Three Alternatives Liverpool Should Target Over Naby Keïta

Three Alternatives Liverpool Should Target Over Naby Keïta
Aug 9, 2017

Featured Liverpool

In what has been one of the longest running transfer sagas of the summer, Liverpool look set to finally miss out on the signing of Naby Keïta. After a stellar debut campaign, in which he was voted as the second best player in the Bundesliga, it begs the question why the Anfield outfit were the only club firmly interested in the Guinean.

However due to recent developments it is clear to see why, with RB Leipzig remaining unnerved in their attempts to keep hold of one of their many emerging stars.

Three separate bids from Liverpool have all been rejected and it now looks like the Reds will have to move on in their search for a dynamic central-midfielder. So, on that note, here’s who Jürgen Klopp could switch his attention to in the final decisive weeks of the transfer window.

Jean Michaël Seri

OGC Nice enjoyed a prosperous 2016/17 Ligue 1 campaign as they secured only their first ever Champions League appearance. At one stage they were even challenging for the league title and a large part of that was down to Jean Seri. Despite being signed for a meagre €1 million in 2015, the Ivorian emerged as Nice’s main man in midfield. However, their attempts to keep hold of the 26-year-old for at least another season look to be in vain as several top clubs in Europe are ready to pounce and activate his £36million release clause.

At the prime of his career, it is clear to see why. Seri brings with him an abundance of stamina, which is critically needed for Jürgen Klopp’s high pressing style, but he is much more than a workhorse. In fact, he can operate in a number of midfield roles meaning his versatility would be a key addition for the Reds. Whilst his stamina allows him to perform in his more natural box-to-box role, his passing ability allows him to also act as the team’s deep-lying playmaker. He certainly has an eye for a pass, as only Marseille’s Morgan Sanson (14) contributed more assists and only Ángel Di María (21) created more chances than the former Porto man.

Liverpool’s title challenge fell at an early hurdle last season, as they were ultimately undone by their inability to break through deep blocks. But, Seri’s ability to seamlessly break the lines could be the answer to that. Not only would he strengthen Liverpool, but it would also deny the clubs fellow Premier League rivals, Arsenal and Tottenham, from strengthening their armoury ahead of what could be the closest Premier League season yet. For someone that shined so bright in a league that includes the likes of Marco Verratti, £36million could turn out to be one of the bargains of the season if Liverpool decide to snap him up.

Sergej Milinković-Savić

Another player that could well be on Liverpool’s radar is Lazio’s midfield maestro Sergej Milinković-Savić. At 6 ft.3″ it would be easy to mistake Savić for a defensively minded brute, but he offers so much more in the centre of the park. The former Genk player has risen to prominence thanks to a mix of power and technical intelligence and is at his brilliant best when positioned in a free midfield role of his manager Simone Inzaghi’s preferred 4-3-3 formation.

The Serbian midfielder enjoys being at the centre of his teams play, as well documented by the statistic that he was on average involved in more passes per match (41.1) than any of his midfield compatriots. The 22-year-old isn’t wasteful with these passes either and is very bold when on the ball; Savić had more key passes (1.2) on average per game in Serie A than any of the Biancazzurri’s other midfielders. However, at the expense of his adventurous style comes the odd mistake when in possession and his passing completion rate last season was only 73.4%. But at the tender age of 22, this raw edge to his play can still be easily addressed under the expert coaching of Jürgen Klopp.

His biggest weakness is, arguably, his lack of pace when chasing back, although his ability to start in the right position has seen him become a handy asset when his team are on the back foot. His defensive side has improved significantly during his time in Italy, with his tackles on average per game increasing by 0.7 from 1.4 in 2015/16 to 2.1 in 2016/17.

Lazio value one of their key men at a staggering €70m (nearly 10x more than they bought him for back in 2015). However, a fee of nearer to €50m would be hard for a team that finished 5th in Serie A last season to turn down. It is certainly worth the risk for Liverpool, especially when the Brazilian and former director of football at AC Milan, Leonardo, who has overseen the transfers of Kaka, Alexandre Pato and Thiago Silva to the Italian capital had this to say about the young Serb: “If I was a sporting director of any top European club now, the first player I would buy is Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.”

Leon Goretzka

The final alternative who is being linked with Liverpool is FC Schalke 04’s Leon Goretzka. The 22-year-old midfielder is highly linked with a move to reigning Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, with German football expert Raphael Honigstein even claiming that a deal has already been agreed in principle for 2018. However, the German international was quick to quash these rumours: “I have made a clear statement on this issue: When a decision has been made, I will pass it on. Since that is not the case, I can’t report anything new.”

From that statement, it seems that the signature of the former VlF Bochum player is well and truly up for grabs and with just a year to run on his contract it is sure to be a hotly contested one. Liverpool are renowned for penny-pinching in the transfer window and the fact that the recent Confederations Cup winner only has a year left on his contract would certainly mean the price would be reaching upon the realms of a bargain in the current state of the market. In addition, Goretzka is reportedly only earning a mere £30,000 per week. In comparison, many of Liverpool’s midfield starters are earning near to the £100,000 mark and so if the Bochum born player decides on his next destination to be Anfield he could be set to triple his current salary.

When you consider that his German compatriot Emre Can looks set to join his current teammates as one of the club’s top earners, it would make perfect sense to partner Can on similar wages at club level to the established, but not yet polished, Goretzka. The Schalke player is very similar to his international teammate in the sense that he likes to pick the ball up from deep and drive forward, as well as being similar to another Liverpool midfielder, Georginio Wijnaldum, with his late darting runs into the box. Both of these strengths of Goretzka’s are built on his direct play style.

The Anfield side has a whole host of central-midfielders who are capable of moving possession at a quick tempo with intricate passes, but they severely lack players who are willing to run directly into opposition territory. That is exactly what you would get with Goretzka. His average passes per match (35.2) last season was lower than any of the Reds current midfielders, however, his dribbles completed per game (1.2) were higher than the likes of Adam Lallana. This willingness to join his teammates in attack resulted in him scoring 3 goals in just 7 Europa League appearances last season.

This area to his game would certainly be a welcome addition to Liverpool’s ranks, as his tendency to push on from midfield would benefit Klopp’s side immensely in the games they struggled last season – against the lower sides.

With Lallana out injured for three months and speculation over key man Philippe Coutinho not shifting anytime soon, Liverpool fans could do with some form of positive news. The Naby Keïta saga looks set to be over until next summer and so it is pivotal that to brighten fans spirits an alternative is found… and found quickly!


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