Liverpool have completed the signing of Alexis Mac Allister from Brighton for an undisclosed fee believed to be in the region of £35 million.
The player was unveiled Thursday morning after weeks of speculation, dozens of meaningless updates that all said the same thing without saying anything of note from everyone’s favourite “transfer expert” and denials of any sort of deal being in the works from Brighton’s local journalists.
His signing marks the first of what should be a raft of signings made by Liverpool this summer as Jurgen Klopp looks to rebuild his ageing squad, beginning with a midfield that is desperately in need of replacing. The Argentine has been secured early in the window as Klopp looks to have his squad in place before pre-season begins. Liverpool can not afford another season like this past year, where they failed to achieve even the bare minimum requirement of a top four finish.
Mac Allister marks a return to the intelligent recruitment that Klopp’s Champions League and Premier League winning side was built on. While many fans longed for Jude Bellingham and Mason Mount, the truth is that signing the pair of them would have been a bad idea given the need for a major overhaul of the squad. Bellingham is an outstanding prospect, and Mount is undeniably a quality player, but between them they would have cost the club in the region of £170 million including add-ons with basic wage demands north of £600,000 per week. That’s before you factor in agent fees, signing bonuses and contract bonuses for goals, wins and trophies. Signing Bellingham and Mount would have swallowed the entire budget, and left the team with gaping holes and no money to fill them.
Mac Allister on the other hand is likely to be on a reasonable wage, and came at a price that allows Liverpool to pursue two, or three, more midfielders as well as the left footed central defender needed to replace Andy Robertson in the new system, and maybe another squad addition or two. Liverpool have been linked with Khephren Thuram of Nice, Manu Kone of Borussia Monchengladbach and Gabri Veiga in the past week, as well as Micky Van De Ven the central defender from Wolfsburg. The Reds could probably secure all four, and Alexis, for less than the cost of Bellingham and Mount and on significantly lower wages than the English pair would have cost. With Liverpool not having Champions League football this season, it’s important that the wage bill is kept under control.
There’s been a lot of talk about where Mac Allister will fit at Liverpool, and the answer really is anywhere Jurgen Klopp wants him to fit. Mac Allister is a versatile player who’s extremely malleable and will allow Klopp increased tactical flexibility. In the 4-3-3 that Klopp has used for the majority of his tenure at the club, Mac Allister could play in either number 8 position. He’s just as comfortably sitting deep in midfield controlling the game, ala the left sided 8, as he is playing in the final third and linking the attack together, which is what the right sided 8 is intended to do.
In the new hybrid system which leaves Liverpool playing a back three with a box midfield and a front three, Mac Allister could again play either 8/10 role or against what Simon Brundish calls the dross he could in theory play in the double pivot next to Trent Alexander-Arnold. This would leave Liverpool a little suspect defensively but no more so than if Jordan Henderson played the role, and they’d be much better in possession with Alexis there.
There’s other options as well. In a 4-2-3-1 he could play in the double pivot or as the 10, he performed both roles for Brighton and excelled in both. In a diamond he could play as an 8 or a 10. If Klopp wanted to play a flat four in midfield he could play in the double pivot or from the left as he did for Argentina in the World Cup.
That type of adaptability could prove vital as Liverpool look to reform their identity next season.
It’s not just his versatility that makes him malleable, it’s his ability to alter his own game to suit those around him.
Obviously he has a very high technical level, but he’s also an incredible intelligent player. Mac Allister can be the primary playmaker for a team, or he can be a facilitator to maximise the impact of another playmaker. He’s outstanding at one and two touch football, has a fantastic sense of space and always manages to find himself a yard to work in, and he’s not scared of putting in the work off the ball, both in and out of possession. The one knock on him is his finishing, but that’s a coachable skill. His ability to time his runs into the box and find space, that’s an innate trait which few players have.
Mac Allister’s intelligence also allows him to do other players thinking for them. To be their decision. He has an ability to see what’s going to happen before it happens, and makes sure he puts his teammates in the best possible situations for them to excel. He puts the ball not necessarily where a teammate wants it, but more where they need it. He manipulates defenses with subtle movement, interplay and clever decision making and that should benefit Liverpool’s attacking players hugely. Back in the days of Liverpool having a midfield that offered little on the ball in terms of creativity, the likes of Salah, Firmino and Mane were often left having to break down defenses by themselves if Trent and Andy Robertson had an off day. Mac Allister will change that.
While his creative numbers might not jump off the page, Mac Allister is the master of the pass before the pass. The pre-assist. And when he makes his pass, he makes the final pass simple for whoever receives his pass.
His intelligence, movement, technical ability and mastery of space are all very similar to another midfielder who had great success under Jurgen Klopp, Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan. Gundogan has become one of the best players in the Premier League and still credits much of his development to the time he spend at Borussia Dortmund under Klopp. If Klopp can work his magic on Mac Allister the Argentine could become a vital cog for Liverpool for the next six or seven years.
When you look at the reported price and rumoured wages, Mac Allister’s signing was a no brainer for Liverpool. When you consider his attributes on the pitch, it looks like an incredible bargain. Then factor in his personality and leadership qualities, he was a mentor for the young South American players who came to Brighton after him, and you can see how he will fit within Liverpool’s carefully sculpted group of players. Then there’s his age, he’s younger than Trent Alexander-Arnold and you see the long term potential for the player, and then there’s the added bonus of his injury history. He doesn’t have one. He’s missed one game in his entire career through injury. What a breath of fresh air that is for Liverpool, a club plagued by injuries to midfielders in recent years.
The final things to consider are his experience, 213 senior clubs games already under his belt, his track record of winning – promotion with Argentinos Juniors, the Argentine title with Boca Juniors and the World Cup with Argentina, and his mentality. His mentality is unshakeable. He thrives under pressure, as he proved at Boca Juniors and in the World Cup for Argentina where he played a starring role in support of Lionel Messi.
There’s simply no way to look at this deal and not be excited. Alexis Mac Allister ticks every box for Liverpool.