DoF Fantasy Series Part 3: How I'd spend £100m at Liverpool
Today I came across an idea – or rather stole it from the AnfieldIndex guys, in particular it was an article written by @SamMcGuire90 which you can read here.
Basically he was told to think like a Director of Football or Sports Director – or whatever name you want to use for that exact position – and concentrate only on the transfer aspect of it, leaving all the boring organisational stuff behind. He was also told to work with a budget of £100m but he can add money made from sales.
The money I’m going to be talking about will be purely as probable transfer fees between the clubs, excluding any agent fees/bonuses.
The first steps after being put into that position:
- Assessing the squad – quality of the players, personal issues, their situation at the club
- Assessing the financial part – players’ contracts, potential reward (fee) we could generate, their marketing rights and position
- Determining our needs related to the squad, positions
- Setting up our plan into negotiations and concrete lists of targets (which suit our requirements)
- Having 2 or 3 variations per each target – low-profile signing, experienced player, top class ready made player and a player for the future
- Deciding who to get
Goalkeepers: Simon Mignolet, Loris Karius, Danny Ward, Ryan Fulton*
Right Backs: Nathaniel Clyne, Conor Randall, Jon Flanagan
Left Backs: Alberto Moreno, Brad Smith
Centre Backs: Martin Škrtel, Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez, Tiago Ilori, Lloyd Jones*, Andre Wisdom*
Central Midfielders: Jordan Henderson, Lucas Leiva, Emre Can, Joe Allen, Marko Grujic, Kevin Stewart, Cameron Brannagan*, Jordan Williams*, Pedro Chirivella*, Allan*
Attacking midfielders/wide players: Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Lazar Markovic, James Milner, Jordon Ibe, Joao Teixeira, Sheyi Ojo*, Ryan Kent*, Luis Alberto, Sergi Canos*
Strikers: Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi, Danny Ings, Christian Benteke, Mario Balotelli, Samed Yesil*, Jerome Sinclair*
Danny Ward – loan Huddersfield
Martin Škrtel – £5,7m Fenerbahce/Roma
André Wisdom – £3m Celtic*
Allan de Souza – loan
Joao Vilaca – £500k FC Porto
Samed Yesil – £230k Trabonzaspor*
Jerome Sinclair – £3m Watford FC
Senior players – staying put at the moment
Goalkeepers: Simon Mignolet, Loris Karius
Right-Backs: Nathaniel Clyne, Conor Randall, Jon Flanagan
Left-Backs: Alberto Moreno, Brad Smith
Centre-Backs: Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez, Tiago Ilori
Central Midfielders: Jordan Henderson, Lucas Leiva, Emre Can, Joe Allen, Marko Grujic, Kevin Stewart, Cameron Brannagan*
Attacking midfielders/wide players: Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Lazar Markovic, James Milner, Jordon Ibe, Sheyi Ojo*, Luis Alberto
Strikers: Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi, Danny Ings, Christian Benteke, Mario Balotelli
That still leaves us with 32 players for a possibly below 50 games season, which is obviously too much.
*There are certain players that wouldn’t have to be registered such as Ojo, Ibe..
So let’s have a look at the possibility of sales/loans to generate money
- Lucas Leiva – Very experienced player, knows the club, the fans, the culture, was never good enough to be a starter – but could be kept as a good utility player in case of injuries, but considering the low number of games possibly being played next year, it would be a good idea to try to cash in on a few millions. There have been interest from Turkey and Serie A for the midfielder, any bid in excess of £4m would be accepted.
- Joe Allen – Out of contract next year, wants to play more minutes which won’t be guaranteed or given to him at LFC, Swansea & Celtic are both reportedly interested in the talented, but limited midfielder – £10m could be generated with the sale.
- Mario Balotelli – Enough has been written about one of the most talented players of his generation, real shame it didn’t work out for him and a bad choice followed a bad choice (clubs, managers, transfers) – Fenerbache are reportedly interested in the player with bid of around £8m coming in, it would be hard to say no.
- Lazar Markovic – Player that divides the opinions whether he should be given a chance under Klopp, or sold. It’s hard not to see why Klopp would be the right man for him, but looking at his previous season of struggling on and off the pitch – with performances or a lot of injuries, I would probably opt to sell him if an offer in around £12-15m came in.
- Jordan Henderson – If there was a player dividing the fan base as much as Henderson I can’t remember his name. The club’s captain, the english midfielder who sits on a £100,000 per week contract(worth £39,5m over the whole length) who simply isn’t anywhere near good enough to be a starter for a top club, let alone the captain, it’s just spectacular what the club has done in recent times. Any bid in excess of £14m would be accepted.
- Adam Lallana – I would relate to Sam’s words there, player you either hate or love, there is no middle ground. Player whose work ethic and close-ball control are on a spectacular level, but his intelligence, decision making, inability to run with the ball, to take-on defenders and lack of end product make him a player, that should be sold as long as he has some value considering he’s reaching his 28th birthday. Anything above £14m would be welcomed.
- Tiago Ilori – One of the most naturally talented defenders, who sadly paid the highest price for a lot of injuries and considerably poor attitude as the guy with the ‘worst training effort’ you ever saw. His representatives have been in contact with Spanish clubs – it should be Deportivo that came up with the most concrete offer, could expect bid of around £2-5m.
