It’s transfer silly season, buckle up.
The Metro has reported that Liverpool have “made contact” with Borussia Monchengladbach in regard to Germany international midfielder Florian Neuhaus.
The scenario is a bit odd given that Neuhaus’ release clause, which had been set at a quite reasonable €40 million, has now expired (per SPORT1), meaning that the club will have to negotiate rather than forking over a pre-determined fee. Of course, we can certainly back Michael Edwards in a negotiation — and we can’t rule out players going the other way should a deal be on the horizon.
Neuhaus has been connected to Liverpool previously, as the 24-year-old has been favorably compared to Gini Wijjnaldum before — including when Bayern Munich were rumored to be interested in the cheaper Nauhaus rather than Wijnaldum back in April.
So who exactly is Florian Neuhaus?
Well, he’s an up-and-coming midfielder whose passing range has caused him to be, at times, a standout in the Bundasliga.
You may have seen the highlight reels doing the rounds on Twitter (alright, alright, see below), but the heartening thing is that the passing range evinced in these reels has been described by journalists for quite some time.
Writing in October 2020 for The Athletic on how Borussia Monchengladbach seemed to be on its way back up, Raphael Honigstein described Neuhaus with initially understated language as a “serviceable player” who had become a Germany international “due to consistently excellent showings” — but then this understated language made way for the following:
“[Neuhaus] is putting up elite numbers as a hard-running winger (with 0.54 expected goals and 0.27 expected assists per 90 minutes) and the former’s distribution in midfield has been nothing short of superb. Neuhaus’ razor-sharp defensive-splitting pass for Hofmann’s goal at Inter still has the San Siro turf bleeding one week later.”
Neuhaus and Wijnaldum’s numbers show either comparable defensive actions (for example, with Neuhaus putting in 1.16 ball recoveries in the opponent’s half per match compared to Wijnaldum’s 1.17), or they show Neuhaus having an advantage (his 3.9 total ball recoveries per match to Gini’s 2.8; his 4.5 interceptions per match to Gini’s 2.8). That said, the numbers can’t really tell us much about whether Neuhaus could play a Wijnaldum-esque role.
This is because much of what Gini was charged with in Jürgen Klopp’s side doesn’t show up in the stats: by filling spaces on the pitch Wijnaldum was able to help shape opposition passing lanes — and you can’t make challenges or intercept passes if your role is largely to make sure the opposition tries to play passes everywhere where you’re not (incidentally, there was a lot of interesting chatter about how to track Gini’s influence, and I’ve not personally seen any models that do it well!).
Of course, there’s no certainty that a Klopp side without Gini in it will follow similar tactics to one lacking the Dutchman, who Klopp has referred to as “an architect of our success,” saying that he and the team “have built this Liverpool on his legs, lungs, brain and his huge, beautiful heart.”
Neuhaus does show a strong attacking influence, with 1.33 key passes per match to add to his own direct numbers (cited above by Horningstein, though his xA was limited to 0.17 and xG to 0.15 over the 2020/21 season, specifically).
While Neuhaus’ numbers show him to be more attacking than Wijnaldum, both players featured a lot of matches over the past season: Nauhau’s 51 total matches last season equal Gini’s number played for Liverpool alone, though the Dutchman played another six for his country (Wijnaldum played 4151 minutes for Liverpool, and Neuhaus played 3795 for Borussia Monchengladbach). Of course, Liverpool played more matches than Borussia Monchengladbach, so this is not directly comparable; that said, Neuhaus’ level of availability and consistency is something that is somewhat lacking in Liverpool’s present midfielders, and it’s therefore a quality we should be looking out for in potential transfers.
A midfielder who is consistently available, strong in a challenge, and able to increase the tempo of attacks using his passing range? Sounds like a dream come true. Get him in.
Statistics used in this article are from Instat unless otherwise noted.