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This article was published 30/5/2014 (785 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Rickie Lambert's soccer story started at Liverpool in 1992 when the forward joined the Reds as a 10-year-old.
He remained on the club's books for five years until, as he recalled last summer, he was told he "wasn't good enough."
An unsuccessful stop at Blackpool followed, but when the Seasiders released him, and he found himself without a club for several months, he took a job at a beetroot factory where earned £20 per day.
"I was putting lids on jars," he told The Independent. "I would work in the day and go training at evening."
Lambert's back-story is fascinating because of where he now finds himself -- poised to return to Liverpool, who are set to complete a £4 million move for the now-32-year-old. He's also preparing to represent England at the upcoming World Cup, less than a year after being called into the national setup for the first time.
That invitation, received last August, happened to arrive on the same day his daughter was born. He has tallied twice for England since, and after seasons in which he scored 13 and 15 goals for Southampton he's playing the best football of his career -- a genuine late-bloomer.
But Liverpool's interest in him, while a good story, also seems to be part of a bigger plan at Anfield.
The Reds' primary summer transfer target is Adam Lallana, also of Southampton, and it's possible the five-time European champions have come in for Lambert to sweeten the deal for the Saints.
Even so, given their return to the Champions League, Liverpool require additional depth in each position. Lambert will provide that up front, and his ability to use his teammates, execute lay-offs and attack the ball in the air will make him a good fit in manager Brendan Rodgers' system.
"I think Rickie is a terrific player," Rodgers said to The Guardian last November. "For me," he added, "Rickie Lambert, at whatever age he left here, must have been technically very good because he has still got that."
He's got it, and after taking the long way around it all seems to have come full circle for him.
- As incredible as it sounds, Barcelona will consider letting Xavi Hernandez leave the club for Ç¨24 million this summer. Xavi, 34, is widely regarded as one of European soccer's finest ball distributors, but with incoming manager Luis Enrique being encouraged to rebuild the squad following a disappointing season, the World Cup winner could be on his way out.
Barcelona will also be looking to acquire at least one central defender over the next few months, and Atletico Madrid's Miranda has emerged as their principal target. They may also make a play for Marquinhos, who appears surplus to requirements at Paris Saint-Germain following the arrival of David Luiz.
- Two of the African sides heading the World Cup struggled in mid-week tune-up matches. Nigeria were well outplayed by Scotland in Wednesday's 2-2 draw, and Cameroon, in a winnable contest against a young Paraguay outfit, were second-best by some distance in a 2-1 defeat.
- Manchester United owner Malcolm Glazer died during the week at the age of 85. The Florida billionaire never visited Old Trafford and his 90 per cent stake in Premier League club is divided between his six children.
- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has agreed a new, three-year contract at Emirates Stadium. The Gunners are coming off an FA Cup victory and will no doubt be hoping to turn the triumph into some long-term success. But losing free agent right-back Bacary Sagna was hardly the ideal way to go into the summer.
- Costa Rican striker Alvaro Saborio will miss the World Cup after suffering a foot fracture. The 32-year-old Real Salt Lake striker has scored 32 international goals, and his loss will seriously dent the Ticos' chances of progressing from Group D, which also includes Uruguay, England and Italy.