Article by Mark Mason @MMason00
With the opening today of the transfer window the daily bombardment of transfer rumours is only going to increase. By the end of the summer it will be likely be quicker to discuss who hasn’t been linked to Liverpool rather than who has. However, almost daily Liverpool are being linked to a different attacking midfielder / number 10.
The frequency of links to this position highlights one of the few gaps which Liverpool had in their squad. The failed move for Nabil Fekir suggests this was a hole Jurgen Klopp was aware of. So with so many options, who is the best available player for the Redmen in this area of the field?
(Goals and assists are in all club competitions)
1.Julian Brandt Schalke £21m
AGE 22 GOALS 9 ASSISTS 12
Julian Brandt has become the new Nicolas Gaitan. That talented wide-man that you are linked to every window and never sign. However, maybe bringing in the German would make a lot of sense. Young, dynamic and creative, Brandt would add the type of attacking runs from midfield that made Alex Oxlade Chamberlain so important to Liverpool last season. Just like Chamberlain, he is able to play from out wide and would provide a much more like for like replacement to Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah then we currently have.
With 12 assists in the Bundesliga, Brandt’s creative credentials are bona fide and with a £21m release clause, he would be a bargain option. However, with so many teams looking for massive squad overhauls, there will be undoubted competition for such a talented player at such a low price.
2. Nabil Fekir Lyon £30-50m
AGE 25 GOALS 12 ASSISTS 9
Another rumour that won’t go away is the constant ceaseless never-ending links to Nabil Fekir. The missing piece of the jigsaw for many, a Nabil Fekir rumour is guaranteed clickbait for any website.
The reason for all this attention is simple, Fekir is a very good player. The Frenchman has been in fine form again this season and would offer a fantastic option to Liverpool. However, where he would fit into the team is still an unanswered question.
Far more of a 10 than an attacking midfielder, Fekir’s regular inclusion would force Liverpool into a change of system to fit him into the first eleven. Liverpool at spells this season played a 4231 and it was effective although it robbed the midfield of the control we have sought so desperately for this year.
Fekir’s price would be up for negotiation. The roughly £55m pounds that Lyon sought for him last year will have fallen as Fekir only has a year left on his contract. How low Edwards could get the fee may well decide how realistic a transfer this could be.
3. Isco Real Madrid £60-80m
AGE 27 GOALS 8 : ASSISTS 3
The downfall of Isco over the last 12 months has been incredible to see. The Real Madrid man’s form in 17-18 was so good that he was seen by many Madristas to be who the team needed to be built around. Fast Forward 12 months and Isco has spent most of the season having a disco on the bench. The expected revivals of his fortunes with the return of Zinedine Zidane to the manager’s role in Madrid, hasn’t materialised. Isco is in limbo.
Madrid are in desperate need of a gigantic rebuild this summer. However, with their declining financial dominance, they will need to sell to buy the 5-6 players they will be looking to bring in. With Gareth Bale’s wages and injury record making him difficult to move on. Isco may well be the easiest way for Madrid to magic up £60-80m.
There will be no shortage of suitors for Isco this summer. However, his age and price tag may make him too big a risk for the Redmen. However, if it worked Liverpool would have got their hands on a Kevin De Bruyne esque talent who can score and create from midfield.
4. Christian Eriksen Tottenham Hotspur £50-60m
AGE 27 GOALS 10 ASSISTS 16
There are many reasons why Christian Eriksen makes no sense with the FSG model. At 27 turning 28 at the beginning of next season, we would be unlikely to protect his value and at £50-60 million this is not a cheap transfer. However, if he had more than a year left on his contract he would be double that price.
A player like Eriksen comes without many of the doubts other players on the list carry. We know he is a player who can create in the Premier League, we know he can shine in the Champions League. He is about a close as a sure thing any transfer can be. In probably the most intense league, Eriksen has the most assists out of all the 10 players on this list. This speaks volumes about his ability.
Tottenham have a similar high intensive playing style as Liverpool and Eriksen’s role in this is something he is not highly praised enough for. He may not put in the obvious lung-bursting sprints other players do. However, he is always moving, intelligently closes passing lanes and is able to play defence-splitting passes in transition. The type of pass that Salah, Mane and Firmino would long to be on the end of.
Eriksen may not be the best option looking long term. However, he has the ability to be a player to make the difference in the present.
5. Hakim Ziyech Ajax £25m
AGE 26 GOALS 19 ASSISTS 16
Ziyech is a player football hipsters have been going on about for seasons. For many he was the Fekir alternative that they called out for. However there were always doubts about his ability to transition his dominance of the Eredivisie to the bigger stage. This year in the Champions League, the biggest stage in the world, he has proved himself to be a devastating playmaker. Ziyech’s performances for Ajax in the champions league have propelled him to the attention of the wider footballing public and big teams are taking note.
Ziyech has 19 goals and 16 assists. He can play as a 10 or deeper as the 8 and provide relentless work ethic and quality. He has everything.
