Well well well. You wait several weeks for some action on the transfer front and then loads of stuff happens all at once. From players departing Liverpool to others arriving, there’s plenty for me to talk about this week. As you’re about to discover, there’s also been plenty of tittle-tattle for the tabloids to get involved in and talk about. Welcome to the most exciting transfer rumour round-up piece of the summer!
The Runners And Riders Of The Rumour Mill
The season creeps ever closer and with each passing day the transfer mill starts to turn faster. Here are the important pieces of info from the past seven days:
One big departure from the club last week has led to plenty of nice words said about a particular Brazilian…
I wrote about Lucas Leiva properly in last week’s transfer piece, so I’m not going to go over that ground again this time out. This is a transfer rumour round-up piece, though, so it would be weird if I didn’t mention his departure at all! The club’s longest serving player has been on the ‘outs’ list for about the past six seasons, so his survival up until this point is to be respected. For a while back there I honestly believe he was one of the best defensive midfielders in the world, which isn’t bad for a player who arrived with a reputation of being a box-to-box midfielder.
Vast swathes of the Anfield crowd, myself included, took some convincing over him after Rafa Benitez brought him in Gremio, but he won the majority of us over in the end. His departure to Lazio for £5 million is somewhat bittersweet. He’s been a brilliant servant to the club and showed his professionalism by turning from a midfielder into a centre-back under Jürgen Klopp, yet few would argue that his time playing regular first-team football for the Reds had come to an end.
He leaves proud of what he achieved at the club, even if he didn’t win as many trophies as he’d have liked. Like breaking up with the love of your life, sometimes something is right but still feels wrong. As Klopp himself said, the door is open for Lucas to return one day.
Likelihood Rating: Done Deal
Another defensive midfielder also departed Anfield last week when Kevin Stewart signed for Hull City on a permanent basis. It would have been easy for Stewart to stay at Liverpool indefinitely, claiming he was fighting for his place whilst also enjoying a decent pay packet at one of the country’s leading clubs. Instead he’s made the tough decision to drop down a division and take on a different sort of battle as he attempts to help Hull get back into the top-flight.
Stewart strikes me as the definition of a player who is not quite good enough to make at at a top side. He looked solid whenever the manager called upon him, but no more than that. If you want to play for a club like Liverpool, Arsenal or Manchester City then you need to be better than merely solid, despite the fact that only a certain percentage of players even manage that. I hope he succeeds in getting Hull back into the Premier League, in spite of the disastrous owners that appear to be trying to destroy the club from within. He deserves a career that reflects his ability – solid.
Likelihood Rating: Done Deal
There’s a delicious irony in Barcelona’s approach for Philippe Coutinho over the last seven days. As Liverpool battle to persuade RB Leipzig to let Naby Keita leave and head to us despite their ‘Not For Sale’ sign, we’re trying to tell Barca to get stuffed in their attempt to sign our Brazilian playmaker. The Spanish club reportedly tabled a £72 million bid for our midfielder, which the club immediately rejected. Whilst they mainly rejected it because he’s happy and not for sale, they should also have laughed at a nonsensical offer in a crazy transfer market.
Given that Manchester City have spent over £100 million on two full-backs in recent days, Coutinho is worth at least double Barca’s initial offer. The question really comes down to whether or not he’s happy at Anfield, which all the signs seem to suggest is the case. Having said that, Simon Hughes wrote an interesting piece about how the departure of Lucas and likely departure of Alberto Moreno could leave Coutinho with two close friends, meaning his happiness is far from guaranteed.
Personally I think this is all part of the dance, with Barcelona knowing we won’t countenance selling him this summer but may well let him leave in twelve months time. This gets the ball rolling and lays the ground work, putting the seed of an idea in the player’s head that can fester for a year. I’m not sure that Coutinho’s in a massive rush to leave the club, believing that he can achieve things at Anfield and aware of what happened during his time at Inter Milan. Even so, the lure of either of the Spanish giants can become too much for South American players, so I imagine he’ll end up there sooner rather than later.
