Last week I wrote an article laying out the possible signings that Liverpool could consider as an alternative to Nabil Fekir. All of them had drawbacks, but my ultimate conclusion was that Thomas Lemar still made the most sense after a year of trying to sign him from Monaco. In the days since, Lemar has signed for Atletico. My second choice would have been Malcom, but he is in negotiations with Inter that are, in all likelihood, too far advanced for Liverpool to intervene. Names like Isco, Dembele, Calhanoglu; we don’t know if they’re even available, which leaves Fornals, Brandt, Ziyech and Thauvin from my list. All very good players, but additions who would come with question marks.
“I think they found a reason not to do the deal and they’ll move on to other targets. I think it looks as if it’s over to be honest. From what I’ve heard I think it’s over.” – Steve McManaman via The Express
Despite apprehension about the alternatives, it appears the collapse of the Fekir deal will force Liverpool to take a bigger risk than they would prefer to at the attacking midfield position. And why not since the Reds have Milner for another year, Woodburn in the reserves and Oxlade-Chamberlain returning at least for the 2019/20 season?
So, if Liverpool are going to be bold, why not really dare to dream?
A GIFT FROM THE WEST
Enter 20-year-old Brazilian, Lucas Paquetá. Andersinho Marques, a commentator for Brazil’s Premium Sport, mentioned the links with Liverpool on Friday. How close is an actual deal? Nobody knows, but the good news is that our last Brazilian signing only took a couple of hours from rumour to photo-shoot.
The Flamengo midfielder is an absolute wonder on the pitch. Even the most sceptical reader would be wowed by his YouTube clips. Seriously, take a look for yourself. But, there’s something different about watching Paquetá’s highlights. Not only does he try to one-up Neymar with his tricks and flicks, he channels Bobby Firmino with his dogged pressing.
A left-footer who would take up the attacking midfield position opposite Naby Keita, he’s part of Brazil’s under-20 set-up and put up six goals and five assists in 41 appearances last season for Flamengo. He’s more the facilitator than the finisher that Fekir is for Lyon, similar to Isco’s role for Real or Coutinho’s deep playmaker days while he was still wearing Red.
Liverpool are still smarting from losing out in the chase for 17-year-old Rodrygo to Real Madrid last week. The label for the “next big thing” out of Brazil is currently shared by the two of them as Real’s previous teenage signing, Vinícius has stumbled a bit of late.
Lucas Paquetá has a £40 million release clause. That puts him in the range of what it would cost for players like PSG’s Gonçalo Guedes, or what Inter will ultimately have to cough up for Malcom. Paquetá is being linked to City and Real alongside Liverpool, so it’s going to take an aggressive move as well as some flirtatious phone calls from Jurgen Klopp to get the deal over the line.
WORTH THE RISK?
System fit is becoming increasingly vital as Jurgen Klopp completes another summer of customising the squad. Many of the remaining attacking mids on the market who are exciting going forward have yet to show they can function in a team that asks more of them. How long would it take Paquetá to adjust to the Premier League and the Champions League? Probably a while, but at least you know he’ll press without being asked and that provides a sort of floor where he’ll always have value. His ceiling, meanwhile, is stratospheric.
Having a lightning quick player in the Isco mould, who is also comfortable operating from wide positions without sacrificing our all-important pressing potency… well that would be absolutely ideal. A Brazilian spine of Fabinho, Paquetá and Firmino surrounded by proven talents like Salah, Mané and Keita would be something to behold.
HOW WILL WE MESS THIS UP?
Ah, the fine print… First of all, Real Madrid and Manchester City are after him, so we could certainly lose out in the traditional way for Lucas 2.0. Valencia is rumoured to have a “right of first refusal” clause on Paquetá which is said to expire at the end of June. Would Valencia exercise the option at £40 million? They are in the Champions League for 2018/19 and City’s CFG ownership group have been meeting with Valencia ahead of a possible deal to bring them into their portfolio of clubs.
In short, we’re a long way from seeing Paquetá at Melwood, but just look at this kid’s moves! With our other options disappearing one by one, it’s nice to have one spectacular possibility added back into the mix.