In a move that will shock few, Liverpool have today agreed with Newcastle on a deal to purchase Jose Enrique Sanchez for a rumored £6 million, according to the official websites of both Newcastle and Liverpool. Jose Enrique has traveled to Merseyside for a medical and the two sides will work out the personal details of the new contract. El Toro will leave a void at left back for the Magpies, who have adopted a "sell before buying" policy that may leave them deficient at the position on Saturday for the season opener with Arsenal.
Jose Enrique and Liverpool have been linked for quite some time now, with the 25 year-old often making public comments that seemed to indicate that he was more than willing to make the switch (and sometimes backtracking on those comments when it became apparent that he was going to have to play a little while longer with Newcastle), even turning down a lucrative contract extension, according to Alan Pardew (for what that's worth).
Jose Enrique represents the latest high-profile departure from Newcastle this summer, joining Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton (probably, maybe, who knows?). In terms of impact on the pitch, I think this will hurt more than losing the other two. Enrique is a fine defender, pacy enough to keep up with most wingers and capable at cutting out crosses. He's a disruptive force on the left side and is a large part of the reason Newcastle faced more attacks on the right side than the left. The center backs were better able to provide cover for the inevitably overwhelmed right back because they knew Jose could pick up their slack on the other side.
Jose Enrique also epitomizes the emerging profile of a wing back who is expected to provide support on the offensive side of the pitch. His overlapping runs and ball-handling skills cause all kinds of trouble for Premier League defenses, and he has proved a more proficient crosser than same-sided winger Jonas Gutierrez, with whom he had plenty of rapport.
It goes without saying then that Newcastle will sorely miss him. Even if they are able to bring in another left back (the latest rumors have Pardew pursuing Erik Pieters of PSV and Emilio Izaguirre of Celtic, though I certainly expect old rumors to resurface, such as interest in Manchester City's Wayne Bridge or even Aston Villa's Stephen Warnock), it doesn't seem likely that the new blood will be as suited for this role as JE. (Never mind that finding a new left back will probably place the hunt for a striker on the back burner.)
The writing was all over the wall when it came to this departure, but I wanted to believe that maybe an uneasy peace could be made between the two parties. I also had hopes that, if Newcastle were going to sell El Toro to Liverpool anyway, that they would be able to grab another significant payday, as the Reds seem to be in the business of overpayment lately. However, this looks like a shrewd, responsible move for them, even if there was only one season left on his contract (terms of the new deal have not been released yet). All in all, a disappointing end to a disappointing offseason.