Likelihood Rating: 2/10
For a while some Liverpool fans thought that Mohamed Salah would be the only piece of business that the club would do this summer. That was always nonsense, but thankfully they went out and proved it…
One of the favourite rumours of members of the tabloids is the swap deal, where one player goes to a club in exchange or part-exchange for another. The reality is that that almost never happens, with the transfers of Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United from Everton and Wayne Rooney heading in the opposite direction a couple of days later proving as much. If further evidence were needed then the movement of Kevin Stewart to Hull and Andy Robertson to us a few days later should be enough to prove it.
Part-exchanges virtually never happen, but the transfer of one player to a club before another makes the opposite move does sometimes help to grease the wheels. Kevin Stewart went for around £8 million, with Andy Robertson’s move to Liverpool reportedly worth about £10 million, so it was essentially a part-exchange under another name. Certainly it seems as if we got the better end of the deal, as Robertson has all of the attributes to develop into a top-class left-back. For now he’ll simply offer cover for James Milner, but that shouldn’t be under-rated. Milner was ran into the ground last year, so Robertson’s arrival is a welcome one in my opinion. No one is heading to town over it, but in the years to come £10 million will likely seem a snip.
Likelihood Rating: Done Deal
On and on the transfer saga of Naby Keita goes. It does feel like it’s coming to something of a head now, though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a definitive end to it soon. RB Leipzig continue to tell the press that the midfielder is not for sale, even if no one is actually asking them. It seems as though they’re happy to have their name in the press all the time, perhaps being unwilling to let the saga end for fear of losing the publicity. It’s certainly odd that Liverpool keep returning with bids if a move is genuinely off the cards, which leads me to believe that there’s a magic number we’re waiting to hit and are being given encouragement to keep bidding from somewhere.
I still remains convinced that we’ll sign him this summer and that it’s just a matter of the player’s position at the club becoming untenable. Some players choose to hand in a transfer request in order to prove that they’re keen on moving, yet it looks as though Keita has chosen to assault his teammates in training instead. Rumours of a training ground bust-up at training hit Twitter early on Monday morning, with the manager immediately abandoning the session. Is this what it will take for Leipzig to be able to back down from their ‘Not For Sale’ stance without losing face?
Up until this point the club have been absolutely adamant that the player will not be allowed to leave. That means that they can’t now let him leave without looking week to other players, such as Timo Werner, who apparently also want to make a move this summer. The only way they can justify things is if the player forces his way out and they can say to their fans and the German press, “We did everything we could but we couldn’t keep an unhappy player”. Given they’re a club on the rise hoping to attract new talent, it doesn’t make much sense to seemingly be saying ‘come to us, but when you get good we won’t let you leave’. The endgame looks like it’s approaching.
Likelihood Rating: 8/10
Virgil van Dijk
Another big old saga that seems to be entering its closing stages is Liverpool’s attempt to sign Virgil van Dijk from Southampton. We all know about the accusations of tapping up that Saints made, followed by Liverpool’s public apology. Since then there have been no noises at all emanating from Anfield about the Reds still hoping to sign the player, but neither have there been any links to any other defenders. It always seemed to me as though this one was going to be a matter of time rather than anything else. Now van Dijk has, to all intents and purposes, gone on strike.
New Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino said last week that the club captain had been ‘training alone’ because he’s not ‘100% mentally’. Today it’s been revealed that the Dutchman has been left out of Southampton’s squad heading to a training camp in France, meaning that they’re most influential player and chief defender won’t be part of the team for the most crucial part of pre-season training. It’s difficult to see how this ends in any way other than him leaving St. Mary’s for pastures new before the summer is out.
How long can he remain on strike before something has to give? One week? Two? Certainly either Saints will have to sell him or he’ll have to accept the fact that he won’t be sold, but the latter very rarely occurs. Only Luis Suarez in recent times has downed tools and ended up remaining at the club he wanted to leave. The Liverpool Echo is reporting that the Reds will bid for him if invited to, so that makes me think we could have a new player on our roster by this time next week.
Whatever you may think about how long these deals are taking to get done, it’s impressive to see Liverpool Football Club acting like the powerhouse that it is for once, with players at different clubs burning bridges in order to play for us and Jürgen Klopp. If things keep heading in that direction then we might just be back in the big time before you know it.
Until next week…