Liverpool have suffered a potentially significant blow in their pursuit of AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie.
The Reds have been linked with a move for the highly-rated 24-year-old in recent weeks as manager Jurgen Klopp aims to finally replace Gini Wijnaldum following his move to Paris Saint-Germain.
However, Liverpool’s hopes of securing Kessie’s signature have been reduced after Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo revealed (via BBC Sport) that La Liga giants Barcelona have entered the race for his services.
The Ivory Coast international has entered the final year of his current contract in Milan, and according to Italian outlet Tuttosport, he has rejected the club’s latest offer worth €6.5 million (£5.55m) per year.
As a result, the Rossoneri could be forced into a January sale or else risk losing the Kessie for nothing next summer, leading to several clubs being credited with an interest in the box-to-box dynamo.
With Barcelona struggling financially, and Kessie either available on a free or at a significantly reduced price, it’s no surprise that the Catalan club are thought to be targeting the gifted midfielder.
However, their interest is likely to leave Klopp feeling gutted, with the Liverpool manager seeing teenage starlet Harvey Elliott pick up a serious injury over the weekend, leaving him short of options in the engine room.
And Kessie would be an ideal addition to the Anfield outfit’s first-team squad. The youngster’s style of play and attributes perfectly lend him to Klopp’s gegenpressing system, and a total of 30 goals and 15 assists in 184 appearances for the Rossoneri is testament to the quality of the African ace.
His outstanding performances at San Siro have caught the eye of several onlookers, including former Italy striker Antonio Cassano, who even compared him to a previous Premier League great.
“I want Kessie in my team, he scores, he assists, he has personality, he has quality, he doesn’t lose the ball, he is intelligent. I’m watching him carefully, against Roma, he was devastating,” he said (via MilanLive).
“He reminds me of the Yaya Touré of the best times. He is a different player, but in terms of impact, he is holding Milan’s midfield alone.”
Only time will tell if director of football Michael Edwards can pull off another transfer masterclass and fend off the interest of Barca, but it would surely go down as another impressive achievement for the Liverpool chief if Kessie is gracing the Anfield pitch over the next few months.