Liverpool have been linked to innumerable players throughout the course of the transfer window.
The spotlight of speculation has mostly focused on the defensive compartment after the serious injuries to both Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez. The uncertainty over Georginio Wijnaldum’s future, however, has lead to several midfielders being linked to the Reds.
Among the names most bandied about are Brighton and Hove Albion’s Yves Bissouma and Lille’s Renato Sanches and there is merit to the idea of acquiring either of those players to fill Wijnaldum’s considerable shoes if, as expected, the Dutchman departs to pastures new when his contract expires in July.
One player who the English champions shouldn’t — and likely won’t — sign is Udinese’s, Rodrigo de Paul.
Reports from Corriere Dello Sport in Italy claimed that Jurgen Klopp is interested in the 26-year-old Argentinian playmaker and that an offer of £35M would be required to tempt the Serie A club to part with their prized asset.
A supposed target for his compatriot Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds last summer, de Paul is a fine player, but isn’t of the standard required for a team of Liverpool’s stature; not least as a replacement for Wijnaldum, a player he shares very few attributes in common with.
The Argentina international has scored four goals and assisted once for I Bianconeri in the league this season and has been the northern Italian team’s main creative outlet with, per stats from FBRef.com, 2.82 key passes per game.
However, his work off the ball is an area that de Paul lags far behind Wijnaldum and this will likely mean that the Anfield club turns their attention elsewhere.
So far this season, the Netherlands international has completed 2.06 tackles and interceptions per 90 and has been successful with 37.6% of his pressures, which is defined as the percentage of the time the team wins the ball back within five seconds of the defensive action.
Udinese’s number 10, on the other hand, registers 1.82 tackles and interceptions per 90 and 31.3% of his pressures hit the sweet spot. These figures are less impressive when you consider that the Stadio Friuli side only averages 47% ball possession in the league, so, logically, they have more opportunities to make tackles and to press the ball.
Liverpool, meanwhile, enjoys 60% of the ball in the Premier League and this means that their players have to be efficient in the fewer opportunities for counter-pressing and tackling that present themselves and this is an area — along with providing expert positional coverage for the team’s marauding full-backs — where Wijnaldum excels.
It is perhaps unfair to compare de Paul to the Reds’ number 5, given they are completely different players even if they are both categorized as midfielders. The former Valencia player is a playmaker, but Thiago assumes that role for Liverpool and his heir apparent could well be Curtis Jones. Naby Keita is also very adept at taking the playmaking reigns and that closes off another avenue for de Paul at Liverpool.
The Reds will most likely dip into the transfer market to replace Wijnaldum in the summer, but don’t expect John W Henry to be sending any cheques to northern Italy.