- Christian Benteke – There isn’t a more obvious sale of the summer from LFC is there? Doesn’t fit in with what we want to do, even though he put in really amazing numbers for a player without confidence, not fitting into the system, he’s obviously going to be sold – considering the poor transfer record, we can expect something in the region of £18-21m.
- Luis Alberto – Even if it is reported Jürgen Klopp’s wants the talented midfielder to take part in LFC’s pre-season, I can’t see him staying with his inability to live up to the tempo or physicality of Premier League and with reported interest of Deportivo and Granada, a bid in the region of £3m would definitely make me sale him.
- Jordon Ibe – Rumours are circulating about him being included in a potential deal for Sadio Mané, let’s just say we would try to loan him into a club in the Premier League – some club like Middlesborough for example.
This number of sales would put us on around £76.5m – excluding the sale of Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana, as those probably won’t happen this summer for multiple reasons – let’s say the homegrown rule is the main issue.
Our squad consists of these players now:
Goalkeepers: Simon Mignolet, Loris Karius
Right-Backs: Nathaniel Clyne, Conor Randall, Jon Flanagan
Left-Backs: Alberto Moreno, Brad Smith
Centre-Backs: Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez
Central Midfielders: Jordan Henderson, Emre Can, Marko Grujic, Kevin Stewart, Cameron Brannagan*
Attacking midfielders/wide players: Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, James Milner, Sheyi Ojo*
Strikers: Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi, Danny Ings
That puts us into 24 players with Brad Smith, Conor Randall, Sheyi Ojo, Cameron Brannagan not needed to be registered – 20 players. Which gives us options for 5 new players + maybe a few players that are U21.
Let’s try to get into some of the options and the specific types of targets I was writing about earlier in the piece.
Signings – targets
Top class, established right-backs
- Fabinho (AS Monaco) – One of the most exciting right-backs in the world. Unusually tall for a right-back, but really good technically and strong on the ball and especially a really fast type of player – all of these attributes make him a universal player who can play multiple positions but arguably as a right-back he has enjoyed the brightest spell of his career in the 2014/2015 season with AS Monaco where he has been part of the best defence in the league. He is really strong in 1v1 situations, strong, athletic, fast type of player who has been sometimes criticised for being indisciplined positionally and for his lack of end product – which improved last season with 6 goals and 4 assists in the past season. Considering our lack of Champions League and Barcelona’s interest in him, it would probably be hard to compete with them, would have to most likely pay more than them and offer more money to him. Really hard deal, not necessity with Clyne. – Price around €22m.
- Sergie Aurier (PSG) – The best right-back in the world for the past 3 years apart from the past 2015/2016 season where he came up against the massive controversy where he talked badly about his teammates and made fun of his coach Laurent Blanc on Periscope. All of this made him get dropped from the first-team to the reserves and somewhat ruin his reputation of a hardworking, dedicated, man of heart player and a man that has been going with him since his Toulouse days. His ability on the football pitch can’t be matched by almost any other player in the same position, one of the most naturally gifted footballers in the world football, he’s the right footed, right sided version of David Alaba. He can play anywhere across the defence or midfield, his ball delivery into the box from wide areas is unmatched in the world football and his power, heading ability and intelligence in defending 1v1 are at such a high level that he rarely gets caught out. Still only 23, with a massive potential to get even better – one of the best full-backs in the world, would probably cost a fortune, especially with the coach Laurent Blanc departing. Fee could be around €25m.
Low profile signing
- Aritz Elustondo (Real Sociedad) – Reliable full-back who came through the ranks of Sociedad and just signed a new contract in January, would cost a lost but would offer defensive ability and reliability for years to come. Expected price around €20m.
- Joao Cancelo (Valencia CF) – The offensively minded full-back with a really great on-ball technique and dribbling would add a great dimension to our team considering Clyne’s inability to be worth passing the ball to while attacking. Really composed, arrogant type of fullback who sometimes struggles against players shoulder-to-shoulder who have more power and gets caught of position at times – things that can be definitely improved.
*Stefan Julian Korb, Montoya, Javier Manquillo, Daryl Janmaat, Gregory Van der Wiel
Top class, established right-sided Centre-Backs
- Medhi Benatia (Bayern München) – Benatia enjoyed a really bad spell at Bayern München as Pep Guardiola (as he usually does) had his preferred players and didn’t use him unless completely necessary which wasted a year of his career. Easily one of the best centre-backs in the world if he was playing regularly and given the faith he needs to perform well just like Rudi García gave him while at AS Roma. Estimated price £12m.
- Shkodran Mustafi (Valencia CF) – The German national defender with Albanian roots has been one of the most overlooked defenders in the past 3 years when he has been absolutely magnificent for both Sampdoria and in a very struggling Valencia side. The very positionally aware CB has an incredible timing of when to step out of line, when to make a tackle – something Liverpool fans wouldn’t know after having Martin Škrtel in front of their eyes for 8 years. He is apparently available for a price of around €12-15m which is an incredible price for an established, experienced, all-round great CB entering his prime.
- Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal) – Arguably the best Argentinian CB at the moment, the Villarreal defender struggled with injuries the last two seasons after he suffered a broken tibula two years ago and the past season (2015/2016) got ruined for him with two consecutive hamstring injuries (hello there, Liverpool). The tactically and positionally disciplined defender, with an eye for a pass into the midfield with understanding of playing the high line may offer something very different to the defenders Klopp has on his hands these days. Estimated price would be around €14-20m.
