Ñíguez and Gravenberch among five midfielders Liverpool should target before the transfer deadline
Liverpool began their redemption arch in style at the weekend when they thumped Daniel Farke’s promoted Norwich 3-0 at Carrow Road in a result that saw the Reds begin the process of putting last season’s disappointing campaign behind them.
With Burnley to come in the Saturday lunchtime kickoff at Anfield, Jürgen Klopp’s troops look to take six points from six in a season that, for the first time since before the 2016-17 Premier League campaign, will not include Dutch international midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum.
The son of Rotterdam and joint-product of both Feyenoord and city-rivals Sparta Rotterdam left the club this summer to join Paris Saint-Germain amidst a summer of heavy recruitment in the city of lights. Though the Reds have begun their season in style, there is scope for the club to move for a replacement now rather than wait the following summer.
In that light, here are five midfielders that Liverpool should look to target before the conclusion of the transfer window.
Note: All market values are via Transfermarkt and adjusted from euros to pounds
Florian Neuhaus; Borussia Mönchengladbach (£30million)
Hardly a new name on the list, German international midfielder Florian Neuhaus had been tracked by Liverpool earlier this summer in June around the time Wijnaldum left for PSG.
The native of Landsberg am Lech and current Gladbach standout, Neuhaus has quietly cemented himself as a long-term solution for Die Mannschaft in the center of the park and has been singled out for high praise in the past.
A key cog in the Die Fohlen midfield under former boss Marco Rose, Neuhaus’s tactical versatility (able to play as an 8 or a 10) offers a platform that has yielded both goals and assists in the past three seasons at Borussia-Park. But it was his 14-goal contributions (6-goals, 8-assists) across 33-appearances in the 2020-21 Bundesliga campaign that truly made many stand up and take notice regarding the 24-year-old’s ability.
But with Neuhaus recently stating positive talks with new boss Adi Hütter and a desire to remain in Gladbach, any deal that could even be considered would have to involve the German being labeled as a key cog in the Klopp wheel if he was to be prized away.
Christoph Baumgartner; TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (£18.75million)
Staying in the Bundesliga and road-tripping to Sinsheim, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim’s Austrian international midfielder Christoph Baumgartliner could offer a very affordable central option for Liverpool this summer in what would be a considerable jump in both level and expectations.
PROSPECT | Christoph Baumgartner – the 21-year-old midfielder who is the key to Hoffenheim’s creativity https://t.co/1trJFBFfCT pic.twitter.com/NUC8hhQmze
— Get German Football News (@GGFN_) February 21, 2021
Baumgartner, still just 22-years-old but coming off impressive performances for Austria at Euro 2020 this summer where he was largely utilized on the left-flank for Franco Foda’s Unsere Burschen outfit that reached the round of 16.
For Die Kraichgauer, however, Baumgartner has shone both in the 10 and 8 roles at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena over the last two seasons in the Bundesliga, hitting six and seven goals respectively. Perhaps even more tactically versatile than Neuhaus while possessing good pace, his technical craft and spatial awareness between the lines and in the final third has been previously praised by club sporting director Alexander Rosen. And in a testament to his versatility, Baumgartner featured on the right side of Sebastian Hoeneß front-four in Hoff’s 4-0 thrashing of FC Augsburg at the weekend.
The Austrian penned a new deal recently with the club, however, which could make him more expensive to acquire if Liverpool did target him as a potential option. However, he ticks every box for a Jürgen Klopp outfit, and his youth would make him an ideal candidate for a long-term solution for the club.
Houssem Aouar; Olympique Lyonnais (£36million)
Perhaps not the most popular name on the list of five, Olympique Lyonnais’ Houssem Aouar has been linked with Liverpool before as the player is clearly trying to maneuver for a switch to the Premier League.
The likes of Arsenal and Tottenham are also rumored to be keen on the young Frenchman, but it is unclear just how strong an argument the delegation from both the Gunners and Spurs could field without Champions League football on offer. Though Liverpool are said to no longer be hotly in the running for a chance to secure his services, Aouar would signal arguably one of the best fits regarding tactical concerns for Jürgen Klopp.
