Most Liverpool fans have, however unwillingly, begun to accept that with six days left in the mid-season transfer window, the Reds’ midfield woes will not be solved in January, and that the squad Jürgen Klopp began the year with, Cody Gakpo, oddly enough, notwithstanding, is the one they will end it with, as the plan appears to be betting it all on obvious long-term superstar Jude Bellingham when the summer rolls around.
The wisdom of this decision can and will be debated well past the point of utility and interest on the various Liverpool-related fora both on and offline until the midfield maestro does or doesn’t do the Melwood lean in July, so to keep things engaging between the daily updates in that already painfully protracted saga, we here at TLO towers will occasionally make some suggestions instead. Fun ones. Like this!
So, Matheus Nunes. The Portuguese midfielder was heavily linked with the Reds in the summer, as the Merseysiders began establishing themselves as the premier location for expensive Liga Portugal talent following the signings of Luis Díaz and Darwin Núñez, and while the links were of sufficient frequency and intensity that their veracity was difficult to dismiss entirely, the 24-year old ended up signing for Jorge Mendes Holding Station FC, down in Wolverhampton.
Those links have reemerged in January, as the Reds have been connected to roughly every midfielder with a pulse, although accompanied by some puzzlement for many who have watched the former Sporting man play. To put it simply, Matheus Nunes just isn’t all that good. What he does could be described, if one were disinclined to be kind, as Running Around a Bunch. The Portuguese does everything with a lot of intensity, so some fans would undoubtedly fall in love with him for pure perceived effort, nicknaming him Pitbull or some such, but there isn’t much production at the end of it all, neither in terms of goalscoring, creative or progressive passing, or ball winning.
Critically, the one thing Nunes did do at an elite level in Portugal — carry the ball past opponents — has taken a nosedive since moving to the Premier League, as his successful dribbles have been cut by two thirds in the past six months.
Funnily enough, in a move that has all the hallmarks of that particular billionaire brand of uninspired opportunism we as a society have become all too painfully familiar with over the past few years, Todd Boehly, Chelsea’s new big-spending owner, has apparently glommed onto Nunes as a target for the Blues, just as he did for Enzo Fernandez, Moises Caicedo, Raphinha or any of the dozens of other big-name targets Chelsea targeted suspiciously soon after they were linked with other clubs in major media.
Unlike those mentioned, however, Matheus Nunes would probably be interested in a move to Stamford Bridge, and, as such, should Liverpool continue to uphold their interest, genuine or otherwise, the odds of Chelsea attempting to add this particular dud to their ranks increase.
At the other end of this particular yarn I’m spinning is Mason Mount. The Englishman has less than 18 months left on his deal with the club he has spent his entire career at, and the noises coming from both sides of the contract divide is that the 24-year old will be looking for a move, likely at something of a cut rate, this summer.
While Mount hasn’t had a particularly stellar season under new manager Graham Potter — much like every other player at the club — he turned into a superstar for 18 months when Thomas Tuchel was at the head of the club, and last season, the midfielder was both Chelsea’s top scorer and their top creator, finishing the Premier League season with 11 goals and 10 assists.
Having blossomed largely as a Conor Gallagher precursor under Frank Lampard, first at Derby, then at Chelsea, racking up pressures and shots from the ten position but not contributing much else, Mount developed into a much more complete midfielder under Tuchel, maintaining his pressing and shot volume while adding 50-80% to his progressive and creative passing and increasing the quality of his shooting, flourishing into one of the Premier League’s most archetypal free eights.
Exactly what has happened this season is unclear, but it appears to be a squad-wide issue for Chelsea, not something impacting Mount alone, and has contributed to the relationship between player and club to deteriorating rapidly. Leaked claims of unreasonable wage demands have naturally made their way to club-friendly media, as is part and parcel of the contract negotiation process these days, but that truly shouldn’t scare off the Reds if they have the opportunity to improve their squad quality, depth, age profile and homegrown quota while also adding a player that is never injured and who is already familiar and friendly with a number of the club’s English profiles.
The proposition, then, is as follows: maintain the appearance of interest in Matheus Nunes, utilising the club’s close working relationship with Wolves and Nunes super agent Jorge Mendes to do so, prompting Boehly to spend — probably big — on a midfielder that his manager doesn’t want and who won’t improve the team, then pounce on an increasingly disillusioned and affordable Mount — ideally at the same time as adding Bellingham — offering playing time, English friends and German hugs, strengthening the team and squad in both the immediate and long term while weakening a rival.
Double. Whammy. Sounds easy enough.