does. Unsurprisingly, he has been tipped to play for Spain for years to come.

Callum McManaman, Wigan Athletic

Down the years, Liverpool fans have been treated to some exciting wing play. The likes of John Barnes, Steve McManaman and Steve Heighway had the ability to get bums off seats.

At present, though, there are not too many wingers in the squad who are capable of producing such a reaction. Perhaps Raheem Sterling and Suso will consistently in the future, but not at this moment in time.

Even though he has just turned 22, McManaman, who is thought to be a distant relative of Steve, showed for Wigan last season that he has all the credentials to become a top Premier League winger.

He can go left or right and while he may not be overly tricky, his direct style and approach has wrong-footed numerous defenders. The England youth international has also highlighted that he can do it on the big stage with a man of the match performance during the FA Cup final against Manchester City.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan has insisted that none of his players will be sold on the cheap, but following their relegation, the market valuation of the playing squad at the DW Stadium is bound to have dropped.

Wigan's Callum McManaman scores the second against Everton on March 9, 2013© PA Photos

Diego Capel, Sporting Lisbon

McManaman would cover the right wing, but that would still leave only really Stewart Downing down the left flank. The former England man actually contributed less goals and less assists in his debut season than Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard managed. To be brutally honest, things have not improved too much for him since then.

Two-time Spanish capped winger Capel has been linked with Liverpool before when he was leaving Sevilla in 2011, but he eventually wound up at Sporting Lisbon.

It would be fair to say that he enjoyed his best times with Sevilla and was a key component of the sides that won the UEFA Cup two years on the trot.

His career may have stuttered in recent months because of injury, but with Sporting likely to sell cheaply because of financial problems and the fact that he would surely be a better bet than Downing, his arrival wouldn't prove to be too great a risk.

Christian Benteke, Aston Villa

If, as expected Luis Suarez is granted his wish to leave Merseyside before the summer is out, the Uruguayan will obviously need replacing. Aspas and Alberto may have potential, but neither has the experience to be thrown in at the deep end.

He may also be young, but Benteke showed last year that he has the game to be more than effective in England. Signed as an unknown to many, manager Paul Lambert was rewarded for his purchase when the 22-year-old Belgian's 19 goals in the Premier League retained Villa's status.

Granted Benteke doesn't possess the skill or touch that Suarez does, but it is highly unlikely that Liverpool will be able to recruit a carbon copy of their talisman - there simply isn't many with his talent around.

What the Villa frontman would provide is a physical presence, who can hold up the ball and bring others, such as Philippe Coutinho, into play. The Brazilian showed from January onwards that maybe he could take over the creative mantle from Suarez.

What's more, if Benteke can find the net 23 times in all competitions for Villa, you'd expect him to score even more with the likes of Coutinho, Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge around him.

Villa striker Christian Benteke scores against Sunderland on April 29, 2013© PA Photos

Alvaro Morata, Real Madrid

If you added both Morata and Benteke to the striking options at Anfield, it could become a case of too many cooks spoil the broth. After all, the signing of those two would make it six senior strikers - seven with Suarez.

As mentioned, though, Suarez wants out and it appears that there is no going back. So why not benefit from losing your best player?

If you believe what you read, the 26-year-old has been fluttering his eyelashes in the direction of Madrid, who have reciprocated. Now, Liverpool fans may want the likes of Angel di Maria, Karim Benzema or even Xabi Alonso back, but without top European football, that isn't going to happen - Morata might, though.

He featured 15 times for Los Blancos under Jose Mourinho last year and made an impact in a few games. The 20-year-old then went on to make even more of an impression at the recent European Under-21 Championships by claiming the Golden Boot award.

At 6'2" he would be a handful to Premier League defenders, while he may also benefit from Gerrard's trademark deliveries into the penalty area.

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Saturday's key events


TRIATHLON
· After silvers in both the men's and women's events, Team GB will be fancied to get on the podium again in the mixed relay (11.30pm-1am)

SWIMMING
· Touted as Michael Phelps's successor, Caeleb Dressel already has two gold medals from these Games and he will be going for a third in the men's 50m butterfly final (2.30am)
· It is Katie Ledecky vs. Ariarne Titmus III in the women's 800m freestyle final, with Ledecky entering as firm favourite (2.46am)
· Great Britain will be heavily fancied to add another gold medal to their swimming haul, having produced by far the fastest qualifying time for the mixed 4x100m medley relay final (3.43am)

ATHLETICS
· Dina Asher-Smith is one of three British women in the 100m semi-finals (3.01am-3.20am), and will hope to challenge for a medal in what is likely to be a star-studded final (1.50pm)
· The inaugural Olympic 4x400m mixed relay event concludes with Great Britain one of the eight finalists going for gold (1.35pm)

RUGBY SEVENS
· Team GB's dreams of an unlikely gold are still alive in the women's event as they face France in their semi-final (3.30am). The winners will face either New Zealand or Fiji in the gold medal match later in the day (10am)

SAILING
· Gold medals are up for grabs in the windsurfer - RS:X finals. Emma Wilson participates for Team GB in the women's final (6.33am), while Tom Squires is in action in the men's (7.33am)

TENNIS
· Following his shock semi-final defeat, ending his hopes of a Golden Slam in 2021, Novak Djokovic battles for bronze against Pablo Carreno Busta (7am)
· The women's singles event reaches its conclusion with the gold medal match between Belinda Bencic and Marketa Vondrousova

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