Back in January of this year, when Sadio Mané was just a scribble in Jürgen Klopp’s notebook, Liverpool were tenuously linked with Athletic Bilbao attacker and Spanish U21 international Iñaki Williams, who had caught some eyes operating as a winger for Ernesto Valverde’s side. Williams promptly signed a new contract through 2021 with a purported release clause of €50m, thus putting a damper on rumored interest from Manchester City, Arsenal, and Tottenham, as well as from Liverpool.
According to reports from Spanish outlets, subsequently picked up by the English press, a number of Premier League clubs are back in the race for Williams - €50m release clause be damned - and both Merseyside outfits are said to be among the contenders. Just twenty-two years of age, Williams had a very respectable return of thirteen goals in twenty-five La Liga appearances last season, mostly while operating as a winger.
Though his pace and ability on the ball have served him well out wide, Williams’ strengths may lie in a more central position, where his rather unpolished crossing is less of consideration. As is the case for many young players, consistency can be issue - Williams has yet to find the back of the net so far this season. Still, without being a nailed-on starter for his club, Williams is quite clearly an essential piece of Athletic Bilbao’s puzzle, so it will be a challenge to prise the young forward from Spain.
The biggest impediment to Liverpool’s potential acquisition of Williams may, however, be the fact that this rumor is most likely conjecture. In Klopp’s current setup, Daniel Sturridge isn’t always a lock to be in the starting XI - and should Sturridge not be available, waiting in the wings are Divock Origi and Danny Ings (who has been on absolute tear while assigned to Michael Beale’s U23 side). Unless one of those three is being penciled-in for an exit, it’s not clear where Williams would fit in.
Liverpool certainly have the cash to pull it off, but it seems unlikely that the cash would be deployed in pursuit of a young player with a new contract, in a position where he would be fighting for minutes with other young, hungry forwards who are already more established at the club. Still, stranger things have happened in Liverpool’s transfer dealings. Sometimes those stranger things become club legends, and sometimes they end up playing in Nice.