clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Two Non-Ruben Neves Options for Liverpool's Defensive Midfield

New, comments

Looking at two Serie A solutions for a defensive midfield area that may see an addition in the Summer transfer window for Liverpool.

Massimo Cebrelli/Getty Images

Lucas Leiva, Emre Can, Jordan Rossiter, and Kevin Stewart are the players Jürgen Klopp has called upon this season to play either as a single pivot defensive midfielder, or as the more retracted of a deep midfield pairing. Each of those four players can hold their heads up high based on what they've contribute to the team in those defensive midfield areas, and each should be expected to have an immediate future at this club.

That does not mean Liverpool should not, or will not, be looking to sign up another talent for this position group. Aside from Lucas, there are still a lot of questions regarding these players' chops for the position, or the Champions League level that Liverpool will strive for under Klopp.

If the coaching staff feel a certain way about any of Can's, Rossiter's, or Stewart's development, it is not hard to imagine them looking to the transfer market for a more specialized, solid deputy to be groomed behind Papa Lucas.

The option that has most been mentioned thus far, has been FC Porto's 18 year old Ruben Neves. It makes sense because the player fits Liverpool's transfer profile, fits the squad need like a glove, and currently plays for a club that does not shy away from a deal. The only problem here is everyone else in the world knows who Ruben Neves is, and you can bet your last Red cent that Liverpool aren't going to be the only club kicking the tires for a Summer move.

So what if that deal falls through? Aside from a £30m bid for N'Golo Kante, where else should Liverpool look? Italy could be one place.

Amadou Diawara and Fernando Lucas Martins are two young Serie A defensive midfield specialists who have had themselves very nice individual seasons, albeit with different results for their respective teams.

Diawara is a Conakry-born 18 year old who has a very familiar African footballing tale of being spotted by an agent, and sent to a club with enough European visibility (in his case it was San Marino) to be spotted by a scouting network. That scouting network was Bologna's, and the club wasted no time snapping him up at the end of last Summer.

With Roberto Donadoni continually selecting the Guinean teenager, Diawara has taken to the highest level of Italian football, and is a big reason why Bologna are tenth in the league table, and sixth in the form table. He is a robust athlete, standing 6'0"tall, with a wide stance and quick feet that allows him to change directions and get everywhere he needs to be, even though he's not got incredible straight line speed.

All right foot, all the time, he has the natural tendency to make little darting steps into space to make himself available for the pass. He's also always taking quick little looks over his shoulders to ensure where he's going to play to next, which is absolutely critical for a position that is often targeted with sharp pressing in the Premier League.

As a young player, the game's still passing him by a lot of times, and his passing range is what you would normally associate with a defensive midfielder--he's not Xabi Alonso back there. And he's not as talented as Neves, but he's got much better hair, and has had a real impact on Bologna's fortunes this season as an 18 year old rookie in a rejuvenated, tactically myriad Serie A.

This is the sort of player Sevilla snaps up to little fanfare, and in two years time he's a £30m-rated commodity. And in terms of supplanting Lucas' athletic shortcomings, Emre Can's questionable fit, and Rossiter/Stewart's lack of experience? Liverpool could do a hell of a lot worse.

The other name to consider here is actually one Liverpool have been linked to in the past: Fernando Lucas Martins. A few excellent seasons for Gremio and a strong showing for Brazil in the 2013 Confederation's Cup earned the player a move to Shaktar Donestk. Ew.

It didn't really go all that well for the lad, ultimately getting hocked to Sampdoria at a two million Euro loss, which is something that just does not happen with Shaktar. And while Sampdoria's fortunes have been dire all season, the move has been pretty good for Fernando, giving him a stage to demonstrate his considerable talent.

Passing and interceptions are this born-defensive midfielder's calling cards, where he's notched over three interceptions per 90 and completed 86% of his passes this year in a wretched Sampdoria context that gets more or less  eaten alive every week.

He's been fouling too much this season (nearly two per 90), but at 23 years old, the guy is young enough to have that coached out of him, especially if the context is right. In the last Champions League campaign the guy played for Shaktar, for example, his fouls were down to a more reasonable 1.4 per 90, his passing was up to 89% per 90, and both his tackles and interceptions were over 3 per 90.

And all that is beside the point that whenever Fernando plays this game, it looks easy for him. His movement is easy, his tackles are easy, dribbling or passing himself out of trouble looks easy, and it all looks better and better the more talented his teammates get. All right foot,just like Diawara, but quite a bit shorter at 5'9", which will be a bummer for the size fetishists out there.

But he is a robust, thick athlete, and is much more refined in his ball skills than could probably ever be expected of Diawara, even with steady improvements from the Guinean. He's also got just as good of a natural awareness for the position. which is really the top priority here, and he's got a boatload of high level experience for one so young. Terrible hair, though. Really, just not even trying on the coiffure front.

In the end, the beauty of both these targets is because of the clubs they play for, and their relative obscurity, the deals are going to be exceedingly reasonable. In particular if Sampdoria go down this season, Fernando is going to be made available for Iago Aspas money. Diawara, with his youth and potential making him quite the asset for a consolidated Bologna setup, will be a bit pricier, but we're not talking anything close to £20m, here.

So, there you go Kloppo. Give the scouts a day off, have Ayre put a bid in for both, taking whichever one gets accepted first, and thank us later.