Aouar has featured as a 6, 8, 10, as well as out on the left flank during his year at Lyon since making his full debut back in 2016 after graduating from the club’s academy set-up. He rose in stature amongst Premier League supporters during Les Gones impressive run to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2019-20, helping the club edge past Juventus before putting in a brilliant display against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, only to be ousted by eventual champions Bayern Munich.
Superbly gifted on the ball and willing to work off it, Aouar offers a blend of goalscoring, creativity, and an ability to progress through all phases of play. His desire to move on from Lyon (and recent disciplinary issues which have caused him to be publicly put up for sale) presents one of the more truly available options this summer despite the risks.
Ryan Gravenberch; Ajax Amsterdam (£28million)
Budding young talents and the Netherlands go together like peas and carrots. In the case of Ajax Amsterdam’s midfield prodigy Ryan Gravenberch, this is no exception. Still just 19-years-old and already having broken into the full Dutch national team after being relied on in each youth international tier, the Amsterdam-native is not just one for the future but also the present.
The first King of the Match award of the new season goes to Ryan Gravenberch! 🤩 pic.twitter.com/ZFVUBucMzS
— 𝐀𝐅𝐂 𝐀𝐉𝐀𝐗 💎 (@TheEuropeanLad) August 14, 2021
Gravenberch hit 3-goals and registered 5-assists for Ajax last season in thirty-two Eredivisie appearances while also featuring heavily in both the Champions League and Europa League. Despite his status as a key asset under Erik ten Hag, like all Ajax products that have excelled, Gravenberch is expected to eventually move away from Dutch football and test his mettle against the best Europe has to offer, and Liverpool could certainly offer a viable destination for the midfielder having been linked with previous interest. Any deal that could be struck would have to be incredibly enticing, however, with Gravenberch apparently closed off to a move away from Amsterdam until next season.
Capable of operating in both a 4-3-3 or as part of a midfield pivot in a 4-2-3-1, Gravenberch comes chock-full of technical craft courtesy of his progression through the Ajax youth ranks, while also having experienced European campaigns despite his tender age. With other midfield options at the club the likes of Harvey Elliot and Curtis Jones, Gravenberch would offer a key cog in a long-term midfield rebuild that will look to take place in the not-so-distant future given the age profiles James Milner and Jordan Henderson, while able to already contribute irrespective of his youth.
Saúl Ñíguez; Atlético Madrid (£34million)
The direction Liverpool intends to go is a difficult one to track. At current, there are pieces already in place in Jürgen Klopp’s squad that could suggest recruitment moving forward that highlights youth, but in equal measure, the club could look to bring in prime-age players if they want to guarantee their survival in the race for top-four or major honors.
[Media: Liverpool Echo] Saul Niguez sent Liverpool transfer message with Gini Wijnaldum admission https://t.co/0ZGCDga9RE pic.twitter.com/AfltnvmjRK
— LFCMAGAZINE (@LFCMAGAZINE) August 11, 2021
If it is the latter then the club could do far worse than making a major play for Atlético Madrid’s Spanish international midfield stalwart Saúl Ñíguez. Another player who has been on Liverpool’s radar screen, his future in the Spanish capital at the Wanda Metropolitano remains unclear. The Reds would have to fight off interest from the likes of rivals Manchester United and La Liga giants Barcelona if they were to come in with a bid for the Elche-native, but with the player being on the cusp of entering his prime-playing years, the 26-year-old brings a wealth of experience at the highest level while offering a very assured and effective midfield platform.
To offers have been tabled for Ñíguez as of yet, but interest remains high given the level profile he provides. Technically gifted (who doesn’t remember THAT goal against Bayern Munich), able to play deeper in midfield or also as an attacking option further forward as an 8 or a 10, replacing the versatility and experience that Wijnaldum afforded Jürgen Klopp is absolutely vital at current and moving forward. This would be a very impressive statement signing by the club as well, especially if they got a leg up on their biggest domestic rival in the process.