The Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool rumours continue to circulate.
According to reports from every country that isn’t England, the 29-year-old Spaniard will join the Reds after the completion of Bayern’s Champions League campaign in August.
The ludicrously talented former Barcelona linchpin would be a fantastic addition to the English champions’ squad, but the rumours of his impending move still seems out of kilter with Liverpool’s transfer approach.
Invariably, Fenway Sports Group, the club’s owners, have stuck to their recruitment principles and lobbied to sign players who hold resale value and are 25 years old or younger. Thiago, whose injury record may also be an area of concern, doesn’t fall into this category and — unlike fellow late 20’s/early 30’s players who have joined the club in recent years, James Milner and Kolo Toure — isn’t available on a free and would reportedly cost in the region of €30,000,000.
It may prove an opportunity too good to pass up on for FSG, being able to acquire a player of the Spaniards’ talent for what is a relatively cheap price and they may pivot from their transfer market to make the move happen. However, until there is confirmation, one way or another, fans are right to be skeptical and to question the veracity of the speculation.
If indeed Liverpool want a player in Thiago’s mould — a midfield playmaker whose inclination for progressive passing puts the team on the front foot, while also being adept in the art of pressing, all tempered by tactical intelligence — there are players available that, while not as good as the Bayern Munich midfield conductor at the time of writing, have the potential to become excellent in their own right and provide the Reds with the attributes they are reportedly looking for in the engine room.
Sandro Tonali: Heavily linked with Inter, the 20-year-old was Brescia’s brightest star in their eventually ill-fated campaign to remain in Serie A in their first season back in the top flight.
Often erroneously compared to Andrea Pirlo, Tonali is far more athletic than his wine guzzling compatriot and has the athletic and personality credentials that would make him an ideal fit for the rigours of a Premier League midfield.
The three-times capped Italian international started 32 times in Serie A last season, contributing one goal and seven assists to a team that only scored 34 times, contextualising his importance and the dearth of quality around him.
Tonali passing success rate stands at 71%, with the majority being played between five and 25 yards. 63 of the Italian’s passes were key passes — defined as a pass that leads to a teammate having a shot on goal — and passed into the penalty area 25 times.
Off the ball, too, the former Piacenza youth player is busy and presses successfully — a pressing action that leads to his team winning the ball back within five seconds — 24.9% of the time from 542 attempts.
When viewed relative to the league averages, Tonali’s performances — considering he is playing for a relegated team — are extremely impressive. The midfielders is:
- 8th in the league for assists
- 9th in the league for key passes
- 9th in the league for progressive passes
- 8th in the league for crosses
Inter, who view Tonali as a priority signing, will, per reports, have to pay €35,000,000 to sign the starlet but Liverpool — looking ahead to the future — may be tempted to throw their hat into the ring.
Marc Roca: Similarly to Tonali, Roca has suffered the ignominy of relegation this season with his Espanyol side destined for the Segunda after finishing rock bottom of La Liga.
Linked to Bayern Munich in the past, the 23-year-old — despite his club’s demotion — still had a strong individual campaign.
The left-footer — an element Liverpool don’t have in their midfield at present — started 35 times last season and scored two goals and laid on one assist. In that time, Roca made 26 key passes, 23 passes into the penalty area and registered an 80% pass success rate. The Espanyol number 21 is also the fifth in La Liga for passes into the final third, highlighting his ambitious approach.
The Spain youth international is an efficient presser, too, completing 29% of his pressures successfully and, in terms of La Liga, is the sixth most efficient presser in the division.
Rumoured to be a target for A.C. Milan, Roca, who is valued at €15,000,000 per Transfermarkt, could be a shrewd acquisition for Liverpool.
Ibrahim Sangare: Completing the trio is another player whose team were relegated last season. Despite having another strong individual season, Ibrahim Sangare’s Toulouse were relegated to Ligue 2.
Making 25 starts, the all-action Ivorian — who stands at a towering 6’3″ — laid on one assist for the struggling Les Violets. The 22-year old’s statistical footprint, when viewed through the prism of playing in such a poor team, is highly impressive.
Sangare finished the campaign with a 79% pass success rate, with 24 key passes and 15 passes into the penalty area. The former AS Denguélé player is fifth in the French top division for passes into the final third. In the fashion of a Tanguy Ndombele or a Naby Keita, the Ivory Coast international is a slaloming dribbler whose successful dribble rate stands at a massive 71%.
Off the ball, Sangare stands out just as much, leading Ligue 1 for tackles won and completing 32.5% of his presses. With two excellent campaigns on the trot, the five-times capped Ivory Coast international will surely be on the radar of many top European clubs.
Arsenal have been credited with an interest in Sangare, but Liverpool — following on from the signings for Andrew Robertson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Xherdan Shaqiri — should look to sign another player from a relegated team and prize the €10,000,000 rated midfielder from Toulouse.
All statistics used in this article were sourced from www.fbref.com