The Reds need to find a new attacking midfielder this summer (Picture: Getty, Metro.co.uk)On Friday night, Liverpool appeared to be on the verge of raiding Ligue 1 for a second time in a matter of days by completing a £52million deal for Lyon skipper Nabil Fekir. But, just a few hours later – amid reports of a complication in his medical and some last-minute brinkmanship and renegotiations – the deal collapsed.
Lyon’s notoriously difficult president Jean Michel Aulas appears unwilling to reopen talks, at least not until the World Cup is over, but Liverpool’s need to sign a belated Philippe Coutinho replacement may not wait that long. Fekir had the perfect toolset to play either in attack or a slightly deeper midfield role, and players of that ilk are few and far between. But there are still several notable options Liverpool could consider…
Havertz is one of the most impressive products of Leverkusen’s academy (Picture: Getty)Were Germany not so blessed with attacking midfielders, Kai Havertz might have had a shot at making Die Mannschaft’s squad for the World Cup. The 18-year-old had a breakthrough season at Bayer Leverkusen, scoring three times and, more impressively, laying on eight assists – the joint-most of any teenager in Europe’s top five leagues alongside a certain Kylian Mbappe.
Havertz is a tall, rangy and athletic player with good control and an eye for a pass – the old cliché of having good feet for a big man rings true. He has been likened to compatriot Mesut Ozil, and Jurgen Klopp knows all about the youngster. In fact, it was reported last year that he had been invited to Melwood for a tour of the training ground. Havertz would be much more of a project signing than Fekir, but his potential is enormous.
Zyech was Ajax – and the Erdevisie’s – stand-out player last season (Picture: Getty)Eredivisie players often come with a warning – for every Luis Suarez there is an Afonso Alves – but Ajax playmaker Hakim Ziyech has arguably been the best player in the division for the past two years and is overdue a shot at proving himself in a bigger, more competitive league. Since moving to Amsterdam in 2016, the Moroccan has been directly involved in 42 goals in 62 league outings.
Like Fekir, he straddles the line between being a No.8 and a No.10, both supporting the attack and pulling strings in midfield, while his sweet left foot provides the long-range explosiveness that Liverpool have lacked since Coutinho left. Plenty of clubs are already interested though, including Roma, and a good World Cup – he is Morocco’s talisman and best player – could increase his price tag.
Fernandes is competing for a starting spot in Russia after scoring against Algeria (Picture: Getty)Were Liverpool to sign Bruno Fernandes, the Reds would become the sixth team of the 23-year-old’s already journeyman-like career. After leaving Boavista for Italy and Udinese as a teenager, he returned to his homeland last summer an infinitely more polished and confident player, scoring 11 times and laying on eight assists for Sporting as they finished third in Liga NOS – earning a World Cup place in the process.
Fernandes feels like an excellent fit for one of the two advanced central midfield roles that Klopp has used to such success, able to both create and break up play. The player himself likens his style to Rui Costa, while his old Boavista coach, Martelinho, describes him as an aggressive box-to-box midfielder. Like Coutinho, he can both create for others and score himself, routinely firing into the top corner from impossibly far out.
Lemar has previously attracted transfer interest from Liverpool and Arsenal (Picture: Getty)Monaco winger Thomas Lemar may stray slightly from the mould of attacking midfielder Liverpool have been looking at, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The Frenchman – who laid on eight assists last season and scored twice – would provide excellent cover and competition in the wide forward positions, while Leonardo Jardim has been increasingly willing to use him in the hole too.
Lemar has terrifying pace and wicked end product, while his central forays have shown an ability to beat his man – and the press – and set-up speedy counter attacks. That feels like a perfect fit for the speedy transitions Klopp coaches, especially with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain likely sidelined until the end of the year. Liverpool have been interested before, and tried to sign him last summer, and he would mesh with the intensity, speed and efficiency of the Merseysiders. But perhaps they need something different this time?
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