Liverpool fans can now exhale. Shane Long was a smokescreen.
Liverpool have reportedly bid an initial £24 million for Shakhtar Donetsk captain Alex Teixeira. This is a welcomed surprised with many journalists reporting earlier in the transfer window that Liverpool wouldn’t be too active and Jurgen Klopp was waiting for the summer window to make changes to the squad.
The 26 year old had been linked with Chelsea earlier in January but with Liverpool’s Managing Director, Ian Ayre, flying out to Miami it looks as though the Reds feel a deal is on the cards.
A player with undoubted quality, many of the top European clubs have showed an interest in him throughout his time with Shakhtar. Why wouldn’t they? He comes with European experience both in the Champions League and the Europe League. He has a goal record many strikers would be jealous of. His style of play is one that should come with a ‘fits all’ tag. He’s versatile. He’s old enough to be considered experienced but young enough to still improve, he’s still a good few years away from his peak.
Reunion with Coutinho
It’s also worth noting how important Philippe Coutinho could be in this potential deal. Coutinho and Teixeira were the stars of the Vasco Da Gama academy when the Brazilian giants were rebuilding after being relegated to Serie B in 2009. The relegation to the second division gave the club the chance to blood these youngsters and it wasn’t long before both were snapped up by European clubs.
Three is the magic number..
Three Brazilian attacking midfielders is better than two. It’s simple math. Liverpool have looked at their most destructive when Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho have taken to the field together and yet there’s still a feeling the team lack goals, partly because the third attacking player in many of these games, Adam Lallana, has failed to score a goal this season. Alex Teixeira on the other hand has 22 league goals in 15 league games this season. Granted it’s only the Ukrainian league but that sort of output from an attacking midfielder can’t be overlooked.
The attacking midfielder can play a variety of positions; he’s played as a traditional number 10, a false 9, cutting in from the left and playing to the right of an attacking three behind the striker. He combines quick feet and clinical finishing with a burst of acceleration and it’s easy to see why he’s been so prolific for Shakhtar over the past few seasons, 55 goals in 91 league games.
Five of his 22 goals this season have come from rebounds as he’s followed the play into the box and it’s something Liverpool have lacked this season, not just goals in general but more specifically goals from midfield .
Both he and Roberto Firmino should have been the first two signings made after Luis Suarez left for Barcelona. A single player couldn’t replace Suarez but these two would have had fans saying “Luis who?” after a season together. Work rate, wonder goals and moments that leave your jaw on the floor. Give them time and space and you’ll witness many more Firmino type goals against Arsenal. Get tight and you’ll end up chasing shadows. They’re the sort of players that immediately put doubt in the opposition’s mind. Their skill is matched by their desire to win and that’s something you can’t teach. Having winners in the squad is something Liverpool needed, and still do.
Klopp seems to favour the false 9 tactic currently and signing somebody like Teixeira only lends itself to that idea. As aforementioned, he can play as a false 9 and he has natural goal scoring instincts, which other players who play that role for Liverpool may not. His style of play would be described as fluid as he’s always on the move. You’d associate Brazilian playmakers to want the ball but he’s happy to run the channels and get in behind the defence. In Europe over the past 5 seasons he’s averaged an 88% pass success rate, in theory when the ball goes up to him he’s not one to needlessly give it away. Liverpool would be able to build attacks with him as the focal point and thus not be so erratic in possession like they have been this season.
Against Stoke in the Semi-final the Liverpool attacking trio was like a rotisserie of pressing and it was so effective. Adding a player with the quality that Teixeira has only improves that tactic with all three taking it in turns to lead the line before filling in the wider positions.
Another attribute Teixeira has is the fact he can take a set piece. Corners, free-kicks and penalties. He’s not a specialist by any means but neither was Suarez, and something is better than nothing, right?
The 5ft 6 player would struggle aerially but with such an obvious weakness would Liverpool be playing high balls to him? Klopp isn’t the type to highlight the weaknesses of his players. Liverpool’s best performances this season have been when they’ve played a style that would suit Teixeira. It’s almost as though the much-maligned transfer committee got a check list from Klopp and Teixeira matched the requirements.