- Jonathan Tah – Arguably the best defender coming out of Germany from this generation. The reliable, fast, extremely powerful, tall, strong defender is everything you would want from the last man of your defensive line, but what makes him so special is that he’s much more than just physical attributes – his intelligence, positional awareness and ball playing ability make him the complete defender of the modern era and the natural successor to Jerome Boateng, sadly there is no needs for him to leave Bayer Leverkusen. €25-35m.
Low profile signing
- Semih Kaya (Galatasaray) – The former target of Sir Alex Ferguson is a 25 years old central defender from Turkey who excels in his drive to win and reading of the game. He has had problems with injuries in the past – especially with his groin that kept reappearing through out his career but when he’s fit, he is one of the stand-out defenders in the Turkish Super Lig, he isn’t that great on the ball, considerably on the same level as Martin Škrtel, but his reading of the game is excellent, predicting what his opponent is going to do next is at world class level – sometimes his mind doesn’t exactly match his body and he tends to give away needless foul/tackle, but he makes up for it by amazing last minute tackles or clearances. Very simplistic defender who would rather clear the ball 40yards before trying to dribble against 3 opponents. Price around £12m.
- Nikola Maksimovic (Torino) – The 24 years old Serbian defender has been getting a lot of attention after the last season, especially with West Ham United trying to sign him to partner Ogbonna. He is a really tall player – at 189cm, who isn’t shy of the ball and being very versatile – having played as a right full-back or defensive midfielder. Though on the ball he is really ‘simple’ – his defensive attributes are the main things to match from other defenders. He is really good in the air – on the ground, his biggest strength is the reading of the game, so he’s able to tackle or step-out of the line before the ball gets to a certain player and attempt a tackle. Sometimes he is way too ruthless and gives away needless fouls, but that happens and can be moderated by the manager. €8-15m.
- Nicolas N’Koulou (Marseille) – The Cameroonian defender who currently plays for Marseille is out of contract on 1st of July in 2016. N’Koulou is after a horrific season with Marseille, when they almost get relegated and he was really inconsistent, having some of the worst matches of the career that almost cost his team points if it wasn’t for the incredible S. Mandanda in goal. Before this season under Michel, he has had one of the best seasons of his career under the former boss Bielsa, who made him into an unstoppable and unbreakable force, who looked so awkward while running or on the ball, that he reminded of Mamadou Sakho, but he was never as good as Mama on the ball, but on the other hand, he rarely got bullied – even by the best strikers in the league such as Zlatan Ibrahimović. Very strong in tackling, often stepping against the attacking player, almost never backing off, reading the game well and intercepting passes he might be an ideal CB partner to either Sakho or Matip, considering they are both so great on the ball. Potential cost is £0m.
- Neven Subotić (BVB) – Out of favour defender of Tuchel may find a place in the team under his former boss – Jürgen Klopp at LFC. The reliable, strong in the air, very simple defender who is used to Klopp’s system may be a really great addition to challenge to younger defenders and pass his wisdom meanwhile he’s at the club. Potential cost £6-8m.
*Stefan De Vrij, Fabian Schär, Dedé
Top class, established left-sided centre-backs
- Samuel Umtiti (OL) – It’s definitely arguable whether you would call him an established LCB in the world of football. But he is definitely one of the best defenders available for transfer in the world. He is fast, athletic, strong in the air, very decent on the ball considering his experience as a full-back – you would probably call him the prototype of a modern defender, he can do it all. There is always a room for improvement, he makes mistakes vs stronger, taller, more experienced strikers but he can bounce back and continue on his level just minutes after, worth every penny going forward. £15-20m.
- Niklas Süle (Hoffenheim) – Even though the German defender mentioned just last week that he’d reject approaches from different teams across Europe mainly for the fact that he wants to play every week and his coach can give him that and that he believes that they can challenge for the Champions League spot in the next 2 years, he’d still be worth the gamble to try and go for if Mamadou’s ban was postponed or prolonged. The tall, powerful, strong defender is very smart and uses his intelligence to tackle his weakness – movement, speed and overall agility by positioning, under Klopp he may have a greater future. – price around £8-12m.
Low profile signing
- Wesley Hoedt (Lazio) – The former AZ Alkmaar defender is very strong in the Serie A for Lazio. He is a tall (188cm) left footed defender, whose biggest strength is reading of the game and the ability to predict. He is really strong at interception of the ball, heading and overall he’s dealing with situations the simplest ways possible. He isn’t that great for a team that loves to have a lot of possession and loves it’s CBs to break the first defensive blocks – although on the other hand, his interception-ability is great for starting counter-attacks. – price around £6-10m.
- Jairo Riedewald (Ajax Amsterdam) – The 19 years old LCB was brought up playing multiple positions – mainly a left full-back or right in front of the defence as the ‘number 6’. He is a strong, composed lad who is good on the ball and especially tackling cleanly, but he isn’t that tall and very good in the air, which may be an issue for Jürgen. – Cost around £6-14m.
* Éder Balanta, Ezequiel Garay, Iñigo Martínez
Top class, established left-backs
- Wendell (Bayer Leverkusen) – He is the natural successor for Marcelo at Real Madrid even after such a horrific season as the last one (0 goals or assists in the league). Young, fast, and very good on the ball, he is a modern type of full-back who’s main idea is to attack and support to attack. He isn’t that strong at delivering the ball as he’s much better on overlapping defenders and taking them on and winning space for his teammates and cutting the ball back into an open area. He is also very strong at winning fouls for his team. In the defensive aspect of the game, he’s probably the weakest of the three mentioned in this category, can be caught out of position often – which can be caused by Roger Schmidt’s system and he is sometimes way too passive in 1v1s so the attacker can cross the ball without much of a trouble. €25-34m.
- Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg) – If it wasn’t for David Alaba in the Bundesliga, he would be the left-back in that league, maybe in the whole world for at least the past two seasons. Absolutely unreal, reliable fullback who can do it all. Very strong positionally, good 1v1, amazing delivery of the ball, set-piece specialist. Only one of a kind, if it wasn’t for Alaba. €25m.
- Lucas Digne (AS Roma) – €12-16m.
- Jonas Hector (FC Köln) – The reliable, ‘boring’ player every team wants and needs. Extremely consistent player, rarely makes a mistakes, has his faults in the attacking aspect of the game, but incredibly reliable defensively. €16-24m.
Low profile signing
- Jetro Willems (PSV) – Jetro had a spectacular 2014/2015 season with 2 goals and 13 assists in 2455 minutes which is one G/A every 165 minutes which is unreal for a full-back. Unlucky for him this season, he has missed the whole pre-season as he was out since July 2015 until January of 2016 with a knee injury but still, after he came back he managed to get 2 goals and 4 assists in 989 minutes – which is still G/A every 169 assists which is unbelievable and gives you an idea where his strengths lie. When I saw him live in 2014 in Prague, in the Viktoria Žižkov stadium where the Netherlands U21s lost to the Czech Republic U21s, I would never believe you I would say this, but I believe he has the potential to become a top class attacking full-back under the right management and in the right system. He was ruthless, easily bullied off the ball and overall poor in possession in that game, things you would hardly ever hear or read about him from his PSV days. He isn’t that strong defensively, who knows how he would do against powerful wingers week in, week out, but overall he was a reliable fullback in the Eredivise and in attack, he is top class.
- Oliver Sorg (Hannover 96) – Versatile player, can play both full-back roles, reliable, can come to midfield also. €6-10m.
- Jordan Amavi (Aston Villa) – The £8,25m signing from Nice hasn’t experienced the best possible debut campaign in the Premier League after he ended up playing in a relegated Aston Villa side and especially after playing only 12 games for the side and then rupturing his cruciate ligament which left him out of the game until summer. If we don’t take into consideration the awful game he has had against Crystal Palace, he was the stand out performer in almost all of the 10 Premier League games he has been part of. A very good dribbler of the ball who is good at using both of his feet, running with the ball at pace and delivering extremely dangerous and accurate crosses from different situations – make him a really valuable asset for an attacking side. In defence he often uses his strengths to his advantage – speed and tackling – when he often lures the attacker to push the ball down the line and challenge him in a pure sprint battle which he usually wins. His major flaw is inexperience which can be sometimes highlighted in poor decision making under pressure, his aerial duels as he is not that strong and that sometimes he tries to take way too much of a risk in order to get the ball so he ends up fouling the opposing player. €12m
*Ricardo Pereira, Djibril Sidibe, Aaron Creswell, Maxwell
Continue reading for central midfield, attacking midfielder and strikers on page 2!
Top class – ready to go Central Midfielders
- Mahmoud Dahoud (Bor. M’Gladbach) – There has been enough written about this player, a guy who has everything ahead of himself, who can only get better and who can do it all. Worked in a midfield of two with Granit Xhaka with 3 centre-backs behind them which allowed him a lot of freedom, apparently ‘Gladbach expect him to move higher up the pitch next season, sky is the limit for this guy. €30-35m.
- Youri Tielemans (Anderlecht) – Last season one of the most highly rated youngsters in the world, a midfielder who could do it all and who was the boss in Jupiler Pro League. Player who went on from playing as a creative type of defensive midfielder to a central midfielder to even try the attacking midfielder role in some matches in Praet’s absence has really done it all. The range of passing, long rage shooting ability, tackling, positional awareness, it’s the right time for him to move on from Anderlecht and develop into the world beater he can possibly be. Would be a really great coup as Anderlecht rejected bid in excess of €26+8m last summer from Barcelona, after his “poor” season, the bid that would secure his service could be much lower. €15-20m.
- Corentin Tolisso (OL) – In his first season he was used as the left-sided central midfielder in a diamond set-up where his strengths ensured Lyon much needed stability in possession and even without it due to his ability to retain the ball really quickly without a need to give away a foul. It is questionable whether would LFC benefit from signing a player whose main strength is control, he loves to control the tempo, the passes played and likes everything to go through him – which may slow down some much needed counter-attacks Klopp may find needed to implement in order to beat certain teams. He is still a very good player and reliable defensively – not sure he’d be the ideal partner to Emre Can in a double pivot, but still worth looking at. €20-24m.
- Piotr Zielinski (Empoli) – He’s a midfielder, who is best in a midfield of three as the right sided midfielder, the so called engine.
He is astonishingly good at dribbling and moving with the ball, able to beat opponents 1-on-1, run past them, speed up the game/build-up and create opportunities by cross-running the midfield and dragging people out of position and opening space on one side. He gets also seems to be really aware of the potential next step – by that I mean he is considerably good at recognising the threat of losing the ball, running into a ‘trap’ or simply not progressing anywhere with it so he tries to get close to defenders and win a free-kick.
