It has been almost two-and-a-half months since Gini Wijnaldum announced he was leaving Liverpool, but the club are still yet to replace him with a new midfielder.
Wijnaldum was an invaluable player for the Reds over his five years with the club, but he has now left on a free transfer, making his debut for PSG in their 1-0 loss to Lille in the Trophee des Champions last week.
Thiago and Jordan Henderson are yet to return to the side, and ahead of the Premier League opener against Norwich on August 14 it remains to be seen who will start in the middle of the park for Liverpool.
It was widely expected that the Reds would look to the transfer market to replace their departed No. 5, and there has been concrete interest in Borussia Monchengladbach’s Florian Neuhaus.
But so far there has been no movement, with those within the club possibly still weighing up the ideal alternative to the Netherlands’ vice-captain.
If no signing is made this summer, there will need to be one brought in over the next two transfer windows, with Liverpool eager to find the right fit for a very particular role in the squad.
Beyond Neuhaus, the likes of Ajax’s Ryan Gravenberch, Brighton’s Yves Bissouma and Aston Villa’s John McGinn have all been on the Reds’ radar – but who else could they look to?
Statistics website FBref has listed the 10 most similar players to Wijnaldum in terms of output over a variety of metrics including possession, defensive actions and goal and shot creation:
- 1. Axel Witsel – Borussia Dortmund – 32 – £8.1m
- 2. Matteo Guendouzi – Marseille – 22 – £18m
- 3. Mikel Rico – Huesca – 36 – £270k
- 4. Yvan Neyou – Saint-Etienne – 24 – £4.5m
- 5. Maxime Lopez – Sassuolo – 23 – £9m
- 6. Toma Basic – Bordeaux – 24 – £8.1m
- 7. Ivan Ilic – Man City – 20 – £7.2m
- 8. Eduardo Camavinga – Rennes – 18 – £49.5m
- 9. Seko Fofana – Lens – 26 – £10.8m
- 10. Franck Kessie – AC Milan – 24 – £49.5m
* Valuations according to Transfermarkt.
There are some obvious red flags on this list, most notably within the top three as none of Witsel, Guendouzi or Rico are viable targets.
Witsel, at 32, would not fit Liverpool’s ethos when it comes to signings, Guendouzi only signed for Marseille this summer and is arguably not up to the standard required, while Rico is 36 and playing in the Spanish second tier.
But there are some interesting candidates further down the top 10, with Camavinga and Kessie perhaps the standouts.
Camavinga is one of the most-coveted young players in European football, and having entered the final year of his contract with Rennes he could be signed for a relatively low fee this summer or for free in 2021.
Meanwhile, Kessie has already been touted with a move to Anfield this transfer window, and would provide Liverpool with a dominant option in the engine room.
Lopez is another interesting suggestion, having been on Liverpool’s radar back in 2014 and then again in 2016, while Neyou, Basic, Fofana and Ilic could be worth monitoring.
This list is clearly not a reflection of the club’s recruitment process – but with statistics an increasingly reliable tool in identifying new signings, perhaps one or two could be worth considering.