TORONTO – Paul Mariner has read the headlines. He’s heard the rumors.
Liverpool have taken a shining to Dempsey, a step Mariner says his former pupil is ready to take. Not just ready, either. In Mariner’s opinion, he’s more than earned it.
“We always had very high hopes for Clint,” Mariner said in a phone conversation with MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “We knew that he would be leaving [the Revolution] at some point. Did I think he would be getting a $10 million-plus move? I think you’ve got to be honest and say you wouldn’t see that coming because you just wanted him to progress. If it happens – and I hope he does go to a big club like Liverpool – then he deserves it.”
On Wednesday, the Merseyside club, currently in Ontario ahead of Saturday’s friendly against Toronto FC (4 pm ET, Fox Soccer/Sportsnet), took another step forward in their pursuit of the American forward, making public their inquiries into his availability.
Desperate to keep hold of the man who scored 17 league goals, and 23 in total, last season, Fulham countered that no bid had been made, even going as far as to discourage potential suitors from making one.
Smokescreens and public jockeying aside, if Liverpool do manage to capture their man, Mariner said Dempsey wouldn’t have trouble fitting into manager Brendan Rodgers’ possession-based system and combining with the world-class players surrounding him.
“He’s extremely technical, very comfortable with the ball, has an eye for a pass,” Mariner said of the US national team star. “He’s a very unselfish player, but if it’s there to finish, he’ll finish. If you think about him playing with [Steven] Gerrard and just underneath [Luis] Suárez in combination, that’s a pretty potent threesome there.”
And while many wonder whether Dempsey could replicate last season’s barrage of goals as just another big fish in the stocked pond at Anfield, he likely wouldn’t have to in order to be considered a success.
During his six years at Fulham, as well with the USMNT, Dempsey has bounced between midfielder and forward, creator and scorer – often finding a way to combine multiple roles into one tidy, and extremely effective, package.
And in Mariner’s view, Dempsey has already broken down the doors that so often hold back Americans looking to make their way across the Atlantic. Now it’s just about building on the legacy he’s already constructed from the ground up, whether that be at Liverpool, Fulham or elsewhere.
“He’s got an insatiable appetite for success. He’s determined to be, and already is in my opinion, the most successful American that played over in Europe,” Mariner said. “There’s always a sort of stigma attached to North American players going over, particularly in the Premier League. But he’s won many fans over, not only in his own football club but throughout the league.”