A Peek Ahead to January

by: Ben Gauthier

As the days on the calendar tick by, October draws to a close and in the US we get ready for Thanksgiving and the holiday season. In England, the Reds are getting ready for the traditional festive fixture pile-up. Also keeping with tradition in England, the media is buzzing with transfer speculation heating up as we head towards the transfer window opening up in January. 

Much of the buzz is about the twenty or so Galactico’s Newcastle plan on buying this winter to not only stave off relegation but also earn a Champion’s League spot next year (please read that sentence with your best sarcastic voice). Some of the players being rumored to make the move to the Tyneside club include Mbappe, Haaland, former Red Raheem Sterling, current Red Devils Donny van de Beek, Anthony Martial, and Jesse Lingard, as well as Adrian Rabiot and a host of other players depending on which way the wind is blowing in London today. 

Manchester City is also being strongly linked with Fiorentina striker Dusan Vlahovic as well as Haaland after failing to acquire Harry Kane from Spurs this past summer. 

Barcelona, still reeling from their financial crisis and already having lost several players most notable Lionel Messi and to a lesser extent, Antione Griezmann; look like they’re still trying to shed salary and bolster their transfer war chest for a potential new manager with former player Xavi Hernandez being rumored to replace Ronald Koeman. Some of their potential outgoings include ter Stegen, Coutinho, and Ousmane Dembele.

Here’s where LFC comes into play

We might not have the financial backing of entire oil-rich nations, or a Russian oligarch, but Liverpool is regularly linked to a multitude of players regardless of the reasonableness of the claims. Pedri, recently linked to the Reds has signed a new contract with the Blaugrana and fellow standout youngster Ansu Feti looks like he will follow suit in the next few days. However, former Dortmund standout, Ousmane Dembele has been rumored to be on Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool’s Christmas wishlist; and as he is out of contract next summer, he is free to sign a pre-contract with any non-Spanish club. As such, Barca may want to get whatever they can for him in the winter transfer window. How much is an injury-prone player with a locker room attitude problem worth? Hopefully more to another club than us.

Liverpool, and clubs in general, tend to not make big splashes in the winter transfer window if possible owing to clubs reluctance to let pieces of their entrenched XI leave mid-season and the inflation of their prices because of that. Last winter, a center-back injury crisis forced Liverpool’s hand making multiple transfers to try to sort out our back four; but it was still done with little financial risk: Kabak was a loan deal with a tempting option to buy that wasn’t exercised and Ben Davies for a little over $2 million. The year before that we forked over less than $10 million for Minamino; none of these moves breaking the bank. Based on this history, and the fact that ownership is adding 7,000 seats to the Anfield Road end to the tune of £80 million, it would take a special player for Liverpool to splash the cash.

Where Could Liverpool Look?

One such player American Scouser contributor Gally earmarked in the summer was Lautaro Martinez. The forward looks like he could be off the table though with Inter CEO Beppe Marotta saying that the forward is close to signing a new contract for the club within the next two weeks.  “We are going to announce his extension within ten days,” Marotta told La Gazzetta dello Sport. 

Repeatedly linked Leeds winger, Raphinha looks like a longshot to move to Anfield as Leeds, who are trying to recapture the form that saw them finish ninth last season, are not keen on letting their best player leave. Fellow Leeds player, Kalvin Phillips, has also been linked to the Reds, but this move wouldn’t make much sense for anyone as Leeds anchorman and England’s starting number 6 probably wouldn’t be too happy playing second fiddle to Fabinho.

Another player linked with Liverpool for a while now has been the musclebound Wolves forward Adama Traore. A robust start to the season in terms of creating chances saw him lose his starting spot as new Wolves manager Bruno Lage has opted to try playing with two strikers with Hwang Hee-Chan displacing the profligate winger to net more goals. A winger who can’t finish isn’t high up on my personal list of transfer hopefuls.

Mid-Table Solutions…

Liverpool tends to look to mid-table teams for young players who can play across multiple positions. Injuries to midfielders Thiago and Elliot (poor lad) and the lack of cover for Trent requiring Swiss Army knife Old Man Milner to fill in have shown how potentially thin we are with Gini’s summer departure as well factoring in. As our front 3 closes in on 30 (with Bobby having turned 30 at the beginning of the month), it’s hard not to think about the future of our attack as well. Jota is a great cover as he can fill in all across the front line and probably the future number 9 of this team, but he’s only one man. With Connor Bradley showing promise as a backup for Trent at right back, I have personally grown fond of two potential transfer targets.

Ivorian midfielder Franck Kessie has impressed in Serie A at both Atalanta and currently AC Milan and is out of contract in the summer. He is free to sign a pre-contract with a non-Italian club in January and a potential swap deal with Thiago going to Milan could suit both clubs in January. The 24-year-old hard-tackling midfielder fancies a goal as well and doesn’t shy away from the pressure of a spot-kick. It’s pretty clear that he could fill a Gini-sized hole in Liverpool’s XI. For those who don’t regularly watch Serie A action, a brief ten-minute viewing of a youtube highlight video make it equally easy to imagine Kessie clipping a diagonal ball into a steaking Salah on a counter as a Trent cross being cut back to the edge of the 18-yard box and being hammered towards goal by Kessie or the Ivory Coast international making a crunching tackle in the middle of the pitch to wrest possession back from an opponent and start yet another attack. My personal verdict is LFC should make signing Kessie our winter transfer priority and I’m fine sending the 30-year-old Thiago to Milan to get Kessie 6 months early.

A longer shot and bit of a shout is former Portuguese wunderkid and current Atletico Madrid misfit Joao Felix. As with all clubs, Atleti has been impacted financially by the pandemic. They are apparently eager to raise funds to make the loan deal return of Antoine Griezmann permanent. Rumors are he’s available for the cut-rate price of £68 million, or about half of the £113 million Athletic paid for him only two years ago. The right-footed forward can play either on the left-wing or centrally and could form a partnership with his compatriot Jota to lead the Liverpool attack in the next iteration of this team. A part luxury signing, the part building block for the future; if Liverpool plans to spend big at all this winter, big savings on a highly touted and skilled 21 year old would sit well with this supporter.

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