His passing isn’t certainly one of the things that stands out for him, but ultimately he’s a very decent distributor of the ball – can pull off the occasional ‘Hollywood pass’ and can use his both feet at a very decent level. His passing accuracy (read stats) aren’t in general that impressive – mostly due to the size he’s playing in and also that he quite often tries to pick out a pass behind the defence which doesn’t always end up in creating a chance or finding his teammates – it’s definitely an area of his game he can work on and improve. In terms of where he could fit in at LFC, we have to consider quite a few things. First of all is that if we keep Henderson, Milner & Lallana (which for me isn’t possible) where is his place or can we afford to have one high earning homegrown player on the bench or maybe even in the stands? Second of all the system, he isn’t a player who will be able to play in double pivot, he’s an extreme tireless worker off the ball, constantly putting pressure on people off the ball, tracking back vividly and under certain situation his reading of the game is on outstanding level, but he’s always been the most effective when he’s had a pure defensive midfielder beneath him and a partner next to him on the other side of midfield (whether he played LM,RM or even as an AM). All things considered I’d love to sign him and shift Henderson and maybe even Milner to give him space and enough playing time on the right side of the midfield, where he’s currently playing the best football of his career – but would really need to consider changing the set-up to 1-2 midfield or maybe even playing him as the wide right sided attacking midfielder which we’ve seen Klopp use quite often this season. €15-18m.
- William Carvalho (Sporting CP) – William is the pure N’Golo Kanté type of player, he is a pure destroyer. He is a very simple and tidy player in possession of the ball, he gives to his partner who is usually the ball playing partner he needs besides or in front of him. He is a very athletic, strong and positionally aware type of player who knows his strengths and weaknesses and really knows how to use them. Price will be really close to his release clause €30-40m.
*Ruben Neves, Lassana Diarra, Seydou Keita
Low profile signing
- Jessy Pi (Troyes) – He is a smaller type of midfielder. He is used to play in a double pivot from Troyes which is a big advantage from us. He is a real all round skilled player who seems to be able to do it all. He has amazing long shooting ability, he is able to pick out any pass possible – long range, short range, breaking the defensive lines, anything. He is really good at reading the oppositions’ transition and switching tempo of the game and the focal point to the other side with one pass – using open width of the pitch. He is an athletic, energetic type of player who tries to intercept the ball really often, he rarely fouls the opponent but sometimes can get caught way too advanced. Monaco and Real Betis are interested in signing him, he should cost around €6-12m.
- Roman Saiss (Angers)- Maybe the most insane shout in this list, Roman has been part of the Angers team that have finished 9th in the Ligue 1 and were surprise of the year. Him and Cheikh Ndoye were the main stars of the team. He was called ‘the numero 6’ by the French press. The French player went under the radar of the major teams due to apparently questionable attitude and being out of shape – but his ability on the pitch were incredible in the past season. Incredibly intelligent tackles, almost never seemed to put a foot wrong, fast, athletic, agile player who covers a lot of the pitch every map. His long range passing was used to start counter-attacks very often also. Left footed defensive midfielder who can play at the base of a 3 man midfield or even in a double pivot. Roman was linked with Luis Enrique’s Barcelona in the past weeks for around €6-9m.
- Naby Keita (RB Salzburg) – Naby Keita is one of the most gifted footballers outside of the big 5 leagues. His natural ability and intelligence make him an incredible force. It shouldn’t be underestimated what he’s done in ‘just an Australian Bundesliga’: 12 goals and 8 assists in 2179 minutes (G/A every 108 minutes) is absolutely incredible for a midfielder – especially a midfielder coming in a second wave. He is a very energetic, fast type of midfielder. I would compare him to N’Golo Kante but being more advanced and a goal scoring threat to the opposition rather than a pure defensive midfielder who is a destroyer. He has been heavily linked with a move to RB Leipzig but apparently asked his agency (arena11 – same one which covers Sadio Mané) to pursue a move to the Premier League, he would cost around €12-18m.
- Ruben Pardo (Real Sociedad) – Ruben is playing like a very experienced midfielder at the age of just 23. His intelligence puts him above the others, his decision making/especially under pressure is top notch. One thing that stands out for him the most is his passing, any type of pass, long range, short, chip, outside of his boot, he can do it all. One question could be asked, whether he could keep the same tempo and style in the physical Premier League, especially with his really tidy tackling and interceptions that are purely based on timing and elegance. €8-14m.
- Leandro Paredes (Empoli) – He’s a midfielder, best in a midfield three as the right sided midfielder.
He is astonishingly good at dribbling and moving with the ball, able to beat opponents 1-on-1, run past them, speed up the game/build-up and create opportunities by cross-running the midfield and dragging people out of position and opening space on one side. He also seems to be really aware of the potential next step – by that I mean he is considerably good at recognising the threat of losing the ball, running into a ‘trap’ or simply not progressing anywhere with it so he tries to get close to defenders and win a free-kick.
His passing isn’t certainly one of the things that stands out for him, but ultimately he’s a very decent distributor of the ball – can pull off the occasional ‘Hollywood pass’ and can use both feet at a very decent level. His passing accuracy (read stats) aren’t in general that impressive – mostly due to the size he’s playing in and also that he quite often tries to pick out a pass behind the defence which doesn’t always end up in creating a chance or finding his teammates – it’s definitely an area of his game he can work on and improve.
