Stewart Downing will be a Liverpool hit, says Gerard Houllier

By Phil McNultyChief football writer
Stewart Downing
Downing agreed personal terms after Liverpool increased their initial £15m bid

Gerard Houllier has backed Stewart Downing to prove his worth and succeed at Anfield after making his £20m move from Aston Villa to Liverpool.

Houllier, who left Villa Park at the end of last season on health grounds, became a huge admirer of the 26-year-old winger during his spell as manager.

"Stewart will fit in very well at Liverpool," Houllier told BBC Sport.

"I like him very much as a player and I am certain he will be a very big asset to them."

The acquisition of the former Middlesbrough player takes the Reds' spending to more than £100m since American John W Henry took control in October.

Houllier, who spent six years as manager at Anfield, is convinced that even at £20m Downing will prove to be an astute signing for Kenny Dalglish's reshaped Liverpool team.

The Frenchman added: "Stewart is a very modern player. He can attack and defend and was involved in so many goals for Villa last season.

"He is one of the best crossers of a ball in the Premier League with [either his] right or left foot and is very skilful.

"He operates well on either side. I played him on the left but he also likes to play on the right, where he can cut inside and pose problems.

"He is adaptable and versatile and of course all managers appreciate that.

"Stewart is very, very professional. He takes on board everything you tell him and is very intelligent about the game.

"He picks up the details that can be so important. He has played for England but I now think he is ready to go on and confirm and consolidate his career as an international.

"As I said, he can play right or left or even behind the striker and has the versatility to fit into different systems, whether it is a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3.

"I very much enjoyed working with him at Aston Villa.

"Along with Ashley Young, he really improved his game. He is a good trainer, works hard and is that modern player.

"Stewart is also a team-player and if you are under the cosh he is willing to do more than his normal job, which is a very important quality.

"As a coach or manager, Stewart is a player who never disappoints you.

"Over 10 games he will give you nine very good performances and this is why I think he will be a good signing for Liverpool."

He added: "It was disappointing that Villa couldn't keep Stewart, but when a player does not want to sign a new contract you have to get the best deal you can and then find a replacement, which is what I am sure Villa will do."

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