When Real Madrid signed Asier Illarramendi for €39 million on a six-year contract in July 2013, the player was destined to be Xabi Alonso's successor in midfield. Alonso, a Liverpool favourite, is fondly remembered for the five years he spent on Merseyside under Rafa Benítez. However, Alonso's departure for Bayern Munich last summer was seen as an opportunity for his perceived footballing apprentice to improve on the 1885 minutes he saw in La Liga and the Champions League. That hasn't happened.
Illarramendi developed his game at Real Sociedad where he gained a reputation as a player at the base of midfield who positioned himself expertly for tackles and interceptions, passed the ball with confidence and accuracy, displayed tactical understanding of the game, worked for the team, and possessed wonderful technique. His lack of speed and dominance in the air mattered little when he could control the flow of the game so confidently. Sound familiar? Unfortunately his game hasn't developed at Real Madrid with competition, inexperience, and politics all playing a role in limiting Illarramendi's opportunities to play. This summer, he could follow Alonso to a third club: Liverpool.
The Metro has linked the midfielder with a move to Liverpool, claiming that an offer has been made for the Real Madrid man to see off interest from Arsenal. His appearances have dropped drastically this season as Carlo Ancelotti has turned to Illarramendi less as a rotational option even in the absence of Alonso. Luka Modrić, Toni Kroos, James Rodríguez, and Isco are all ahead of him in the midfield pecking order. Sergio Ramos, usually a centre back, has impressed in midfield in the absence of Modrić and played a key role in the second leg victory over Atlético Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals. It seems that move elsewhere would be a wise decision.
Liverpool's problem would be convincing the midfielder to join a club that is unlikely to offer Champions League football, but at 25, Illarramendi may understand the need to play regularly for a club expected to feature in the top four or five in one of Europe's strongest league competitions. A fee of around £20 million has been suggested, which would make sense considering the quality of the player and Real Madrid's investment two years ago. Athletic Bilbao reportedly made an offer in the January transfer window that was rejected by the Basque midfielder. He would immediately find a starting place in Brendan Rodgers' midfield, but can a deal be done with other high-profile clubs bound to be interested in such a talented player?
*For those who are wondering, the staff members at TLO Towers are aware that The Metro is as trustworthy as Lex Luthor and Loki. As always, "Rumo(u)r Mongering" looks at the quality of the players linked along with the possibilities of such moves if more credible links were to emerge in the future.
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