The only doubt would be about his build. How well would he be able to transfer he skills to the physical premier league. However the Premier league has moved on from the Tony Pulis teams that kicked their way through a season, and with a release clause of £25m, Ziyech offers little risk and potentially a lot of reward
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6.Houssem Aouar: Lyon £40-50m
AGE 20 GOALS 7 ASSISTS 9
The moment Lyon is mentioned Liverpool players begin to talk in raptures about Fekir, or discuss whether Klopp could get the best out of the temperamental Depay. However it may be another player who is the real gem at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais. Houssem Aouar who will turn 21 this summer has cemented himself as a first team superstar and is attracting attention from big teams across Europe. A first glance Aouar’s stats don’t jump out as a number 10. That’s because he rarely plays in that role. Rather he plays deeper, fitting in as a more traditional 8 with Fekir playing the more creative role ahead of him.
Therefore when looking at stats, Aouar stands out when compared against the current Liverpool midfield which has struggled to contribute goals. James Milner with 5 has the most goals from Midfield and he is the penalty taker. Adding a further 7 goals and 9 assists from midfield would therefore be a valuable addition to the squad. Aouar competence from the deeper role would mean that Klopp wouldn’t be forced to make formational changes to fit him in and give Liverpool their own Silva, Bernardo or David, in midfield.
7. Pablo Dybala Juventus £80-100m
AGE 25 GOALS 10 ASSISTS 4
Dybala linked with the reds 12 months ago would have been scoffed at by many. It is an indication of the enormous strides Liverpool have made in the last year that nobody is laughing at the thought of this now. In fact many opposition defences would be panicking at the thought of the reds adding Dybala to their already potent attack.
Yet, bringing in a Dybala would suggest a marked change in the way Liverpool would have to play. Dybala is not a workhorse and those around him would have to make up for his lack of pressing. Equally, neither was Sergio Aguero. Pep Guardiola has been able to get the build him into the Manchester City side. The potential to produce moments of magic that can win a game is something that Liverpool need. Dybala, like an Aguero, can bring this.
The chance of Dybala leaving Juventus this summer is high. He has suffered like so many before him from the Cristiano black hole effect The ability for Ronaldo to adversely affect the form of the forwards around him. It would be a change in style for Liverpool but maybe Dybala is a player worth making that change for.
8.Joao Felix Benfica £80-100m
AGE 19 GOALS 18 ASSISTS 8
Every year a wonder-kid comes along and seems to have the world at his feet. Strangely enough, many of them seem to come out of Portugal. Liverpool have had their hands burned from plucking a prodigy from Benfica in the past with Lazar Markovic. So logic dictates that we should stay far away from Joao Felix. But he has been so good.
Yes, this is another kid breaking through. However this one has already racked up 18 goals as an inverted winger and number 9/ 10 in his first season. Many of those early appearances came as a substitute. In fact he is averaging just over a goal or assist every 90 minutes at the age of 19.
Felix has an almost arrogance on the ball that sets him apart. His ability to find space and escape is reminiscent of another demunitative Portuguese player in Bernardo Silva. Just like Bernardo Silva it may take Felix time to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League.
In perspective, Felix would possibly be the most expensive of the options on this list and in many ways represent the biggest risk. We have seen the transfer prices on wonder-kids crash as they get found out in the bigger leagues. However with Felix it isn’t going overboard to say if this transfer worked, Liverpool have a potential balon de oro winner after the dominance of Messi and Ronaldo comes to an end.
9. Bruno Fernandes Sporting Lisbon £80-100m
AGE 24 GOALS 28 ASSISTS 14
There is a reason that both Manchester clubs are circling around Bruno Fernandes and Liverpool have been linked to him for 12 months. The reason is goals. Bruno Fernandez scores goals for fun from midfield. He has the ability to get into the box but also has a fantastic shot from distance. Frank Lampard proved for years at Chelsea the importance a midfielder who could score double figure goals has.
Fernandez is also one of the more versatile players on this list, equally adept as a number 10 or in a deeper midfield role. He would offer Klopp options in formation without a substitution being necessary.
However goals cost money. Any deal to pick him up on the cheap from Sporting Lisbon has disappeared with City and United’s interest. Sporting will now be holding out for the full buy out clause or a chunk of money and options on fringe players.
With the highly rated Portuguese attacker, Rafael Camacho refusing to sign a new contract, Liverpool may have a tempting cherry to put on top of a big chunk of money. However this may be a deal we are too late to the table for.
10.Alex Oxlade Chamberlain Liverpool Free
AGE 26 GOALS 0 ASSISTS 0
It is often mocked when people say a player coming back from an injury it is like a new signing. However when that player has missed all but 19 minutes of a season, it is a pretty fair assessment. The Ox was a huge part of Liverpool getting to the Champions League final in Kiev. His ability to transition from a disciplined midfielder to a forth attacking option allowed Liverpool to get our main men 1 on 1 with defenders. It is no surprise that Ox’s involvement in the team is when Salah was banging in goals for fun. Teams ability to double mark Salah this season has reduced his goal tally to a still incredible 26 goals in all competitions. Yet Liverpool will hope with the return of a true attacking threat from midfield that Salah will be free to cause havoc next season.
Therefore as Liverpool have Oxlade Chamberlain, the 9 options stated prior to this were a waste of your time. I apologise. If only that were true. Klopp would have to be an exceedingly brave man to bank on a player coming back from injury to fulfil this key role. By far the wiser option would be to bring someone in to share that responsibility with Chamberlain. Klopp is without doubt a brave manager and may choose to go alone with the Ox. However if it goes wrong, not having signed an attacking midfielder/ number 10 may be something Liverpool are forced to regret again next summer
Article by Mark Mason @MMason00