Silly season is now upon us. The gossip columns are filled to the rafters linking player x with team y and with no major international tournament this summer, it’s likely to remain that way until mid-August. That being said, teams are now placing greater importance on pushing deals across the finish line sooner rather than later, with Liverpool looking to set the pace.
The biggest deal of the summer so far has been Manchester City’s big money capture of Bernardo Silva, yet the Reds have already confirmed the acquisition of Dominic Solanke from Chelsea and they appear to not be resting on their laurels. With that, we look at five players who have been linked with a big-money move to Anfield over the coming weeks and how they would improve Liverpool.
Mohamed Salah (Roma)
This is seemingly a deal close to completion and ticks all Jurgen Klopp’s boxes for a forward. Granted, Mohamed Salah’s best football comes from the right flank, a role currently occupied by Sadio Mane, but the movement of the front three in Klopp’s preferred 4-3-3 formation means the duo won’t remain stationary across the attack. The speed and fluidity of the Reds’ front line means that have one of the more potent attack lines in England and Salah would only improve Liverpool in the final third; he was one of only eight players to register double figures for both goals (15) and assists (11) in Europe’s top five leagues last season.
A direct winger with a solid end product is ideal in any 4-3-3 formation, with the 24-year-old’s output for Roma under Luciano Spalletti improving so much so that the Egypt international is now considered one of the Serie A side’s most important players. If Klopp wishes to adopt a similar approach to his attack for the coming campaign, then he can do a lot worse than bring Salah to Merseyside.
The downside here, though, is that it’s likely Salah would miss a substantial chunk of the campaign should Egypt qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations. It’s a similar conundrum with Mane, who made just two appearances for Liverpool in January as a result of Senegal’s participation in the illustrious competition.
That being said, the pros far outweigh the cons and if Liverpool can convince Roma to sell, then Salah would make for an excellent capture this summer.
Timo Werner (RB Leipzig)
RB Leipzig shocked everyone across the continent with a stunning debut campaign in the Bundesliga when they undeniably exceeded expectations to finish second, guaranteeing a place in next season’s Champions League in the process. The German outfit have been keen to stress that their key players won’t be sold this summer, but that won’t stop speculation linking their star men with big-money summer moves. One of those is striker Timo Werner, whose performances have not gone unnoticed. The youngster earned his first senior cap back in March, while he scored more goals (21) than any other player aged 21 and under in Europe’s top five leagues last season.
? 21 G⚽ALS
? 5 Braces
? 8 Goals which put #RBL into the lead
? 8 Assists
— RB Leipzig English (@RBLeipzig_EN) June 1, 2017
Considering he had scored just 13 league goals in the previous three Bundesliga campaigns combined, his return last season was all the more notable. For a Liverpool team that looks to break at speed, Werner’s striking instincts would be a huge boost for the Reds, with the 21-year-old scoring more counter-attacking goals (6) than any other player in Germany’s top tier last term. A willingness to pull to the flanks would also be a huge boost for the Reds. The front three are expected to routinely drift across the final third and open up space for one another, which Werner is more than capable of doing. This would ease the pressure on Roberto Firmino and offer another similar goalscoring threat as the spearhead of the attack.
Daniel Sturridge’s lack of movement off the ball, coupled with his injury issues, routinely let Liverpool down when on the offensive last season, while Werner is a more potent striker than Divock Origi, as the German’s conversion rate in the Bundesliga last season (28.4%) proves. He won’t come cheaply, but for a Liverpool side returning to European action, a forward of his calibre could be crucial.
Naby Keita (RB Leipzig)
Sticking with RB Leipzig, this time with a focus on Werner’s teammate Naby Keita. Like Werner, Keita – a summer arrival from Austrian side and sister club RB Salzburg – excelled in the Bundesliga last season and interest in his signature is understandably high. “I think it’s very likely he’ll play for us next season,” RB Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick said back in March amidst reports than it’ll take offers of upwards of £60m to convince the German side to sell their star central midfielder and it’s for good reason too given Keita’s stunning start to life in Germany.
The 22-year-old scored eight goals and registered a further seven assists in the Bundesliga last season, further enhancing his continuously growing reputation. His driving runs from deep also caught the eye as only Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele (103) completed more dribbles than Keita (83) in the top division of German football, while only Thiago Alcantara (70.6%) had a better success rate than the Guinea international (63.8%) of the 69 players to have attempted 50 or more dribbles.
Once he gains a head of steam, Keita is a difficult player to stop and in Klopp’s 4-3-3 formation, his influence on the ball would be an undeniable bonus to the side. Even out of possession, the midfielder still produced returns of three tackles and 3.1 interceptions per 90 and this ability to single-handedly rapidly transition from defence to attack would certainly improve Liverpool.
Virgil van Dijk (Southampton)
Centre-back is an area in desperate need of investment at Liverpool this summer and while there is a plethora of interested parties in Virgil van Dijk, the Reds will be hoping to lure the powerhouse Dutchman to Anfield. Despite not playing since January due to an ankle issue, Van Dijk is widely considered one of – if not the – best defenders in the Premier League. Southampton are reluctant to cash in on their prized asset and to ward off interest are believed to be demanding upwards of £50m for the player. The towering defender only penned a six-year deal at St. Mary’s last May, so Saints are under no pressure to sell, but interest in Van Dijk remains tremendously high coming into the summer months, and for good reason too.
He has all the necessary defensive attributes to succeed at the highest level and it’s no wonder a host of England’s top teams are closely monitoring Van Dijk’s situation. Liverpool, though, are perhaps the most desperate to secure his services following a season where they conceded 42 league goals. His impressive reading of the game saw him average 2.6 interceptions per game in the Premier League last season, while a success rate of 84.2% from 46.7 passes per game highlights how he is capable of breaking rank at the right time to instigate attacks from defence. Van Dijk also won more aerial duels per game (4.7) than any other defender, with his physical presence not just for show.
He has a glowing reputation that shines brighter with each passing week, even if he hasn’t featured since the end of January. Competition for his signature is high, but if Liverpool can win the race to secure the 25-year-old’s services, than they will have improved an area that required strengthening with arguably the creme de la creme of Premier League centre-backs.
Andrew Robertson (Hull City)
While Klopp desperately needs to improve his centre-back options this summer, a new left-back would also be beneficial. Liverpool looked set to win the race for highly-rated teenage left-back Ryan Sessegnon from Fulham, but with Tottenham and Manchester United now ahead of Liverpool in the pecking order to sign the teenager, the Reds are believed to have turned their attention to Hull City’s Andrew Robertson.
The Scotland international may not have pulled up any trees for the Tigers last season, but in the right set-up under the right manager, the 23-year-old could thrive. And following Hull’s relegation, Robertson would be available for a bargain price, which would appeal to Liverpool considering the money they are tipped to spend this summer.
While Robertson struggled to churn out headline-grabbing performances, he was still a solid defender where required. Indeed, the Scottish defender was dribbled past just an average of 0.7 times per game as he made 1.6 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per Premier League match. The former stat is all more commendable when considering Hull averaged just 46.7% possession in England’s top tier last term, one of the lower returns, which meant the Tigers were more often than not on the back foot, meaning Robertson’s defensive capabilities were routinely put to the test.
While James Milner impressed at left-back for the Reds, Klopp remains eager to bring in a specialist in the position, which comes as no great shock. Robertson may not be the most desirable of acquisitions, yet he would be a solid pick-up that wouldn’t make a substantial impact on Liverpool’s transfer funds, allowing them to splash the cash elsewhere.
Ben McAleer – follow him on Twitter here