When Jurgen Klopp arrived at Liverpool, all of, or at the least the vast majority, the transfer links surrounding the Reds seemed to focus on players from Dortmund and the 48-year-old’s previous hunting ground, the Bundesliga.
It’s easy to see how these rumours came about, as Klopp is sure to want first-team options he either knows or knows about, but this focus made one link particularly interesting…
With no ties to German football, Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves is an intriguing proposition, and must clearly be a player that Klopp himself rates.
The 18-year-old is already a regular in the Porto starting XI despite his age and has even captained the Estadio do Dragao outfit in Champions League action – becoming the youngster player to do so for any side in the competition’s history – this season. He’s clearly a talent, it would seem.
A January move or potentially a swoop in the summer? It could make sense for Liverpool, and here are FIVE reasons why…
Yes, Liverpool’s current injury crisis is one of those rare occasions that the overall depth of a big squad is called into question, but even without the recent fitness blip there were questions surrounding options and quality in the centre of the park for the Reds.
Aside from Jordan Henderson and Emre Can, which of Klopp’s central midfielders would get into rival top six/top four teams’ XIs? Joe Allen? Lacks consistency and output. Lucas Leiva? Offers very little going forward and has questionable levels of agility and pace – key for holding midfielders. James Milner can also fill in, but the feeling remains that he’s still of more use on the right or left flank, despite the frustration it caused him at Manchester City.
For a side competing in four competitions, as Liverpool often are until the latter half of seasons, the Merseysiders lack the options to keep things both fresh and dangerous. Although Neves is some way from being the complete package, he’s certainly an upgrade on some training at Melwood.
Are they? Jordan Rossiter seems to be the big hope, and although the 18-year-old is a neat and capable footballer, will he ever truly break through? Will he be a Steven Gerrard or a Jay Spearing?
Only time will tell, but one would have expected to see a little more from him by now. Pedro Chirivella appears to be the next in line behind Rossiter, but the Spaniard, also 18, has barely featured.
Meanwhile, Neves, the same age as the aforementioned duo, has been playing regularly for Porto in the Portuguese top tier and is the youngest ever player to captain a side in Champions League action. Quite a difference in quality and experience, it would seem.
Liverpool fans may be dreaming of names such as Ilkay Gundogan and Granit Xhaka, but the fact remains that these two Bundesliga midfielders would surely cost in excess of £30m each and are likely to be wanted by a host of teams able to offer Champions League football and genuine league title ambitions.
There’s no shame shopping in the tier below – Liverpool have unearthed gems such as Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho before – and Neves could be another discovery.
Liverpool fans probably won’t want to look at a potential signing in this way, but Neves could be worth a fortune in the future. There’s not getting away from it, the Reds have become, although not quite a selling club, a club unable to keep their biggest names from the truly elite sides.
The likes of Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling have both moved on for massive profits in recent summers, and although it’s never received warmly in the stands, it’s part and parcel of being a side that’s not regularly bringing in Champions League TV and prize money.
The ‘stepping stone’ aspect may even appeal to Neves himself, who is likely to have ambitions of one day plying for a team such as Bayern Munich, Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Brendan Rodgers may have been a decent manager when it came to helping young players progress, but Klopp is in a different league altogether.
Okay, the German has had more time working at the top level, but with a track record of bringing through talent like Mario Gotze, Robert Lewandowski and Shinji Kagawa, the 48-year-old is proven when it comes to nurturing academy products and, of use in this case, helping new signings to kick on.
Neves may find this appealing given that he’s at the very start of what looks to be a promising career, while Liverpool’s hierarchy may be willing to put the money down early with a profit in the future likely.