The Liverpool Twitter machine has been in full overdrive these past few days, with two exceptional World Cup talents engulfing the Liverpool-related timelines. The on-going tournament in Qatar is approaching its final stages and despite the continued involvement of one participant, potentially one spectacular deal could to about be confirmed by the Anfield club.
All England fans were left wounded by their loss to France on Sunday evening, but with that run came the international emergence of one Jude Bellingham. Many sports journalists would have you believe that he is headed for Merseyside in the not-too-distant future, with the Reds supposedly winning the race to sign the former Birmingham midfielder. His stock is now at an all-time high, with Borussia Dortmund primed to take the money that would exceed £100m. Reports will remain incoming, but until we see confirmation, it is still mere speculation.
This kind of deal would shatter Liverpool’s past outlay on any single player, but would aid the Reds in their attempts at a midfield regeneration. I would love to see this remarkable 19-year-old talent take the famous number 8 shirt, especially with the expected departure of Naby Keita this summer. My only hesitation is that there is one other young talent that I would rather see us sign ahead of England’s attacking midfielder, and that is Argentina’s phenomenal number 24, Enzo Fernández.
Over the weekend we started to see numerous reports stating a deal for the Benfica man was close. This is a transfer that would also cost in the region of £100m, but for me it would represent a far suitable addition to the immediate needs of this Liverpool team. Whereas England’s teen superstar would be a revelation at Anfield, I feel he is the kind of player we need within an already well-structured and control hungry group. We are currently a side lacking that level of intense control, and Enzo would represent everything we need in order to flourish as an elite team once more. His positional play for both club and country has been exceptional, and it proving to be that player who can facilitate improved performances all around him.
If you delve into the particulars of each player, there is some differences in both physicality and styles of play. If we are looking for a certain type, then it could conceivably be that both will become targets given their differing profiles. Jude is an attacking force, and the below numbers will probably point to that.
Club – Borussia Dortmund
Age – 19 years old (DOB 29/6/2003)
Height – 6ft 1 inch
Weight – 75kg
Senior appearances – 157 games
Senior goals – 23 goals
Senior assists – 23 assists
Senior minutes played – 11,478
England caps & goals – 22 games / 1 goal
To liken the Bundesliga star to any current or past red, it immediately has you thinking of Steven Gerrard. Jude’s ability to burst forward and create havoc in the final third would enable him to blossom as that right sided 8 in a three-man midfield, a role which would have been perfect for the world class skill set of Stevie G. If the Reds were to switch to a 4-2-3-1, Bellingham could also be cast as a destructive 10 working close to Darwin Nunez. This kind of tandem could be crafted into an unplayable attacking force, and would probably add more to our forward line than our midfield. With a firm double pivot and pace on the flanks, he may just become everything we salivate over when speaking of Kevin De Bruyne.
In terms of his acquisition from Germany, I would absolutely love to see him at this club. The issue is however (and it’s caused by FSG), my mind still stalls when considering other options, and his purchase should not be at the detriment of another. Jude is the type of player you add to a team that dominates games, whereas the man I will be addressing below is the monster that would give you that complete domination for years to come.
Club – Benfica
Age – 21 years old (DOB 17/1/2001)
Height – 5ft 10 inch
Weight – 75kg
Senior appearances – 111 games
Senior goals – 11 goals
Senior assist – 11 assist
Senior minutes played – 8,495
Argentina caps & goals – 9 games / 1 goal
Argentina entered the World Cup with ambitions to gift Lionel Messi the coveted Jules Rimet trophy, in order to celebrate the footballing career of its most gifted servant. This footballing nation ended up losing their first group game to relative minnows (Saudi Arabia, in a match up where Enzo was only drafted in on 60 minutes with his side already losing 2-1. The following game saw him introduced against Mexico on 57 minutes, with the game on a 0-0 knife edge. The dream for Argentina was close to ending, but the introduction of the Benfica man allowed a level of control to ensue, and he even scored the second goal in a 2-0 victory. A further 2-0 win over Poland saw them into the last 16, and Fernández was that eventual starting piece that allowed the structure of his national team to blossom. The next two rounds saw them defeat a vibrant Australia, before a very good Netherlands team was overcome. The final now beckons for this inspirational player, with Croatia dispatched in Tuesday evening’s semi-final. This run to the final has seen the Benfica 13 become integral to the South Americans progression, and will be vital to a potential tournament win on Sunday.
In the Primeira Liga, his rise for the Portuguese giants has been utterly emphatic. Benfica recruited their main from River Plate for an initial €10 this past summer. With 24 games played and 3 goals scored in his debut season, it is more his midfield command and dominating style of play which makes him different from Jude. Liverpool’s season thus far has seen them unable to maintain possession of the ball, unable to protect their backline and continually leave them searching for the required level of intensity. We all love and adore Thiago Alcantara, with his bespoke ability to run the engine room of the Reds’ central area. The alarming fact remains however, that we have become over reliant on this man’s skill set, with an injury record that means he is not always available. Jude is in no way a viable Thiago alternative, let alone a Fabinho replacement, therefore a more suitable option to these red men is a more pressing requirement. What Bellingham is, is the attacking piece that you add to these two elite players when they are available and at the top of their respective games. Quite simply neither Thiago or Fab can be assured of being available all season, and that is where Enzo Fernández comes into the equation.
The £100m rated Argentina international is the perfect hybrid of Xabi Alonso & Javier Mascherano, in my opinion. His on-ball awareness and passing range is elite, his energy and drive is superb and his ability to play both the 6 or the 8 to the required level are clear. Enzo can facilitate any midfield requirements that Jurgen Klopp desires, and would allow the inevitable Thiago absences to be absorbed. With this signing we could be both adaptive and regimented, thereby allowing new patterns of play to evolve. Whereas Jude possesses some truly tantalising attacking strengths, he cannot be the alternative, only the addition to a team which already has Enzo at its heart.
My reluctance over signing a homegrown player on the cusp of world class status, is purely down to how we commonly operate. Until the ownership and structure of the club is resolved, I just do not see how we get both players through the door. Enzo Fernández is everything we need right now, and everything we need going forward. If I am wrong and we can lure both these players, then I will of course be overjoyed at seeing both in the same Liverpool side. The dream scenario therefore sees both fantastic players recruited, alongside Moises Caceido, to create a young midfield to rival that of Real Madrid.
But ahead of anything else, Enzo Fernández must be our priority signing in the summer, even if that means we don’t sign Jude Bellingham just yet.