Having made the slightly unusual journey to Europe by joining Brighton in the summer of 2019 from Argentinos Juniors, the 24-year-old World Cup winning Argentinean from Santa Rosa with the Scottish surname becomes Liverpool’s first signing of the summer, and he is a significant one.
The fee remains uncertain, but most expect the Reds to pay less than £60M—and by some accounts the fee could be as low as £45M—for the versatile midfielder, who is set to arrive with the weight of being the man around whom Jürgen Klopp plans to build his Mk.II midfield at the club. Today, we dig into the player’s strengths and try to figure out how he’s likely to fit at Liverpool.
Alexis Mac Allister
Central Midfielder | Brighton & Hove Albion
DOB: December 24, 1998 (24) | Height 5’9” (176cm)
2022-23: 40 appearances (3,308 min) | 12g(6pen)/3a
Of all the midfielders Liverpool were linked to after abandoning the race to sign Jude Bellingham, none has the positional flexibility of Mac Allister. At one end, he’s a player who could plausibly be deployed as part of a double-pivot, not a pure destroyer given tackling is perhaps the least developed area of what is generally a very well rounded and developed game, but with the engine and passing range to help screen the backline and build play. He could also be deployed as a ten, the sort of player willing and able to crash the box.
At times for both Argentina and Brighton he has filled both roles—leaning more towards a deeper role with his national team and an attacking one at the club level. Liverpool, though, don’t quite seem to need either one of those players. At least barring a major tactical shift that seems unlikely after Jürgen Klopp successfully hit on moving Trent Alexander-Arnold into a hybrid role coming inside to play alongside the six in possession.
Mac Allister is a player who does almost anything and everything you could want a box-to-box midfielder to do—and he does it to a consistently high level of competence—but then he probably wouldn’t be the target for Liverpool if the club were looking to play as a ten in the way Mac Allister was often asked to do at Brighton and who lacks the elite tackling skills to do more than compliment a six. Which is to say that in a double-pivot, he’d probably have to be the one sliding in next to Fabinho.
Once you scratch off the midfield extremes, what you’re left with is a player whose standout attributes are his exceptional engine, a player who’s exceptionally press resistant, has a very good passing range, and is capable of progressing play well both via his passing and with the ball at his feet. He has also proven he can pop up effectively—if not at an elite level—around the penalty area, and on that front it’s worth noting that his goal return at Brighton was inflated significantly by penalties, which he likely won’t take with the Reds. He’s also a player who has proven he has the kind of high level football intelligence to adapt quickly and capably to different roles, different styles, and to partner effectively with different sorts of teammates.
In a sport where fitness is an often overlooked but key attribute, in addition to his engine—and his stamina, as he’s a player capable of going the full 90 minutes in most matches despite his exertions—Mac Allister also has an exceptional fitness record. Or at least he has had one up until now. Hopefully that will survive his move to Anfield.
Perhaps the biggest risk in signing a player like Mac Allister who does everything you’d want from a midfielder well but isn’t up there with the best specialists at the position when you drill down into the underlying stats and look at any one aspect of his game is that it could be hard to really gauge his success—whether you’re the sort basing “success” on highlight reel moments or elite numbers.
Players like Jordan Henderson and the departed Gini Wijnaldum at their best, though, have quite simply made Liverpool tick without offering too many moments for fans and pundits to latch on to. That, then, is the template which shows the value in such midfield workhorses, and it seems likely to be the path Mac Allister heads down as a Red.
For Klopp one imagines a player on the cusp of his prime years who’s tactically flexible, exceptionally hard working, and will likely be both willing and able deliver performances of the type that helped set up his first great Liverpool team for success won’t ever be a mark against Mac Allister. Still, it’s probably inevitable that a certain section of the fanbase is going to end up somewhat underwhelmed when he stops being the latest big money transfer to get hyped about and actually starts lining up for Liverpool.
Whether he slots in as an eight on the right as something of a replacement for Jordan Henderson, using his engine to help cover for Alexander-Arnold’s hybrid shift, or goes left to provide the ball progression and box support Curtis Jones did in the later stages of the 2022-23 season but with a little more Wijnaldum steel is anybody’s guess. That he will take on box-to-box role of some flavour, though, seems likely.
Whichever role he does eventually fill may depend as much as anything on the second midfielder the club bring in this summer and may not be decided until Klopp actually gets his hands on them all, with the current buzz heavy around another two box-to-box players with massive engines, Khéphren Thuram and Manu Koné.
What’s clear is that in Mac Allister, Liverpool are getting a workhorse; a technically and tactically superb midfielder, highly press resistant and with an exceptional engine. He’s a player who instantly makes the club better—and a player who harkens back in some ways to the sort of midfield set-up Klopp has had his most successful spells with at Liverpool.