In the land of rumour mongering, it seems Liverpool are always swooping for some ace or other. Today’s ace being swooped for, at least if you trust the Express’ unnamed Italian sources, is Roma’s 26-year-old Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan, who is currently co-owned by Roma and Cagliari. As the rumour goes, Roma—his current club—want to hold on to him, but Cagliari want to cash in.
That has led to reports that both Liverpool and Manchester United have had scouts watching the midfielder in recent weeks and are now preparing bids for him. Roma paid €6M for partial ownership of the player last summer and the right to keep him at the club through the 2018 season. He has since scored four goals and five assists in 41 appearances across all competitions for Italy’s third-place side.
Though he has the flexibility to take on a variety of midfield roles, he most often takes on a shuttler role ahead of Daniele De Rossi for his club and a holding role when he plays at the international level, though as a squad player he has only made one appearance during the current qualification round. He has scored two goals and earned ten caps for Belgium since making his national team debut in 2009.
Nainggolan is a solid, versatile midfielder, but it is also unclear whether he would be an upgrade on Liverpool’s current options. Certainly his production would mark him as a solid step down from Jordan Henderson in a box-to-box role, and Emre Can might already be a better option if moved forward from defence next season. About the only place he might make sense for Liverpool is as a pure defensive midfielder.
In that role, though, it’s not clear he would be an improvement on Lucas Leiva, though at the very least he does seem more robust than Liverpool’s current defensive specialist, having only missed two matches through injury over the past five seasons. However, with rumours suggesting it would take upwards of £25M to capture him this summer, many would question the wisdom in Liverpool trying to sign him.
All told, it adds up to an odd duck of a transfer rumour—a costly player who would demand high wages and isn’t as good in his best role as an energetic box-to-box midfielder as Liverpool’s current assistant captain. He’s also two years older than Henderson, has spent his entire career in Serie A, and is likely at his peak, meaning he doesn’t have the upside a player like Can does.
Given Liverpool’s likely limited transfer budget and desperate needs at striker and right back, committing £25M plus and hefty wages to Nainggolan’s capture just doesn’t make any sense, at least not with Henderson having signed a new deal in recent weeks.