In terms of where he could fit in at LFC, we have to consider quite a few things. First of all is that if we keep Henderson, Milner and Lallana (which for me isn’t possible) where is his place or can we afford to have one high earning HG player on the bench or maybe even in the stands? Second of all the system, he isn’t a player who will be able to play in double pivot, he’s an extreme tireless worker off the ball, constantly putting pressure on people off the ball, tracking back vividly and under certain situation his reading of the game is on outstanding level, but he’s always been the most effective when he’s had a pure defensive midfielder beneath him and a partner next to him on the other side of midfield (whether he played LM,RM or even as an AM).
All things considered I’d love to sign him and shift Henderson and maybe even Milner to give him space and enough playing time on the right side of the midfield, where he’s currently playing the best football of his career – but would really need to consider changing the set-up to 1-2 midfield or maybe even playing him as the wide right sided attacking midfielder which we’ve seen Klopp use quite often this season.
*Godfred Donsah, Alfred Duncan, Ignacio Camacho, Gonzalo Escalante, Riechedly Bazoer, Viviani, Seko Fofana, Mateo Kovacic
Attacking midfielders/secondary attackers
Top class, established attacking midfielders or wide forwards/wingers
- Jesé Rodriguez (Real Madrid) – Jesé is one of the most overlooked and underrated attackers in the La Liga, having played across all three positions in attack inconsistently – his output (5 goals and 6 assists) was still remarkable for such a young player. A player who is really good at using the space between full-backs and centre-backs, playing in the pockets behind defence and being involved in the build-up, he’s a player that would be really handy for the right side of attack in the place of Adam Lallana, especially considering he’s probably going on loan to Espanyol. LOAN/€12-15m.
- Julian Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen) – The rising german star is a player that would go only for a big fee and with the lack of Champions League football it’s hard to imagine we would be able to acquire him, but his ability on the ball at any speed, dribbling in tight areas and being able to use his both feet is a real bonus for a player that can provide both goals and assists from wide areas and even centrally. His problem used to be defensive work, discipline and positional play as well as aerial duels, he has improved over the last two years in the three aspects of his game thanks to the style Roger Schmidt brought with him to Bayer Leverkusen from RB Salzburg. Estimated price around €25m.
- Isco (Real Madrid) – If there ever was a midfielder that screamed Jürgen Klopp, his name must have been Isco for sure. Coming to Málaga as the attacking midfielder with excellent work ethic, flair and incredible dribbling ability, he was a match made in heaven for the Galacticos, luckily Ancelotti saw flaws in his games and got on to improve him as a player. Isco got into a deeper role under Ancelotti where his work rate, tackling and positional play grew in a rapid style and he was breaking the opposition attacks before they even began – add to that the number of decisive goals and assists he has put in for his team and you have an incredible all round midfielder. €25m.
- Javier Pastore (PSG) – The genuine talent on this player is unquestionable, incredible gift of high self awareness, technique – close ball control in tight areas and vision make him an excellent player that pays the price for being ‘cheap’ signing in a team bombed with multimillion dollar players that have been long after he has joined (€39m from Palermo). Being able to play in wide positions from either side, at either side of the midfield or as the attacking midfielder behind the forwards he would fit in the team at the expense of Adam Lallana, or he could be taken as a natural successor of Philippe Coutinho if he was to be sold. €25m
- Lucas Moura (PSG) – The 23 year old had a rough start to the campaign with the manager Laurent Blanc preferring others in his positions, but in the last 3 months of the season he got into the team at the expense of inconsistent Edinson Cavani and finished the season with 9 goals and 4 assists having played from the wide areas, either from the left or right side of the PSG’s 4-3-3 system. Player with superior dribbling ability at high speed, good work rate and all-round ability to make things happen. €30m.
- Karim Bellarabi (Bayer Leverkusen) – Karim has just turned 24 in April and is entering the prime of his career. Big plus in his case is that he has spent two years playing under Roger Schmidt, whose system is heavily based around fast, aggressive pressing, fitness and fast counter-attacking, which is something we can expect from Klopp at LFC. He has been playing the right sided attacking midfielder in Schmidt’s 4-2-2-2 system and can be viewed as an ideal replacement in the place of Adam Lallana, his speed, dribbling ability and amazing vision for a pass would add a whole new dimension to our attack. €20m.
- Filip Kostic (VfB Stuttgart) – Having turned 23 in November (2015) he has the best years ahead of himself. His quick feet, dribbling and tendency to be a risk taker make him a player Klopp may find interesting. Kostić has been mainly operating as a winger on the left side of the VfB Stuttgart team netting 5 goals and getting 5 assists in a team that got relegated even as the 6th highest scoring team of the campaign. His pass success could suggest that he is a bit wasteful in possession which can be true from a certain perspective, but then again he loves to take risks and tries to find audacious passes from tight areas – his crossing has been described as one of the best in Bundesliga, which may also be an appeal to a team like ours that has predominantly playmaking players playing out wide who rather keep the ball than just swing a cross in. Even after Stuttgart got relegated, they will want a big sum for him bind in around o €18m could be enough.
*Julian Draxler, Domenico Berardi, João Mário
Low profile signing
- Rachid Ghezzal (OL) – Algerian winger called too lightweight to compete in the Premier League, where did I hear that before? Rachid shares many similarities with Riyad Mahrez. Maybe he possesses a bit more flair and general vision for passes, but otherwise they are extremely alike. Good on the ball, left footed, playing from the right side, efficient, like to cunt inside, able to score goals and find teammates in goal scoring chances? €20-25m.
