According to reports from The Daily Mail, Liverpool have joined the seemingly ever-expanding race to sign Burnley centre-back Michael Keane.
The former Manchester United youngster is enjoying a fantastic season at Turf Moor, earning himself yet another call-up to the England squad this week for his role in Burnley’s rise to the more than respectable position of 13th in the Premier League table. Keane impressed the last time the Clarets were in the top flight and he’s been crucial again this year, featuring in every minute of a league campaign that has seen Sean Dyche’s side amass the second-best goals conceded record in the bottom half.
The Daily Mail claim Everton, Manchester City and Leicester City have all ‘discussed’ moves for the 24-year-old defender, but now Liverpool are a fixture in the race for his services as well, having impressed Jurgen Klopp – who is reportedly keen to snap up another centre-half this summer.
If Liverpool miss out on a place in the top four this season, it won’t be because they’ve struggled to find the net. Indeed, Klopp’s boys have scored the most goals of any Premier League side this term, 61, but they’re weak defensively and have conceded the most goals of any club in the top seven. When Dejan Lovren or Joel Matip are out, Klopp is forced to rely on underwhelming summer signing Ragnar Klaven or converted midfielder Lucas Leiva. James Milner at left-back, although he’s performed well this season, doesn’t help their cause much defensively either.
In contrast to those mentioned above, Keane is your classic no-nonsense defender. Rather than looking to play out of the back, keep possession or join the midfield, the England international focuses on the nuts and bolts of the trade; winning aerial battles, blocking shots, clearing players out in the tackle and positioning himself correctly. It’s a massive deviation from Liverpool’s current style, but Klopp recently praised his side for ‘winning ugly‘ – ironically, after picking up three points against Burnley – and Keane’s old-school approach should give the Reds a better chance of pulling off more victories in that manner.
Let’s not forget Keane began his career at Manchester United, so he’s not completely oblivious to the pressures and attention that comes with life at a major club. Likewise, by all accounts he’s a good professional who appears more focused on his football than anything else.
In terms of playing style, however, Keane will have to adapt. Although his form has been fantastic this season, whilst he’s also made a difference at the other end with two goals and one assist, Burnley’s organised style of play does flatter him and centre-back partner Ben Mee, protecting them from all angles and making their main duties simply heading or hoofing clear whenever possible.
Liverpool, in contrast, demand much more from their centre-backs on the ball. To give some comparison, Keane’s pass completion rate this season is 73.1%, also completing 3.4 accurate long balls per game. Matip’s returns, on the other hand, are 86.2% and 3.7 respectively, whilst Lovren’s are 85.7% and 4.7.