According to England's
shining bastion of journalistic integrity second-flimsiest gossip rag the Daily Mirror, Liverpool have themselves a shiny clause connected to one of the top English prospects around. If one believes the Mirror, Liverpool has negotiated a "first option" clause for the purchase of 17-year old midfielder Will Hughes. This comes in exchange for Derby County being allowed to extend the loan of Andre Wisdom, who has played quite well since his arrival at the East Midlands club, for the remainder of the season.
This was greeted with much celebration among the Liverpool fanbase, as it's been widely interpreted as meaning Hughes is as good as wearing a Liverpool jersey. Obviously, that would be cause for significant excitement as Hughes is a fine prospect, and is widely seen as the future of the English midfield at the international level. Getting him at Anfield would give the club a clear successor to Steven Gerrard, and add some additional optimism for the club's future.
This is where the other shoe drops. Sorry.
First of all, the only real source on this so far is the Mirror. Their reputation on such matters is... spotty, suffice it to say. There's been some chatter on the matter among more reputable journalists on Twitter, but none of them have yet seen fit to put pen to paper with it. Until better sources start running with the story, it needs to be handled with heaping portions of good ol' NaCl.
Even looking beyond that issue, the clause isn't so clear-cut as some are making it out to be. Such clauses aren't so much a straight purchase option like you find in loans, but rather a right of first refusal. That means that, should Derby receive another offer to acquire Hughes' services, Liverpool will be given the opportunity to match that offer and make a contract offer to Hughes. Hughes himself would still have the ability to choose between the two offers (or more, if other teams get involved), which still leaves the opportunity that Liverpool would have nothing to show for their effort at the end of the day.
Of course, Liverpool would have a leg up in such negotiations, as Hughes is a known fan of the club. But with that in mind, why even bother with securing a first refusal clause? It does force Derby to notify the club if they receive an offer, but it's not exactly like any kind of transfer business is a big secret in this day and age, not between clubs at least. It's not like Liverpool gave up anything of value, an extension of Wisdom's loan is best for everyone involved, but its a bizarre and not entirely useful thing to do in this case.
The other thing is that such clauses are usually only good for one transfer window, meaning that unless Liverpool plan to make a move for Hughes this month, the entire thing is a moot point. Given the squad's other higher-priority needs and the budget the club will likely have, spending the rumored cost for Hughes makes a lot more sense in the summer, rather than right now.
None of this is to say that such a move is a bad idea or it's doomed to fail or anything like that. But given the love-in this news was receiving, a dose of reality to temper expectations was needed. Hughes is well worth getting excited about, but this news shouldn't do anything to change any expectations as to his potential arrival at Anfield.