- Gaston Pereiro (PSV) – Gaston has been reportedly closely monitored by LFC in the past two years but in the end PSV was the club that signed him and got an amazing talent on their hands. Tall, at 188cms he is definitely one of the tallest wide players in the modern football but don’t get confused by that, his dribbling, skills and pace are absolute top notch making him a nightmare to play against as he’s also strong and good in the air. Predominantly playing from the right side where he is able to cunt inside on his preferred left foot and makes things happen. Has an eye for a goal and a good vision in tight areas for a pass. €14-18m.
- Anwar El Ghazi (Ajax) – El Ghazi is another player who is often dubbed as ‘the next’ someone, the someone is Cristiano Ronaldo and it isn’t hard to see why people use that comparison. He is tall, great at dribbling, powerful, can play either flank but is most effective from the right wing – as he likes to stay wide, spread the play and find a pass/cross into the box. His long-range shooting ability also provides the team with options and his pace offers a good fit for counter-attacks. €8-18m (release-clause).
- Hakim Ziyech (Twente) – If we intended to sign an attacking midfielder, a pure no.10 he should be the first choice all day long. Having played for the collapsed Enschede club FC Twente, he will be available for a reasonable price and on reasonable wages (he’s in €17,000/week). He has had issues with temper in the past when he was easy to get angry, was getting out of the game when fouled often because of being hot headed but all these things seemed to be long left behind after the last summer, where he opted to stay, was given the armband and was the main player and a star. He is a gifted with a great mind, he seems to be able to predict and find space before it appears allowing him to get into favourable positions from where he can either score a goal or create one for his teammates. His ability to take an aggressive corner would also be very welcomed. €10-20m.
- Sofiane Boufal (Lille) – Player that is just 22 and slowly putting his name between the biggest stars of world football, it’s just a matter of time before he gets a move to a bigger club than Lille. He is one of the finest dribblers in the world of football, he is strong, deep-low body core which helps him in tight situations. The ball never bounces off his feet, he never loses it, he has this close, short type of dribbling that’s extremely hard to defend as he can use his burst of speed and change the direction of going any moment. He has scored 11 goals and provided 4 assists in the last season and may provide a great alternative from the left wide position, where we were maybe targeting Mario Götze to play. €17-20m.
- Gabriel Barbosa (Santos) – Also more known as Gabigol, another so called ‘next Neymar’ coming from the famous Santos. The left footed attacker has a really low core, incredible dribbling ability, upper body strength and instincts of a much more experienced player (going to turn 20 in August). The attacker was playing at the left side of the attack but has recently (and for the Selecao) player in every position across the attack – as a number 9, from right side and even as a second striker. He is one of the most naturally gifted players in the world, he already has a huge experience with first-team action and had his full debut for the national team at the age of just 19 and his goal scoring record is incredible for such a young player. His only weaknesses are defensive aspects of his game and heading – which is mainly caused by his height. €27m.
- Otávio (FC Porto/loan Vitoria Guimarães) – As much as I don’t like comparing players, but if there was ever a player as similar to Coutinho as Otávio I haven’t seen him. Only just turning 21 in February he has spent the last season at Vitoria Guimarães from FC Porto and he has made a name for himself really quickly – scoring 6 goals and having 9 assists. He just like Coutinho isn’t the tallest, but his intelligence, use of his body, dribbling make him a dangerous player who uses his weakness (size) into his advantage and wins a lot of fouls this way. He can play from the left, through the middle and even from the right if needed. He can also take very dangerous set-pieces with aggressive, precise delivery. €30m.
- Gabriel Jesus (Palmeiras) – If there is a country in the world football that possesses the two most talented U20 players it’s definitely Brazil. Gabriel Jesus is incredible show-off on the pitch, running at defenders at speed and beating them with ease worth of the best players. The ‘winger’ is used to play from the left, but has been used from the right and through the middle as a centre forward. His incredible skillset, ball control and ability to score goal from any sort of position make him probably the best player coming out of Brazil. €35m.
- Vincenzo Grifo (SC Freiburg) – Vincenzo is a very interesting shout in my opinion, he has been playing in II. Bundesliga, but don’t forget that’s a league where Dortmund found J. Weigl, it shouldn’t be underestimated just because of it not being the first league. His incredible 14 goals and 15 assists at a rate of goal/assist every 88 minutes are absolutely ridiculous. He has played as the left sided inverted forward, or a winger who likes to play inside if you like, he is a right footed player, who is fast, strong and really confident and good at finishing. His dead ball delivery is also amazing as well as his long-shooting ability – especially his free-kicks would be a great addition to our team. He shares the same agency with Sadio Mané. €10-12m.
- Lucas Janson (Cl. Atl. Tigre) – Really small forward from the Argentinian club who is able to play in any position across the front three. He is a real show off with his skills, dribbling and pace which he often uses to drag on opponents and create space for himself or others. Obviously it would be a risky move for a player not proved on an international level and in a far inferior league to any of the European ones, but his attributes, work ethic may be a great fit for Jürgen’s reds.
*Thomas Lemar, Kylian Mbappé, Maxwell Cornet, Marcus Coco, Peter Olayinka, Iuri Medeiros, Amin Younes, Ben Yedder, Adem Ounas
*I currently wouldn’t look to sign a striker having all of Daniel Sturridge, Danny Ings, Divock Origi, Roberto Firmino and concentrate on the other positions
Now we are getting into the last stage before going into negotiations.
