Liverpool are in the market for a versatile forward who won’t break the bank. A budget of around the £20million mark has been mentioned but that could well be purely to keep expectation low as well as to help negotiations if clubs know they can’t rinse the European champions.
It does narrow the market but it doesn’t make it an impossible brief. There are plenty of young attackers out there who can play a variety of roles, with the potential to improve but wouldn’t surpass the £35million mark.
One such player is Dani Olmo.
According to reports in Spain, the 21-year-old is leaving Dinamo Zagreb this summer and the deal will soon be announced. He’s not joining a team in LaLiga and the three interested clubs mentioned are Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Bayern Munich.
At the end of the 2018/19 season, Olmo perhaps wouldn’t have been that well known to those outside of Croatia. As a 14-year-old he left Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy in search of an easier route to first-team football.
He landed in the capital of Croatia and went about proving to those who doubted him ambition by turning not only into Dinamo’s best player but the league’s best player, too.
Olmo continued his fine form into the summer by playing a part in Spain reclaiming the under-21 European Championship. He showcased his versatility in the final against Germany when he started on the right of attack before moving centrally after a few changes. He scored what turned out to be the winner after showing great anticipation and a calm head with the pressure on.
Olmo reacts quickest after Ruiz's shot was spilled and Spain are right in the driving seat in the @UEFAUnder21 final!
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) June 30, 2019
To date, Liverpool’s interest has been mentioned in passing with nothing concrete linking the Reds with a move for the one-time La Masia starlet. But he’s no doubt on one of Michael Edwards’ list. Why? Well, he ticks a number of the boxes usually drawn up when the recruitment team at Anfield are looking to make an attacking addition.
Not only can he play anywhere in the attack, but he also played as a number eight for Dinamo Zagreb and this was his perhaps his best role for them. He was heavily involved in general play and he’d often arrive late onto attacking moves in a not too dissimilar manner to Adam Lallana during his three-month purple patch during the 2016/17 season.
He looked at home in Spain’s possession-orientated style, averaging 55 passes during the under-21 championship but looked just as home in Dinamo’s more direct approach, playing 33 passes for them in the league on a per 90 basis.
He’s a genuine goal threat and a reliable one at that. His expected goals per 90 average for the season was 0.30 and he finished the campaign with 0.43 goals. It’s an overperformance, an unsustainable one, but even if he reverted to the mean he’d still be averaging a similar number of goals to a number of high-scoring wide forwards throughout Europe. A remarkable return for a de facto central midfielder.
He’s an unpredictable danger purely because of his ability to strike the ball cleanly with either foot from angles other players wouldn’t even contemplate.
Olmo created high-quality opportunities, too, with an expected assist average of 0.21 taken his expected goal involvement per 90 to over 0.5.
The 21-year-old has taken all he learnt as a wide forward and is using that from a midfield role these days, completing an astonishing 70% of the 8.15 dribbles he attempts. He’s a creative force of nature and someone who can carve out space when the game looks compact.
Not only that, however, he’s also switched on defensively. Last season, he involved 2.93 aerial duels per 90 and won 50 per cent of them, putting all of his 5ft9ins frame to good use. The midfielder also averaged 4.6 interceptions and regained the ball 6.44 times in the opposition’s half.
On paper, you probably couldn’t find a better fit for Jurgen Klopp’s squad. Olmo can fill in as a midfielder, he’s comfortable on either flank and there’s no reason he couldn’t play that roaming, defensive number nine position Roberto Firmino does. The Reds are always in the market for multi-functional players. For a rumoured €35million, they could well land themselves a player who can fill four roles for them.