- Deciding who to get
If all the sales went according to the plan, we would have close to £180m to spend on the players we need. We can also talk about the possibility of bids coming in for Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson and if they were good enough, we would maybe get into an area of around £220m to spend on something around the number of 5-7 players.
- Our main need, even if we keep Jordan Henderson (due to his recent injuries) is a central midfielder and a left-back to either challenge or replace Alberto Moreno (which could push us to loan Brad Smith and use Joe Gomez if needed as a cover there). I would also look to sign an attacker that can play off the right side in either of the systems we’ve seen under Klopp – either his typical 4-2-3-1 or the 3 men set-up up top with two midfielders either side of a forward. Considering the amount of funds I’d have in place I’d be looking at the possibility of pushing through a deal for a world class, young centre-back – without waiting for the outcome of Mamadou Sakho’s ban.
Definitely the first official approach that would go away from the club would be towards FC Köln for the mature, experienced, full international left-back called Jonas Hector and I would pay whatever they asked. – €25m
Meanwhile, the negotiations would be on going and I would try to explore the situation with Ricardo Rodriguez as the chairman of Wolfsburg admitted that Ricardo has asked to leave the club, but I can imagine Pep Guardiola and Manchester City will be in for him so we couldn’t compete, so I would look out on the situation with Benjamin Mendy, just to have a back-up plan and I would be confident enough of capturing his signing with the poor financial situation at Marseille.
The second most important deal would be to get a partner for Emre Can, also it depends on the system Klopp will be implementing next season and how often will he change it. If we will play a double pivot midfield or a 1-2 midfield with Emre either as the engine or even as the least advanced player. Obviously the main targets are Piotr Zielinski and Mahmoud Dahoud who may be available at the right price, considering the fact ‘Gladbach would definitely sell for a bid above €35m – but let’s just leave that out, we’re not signing Mahmoud this summer. Zielinski on the other hand is a possibility and all 3rd party ownership issues with the loan system etc will be resolved by our great lawyers and we will sign him for – €17m.
Next in line is an attacker, which can in all fairness mean a lot of things, so what kind of player are we looking for? An inverted forward? Pure winger? Playmaker from wide? We have to consider that two of our best players (Coutinho, Firmino) should probably take two of the possible 3 positions in the attacking line behind the striker (unless we drop Coutinho deeper in the field, where he could dominate). So we are probably looking at a player that will either challenge Adam Lallana, or completely overtake his spot in the starting XI. If Jürgen made the decision to sign a pure wide player, who isn’t a reversed attacking midfielder with the tendency to cut and come inside (e.g. Lucas Moura), we would probably most likely explore the chance of us signing Gabriel Jesus as he’s the best player on the potential list of targets and his talent and ceiling are so high, he can match any Brazilian playing in Europe inside two years. Considering the high price, work-permit wouldn’t be an issue – €35m
If the signing of Gabriel didn’t work out, I would target Anwar El Ghazi as the first alternative, versatile player, who is mainly a really strong right winger or inverted forward, who is strong, fast, good on the ball and scores and assists regularly and has a room for improvement, ideal. – €15m
The other option for an attacker would be Adam Lallana/Coutinho type of player, attacking midfielder, who is more of a central player playing more inside the pitch from wide areas. If Jürgen Klopp decided that was the type of player he would want us to look for and sign, the top targets would definitely be Isco and Javier Pastore as they both have experience with playing out wide and especially in central positions and in very similar systems. Other main/top option would be Lucas Moura, who even though had issues with Laurent Blanc (also for playing him out wide) has been excellent in this position although he could do with being involved in more goals. The massive issue with all of these players is that they are in amazing cities, at amazing clubs and playing for the highest honours every year, it would probably be really hard to get them. So basically we could try and get to know their situation – if they want out or not, if we assume they don’t and move onto the next targets – the first two that have to be considered are Sofiane Boufal and Rachid Ghezzal (it’s fair to say Ghezzal maybe fits the first [winger] category more than this one), as both are incredible with the ball at their feet, fast, amazing dribblers, able to cut through lines, beat defenders 1v1 and like to cut inside and most importantly, are efficient and prolific and consistent. – €20m
If we assume the signings we’ve done are a LB [-€25m], CM [-€17m] and an attacker [-€20m] that puts us on €62,000,000 from our circa €150,000,000 budget and leaves us with around €88,000,000 to spend.
Considering the fact that I would like to have at least one, but in the perfect world two players in every position (counting CB who’s able to play as FB etc.) so I would definitely explore the chance of signing a centre-back like Shkodran Mustafi who is reportedly available for €15m and who is a great, reliable defender who could make the position his own for years to come.
There is also number of unanswered questions related how quickly Marko Grujic and potentially Piotr Zielinski adapt to Premier League, as there is always a chance they may flop badly; it wouldn’t be okay having two young midfielders, Emre Can and Jordan Henderson going into the season, you would be one injury away from a catastrophe. There would also come into question whether we can attract a player such as William Carvalho or Ruben Neves even if we paid their €40m release-clauses, it’s in this scenario where a smart, calculated buy like Gonzalo Escalante, or Pessy Pi comes into place. Players able to come into more positions, who have the all round game and would cost something around €12m.
I usually used the cheapest option possible, or the most likely to happen (like in the case of attackers and not expecting us signing any of the ‘big 3’) so there is still around €61,000,000 in theory left, but that’s the sort of money that would go to the top class player we would be able to attract.