Every year, three teams are relegated from each of the major European leagues, and every year, these teams contain at least a few players that can do a job at a bigger club, whether they be up and coming starlets, wiley veterans, or big fish in smaller ponds. The financial hit of relegation means clubs are more willing to sell, and the lack of exposure means players are more willing to move. In this series, we'll take a look at recently relegated players who might be of interest to Liverpool. We start with the Premier League.
DOB: 11/11/90 (25) | Height: 5’9" (1.75 meters)
2014-15 Season: 38 appearances
11 goals, 5 assists
Given Newcastle's propensity for buying Football Manager and FIFA standouts, they were always likely to cross paths with Wijnaldum at some point. Making his breakthrough in the digital world in 2007 as a talented 16-year old, expectations were high for the young midfielder heading into his first senior season. After establishing himself at Feyenoord, PSV signed the attacking midfielder for €5m in 2011, and the expectation was that a big European club would come for him soon. Two seasons, 22 goals and 12 assists later, Wijnaldum was still in the Eredivisie, and although he was still only 22, having been in the spotlight for so long, many assumed he would never get his big move. A back injury put him out for most of the 13/14 season, but he still fought his way into the Dutch World Cup squad that went ot the semi-finals. Still anohter year would pass before he got his big move, as Newcastle signed him for €20m.
With 11 goals and 5 assists, Wijnaldum was the clear standout player in this year's Newcastle team, and at the center of nearly everything they produced going forward, playing all over midfield and appearing in every single league game. Despite not stacking up elite stats in any single category, Wijnaldum is an end product player. He knits play together with accurate passing, intelligent movement and arrives in the box to finish off attacking moves. Whether it is the Eredivisie, the Europa League or the Premier League, he will give you a goal or assist every 200 minutes, and since he is almost never injured, this translates to a predictable 15 or more goal involvements every season.
Versatility, durability and end product are the main reasons Liverpool might want to keep an eye on Wijnaldum's situations. Wages, a suspect defensive work rate and the lack of need at the position are the reasons they probably won't.
DOB: 16/8/89 (26) | Height: 6’2" (1.87 meters)
2014-15 Season: 37 appearances
1 goals, 7 assists
This is the one there are actual rumours about. Moussa Sissoko arrived in the Premier League three and a half years ago and has been linked with moves to bigger clubs every season since, occasionally stoking the fires himself, citing his ambition to play in the Champions League. Playing across midfield as a right winger, a central midfielder and behind the striker, he has contributed 11 goals and 17 assists for the Magpies over the years, along with averaging a tackle and a half every 90 minutes. Relying on his considerable physical attributes rather than technical trickery, he also averages 2.4 successful dribbles per 90 minutes, which is more than any Liverpool player not named Jordon Ibe this season. He has been ever-present for Newcastle, missing only seven games due to injury in three and a half years.
Despite delivering ball recoveries and dribbles at a rate that matches Liverpool's current attacking widemen, the Frenchman struggles with consistent end product. Some of this is certainly down to having played at a floundering club, but to be considered a success at a club like Liverpool - considering how for instance Adam Lallana's production is viewed by the fanbase - he would have to nearly double is output, which is unlikely at this point in his career. Wages might also be a stumbling block, as they have been reported around the £70k mark, which is a little rich for what would likely be a backup player.
As a wide option who delivers on both sides of the ball, Sissoko might be worth a shot, although questions about production and value remain.
DOB: 9/3/94 (22) | Height: 5’9" (1.76 meters)
2014-15 Season: 10 appearances
Jordan Amavi arrived at Aston Villa from Nice to some fanfare last summer, as the Villans looked to spend the Benteke money on difference makers across the pitch. He immediately made an impact, looking like one of the signings of the summer, until he tore a cruciate ligament in his knee while away with the France U21s, ending his season in November.
Up until he got hurt, Amavi was putting in outstanding performances on a weekly basis, averaging 3.9 tackles and 4 interceptions per 90 minutes, putting him right at the top of the fullback charts for ball recoveries, and - to show that this is no statistical blip - mirroring his stats from the previous season in France. This would be good in and of itself, if not for the fact that Amavi is primarily an attacking fullback. Getting forward every time Villa were in possession, his 2.7 successful dribbles per 90 minutes were more than any other fullback in the league, and twice as many as Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno managed combined. Three assists - all from gorgeous crosses - in twelve apperances to go with the four goals he scored in the previous season are evidence of his ability to get into dangerous areas.
Blessed with tremendous pace and one of the most explosive first steps you'll see in the sport, Amavi might strike you as a run-and-gun player, but his defensive nous shows that he is anything but. He displays excellent awareness to attackers' positioning and reads the intent of the passer well, allowing him to get into position to make the tackle or interception. And on the occasions where he does make the wrong read, his recovery speed allows him to make up for it. On the attacking side of the ball, he combines a willingness to get forward and physical abilities with a sweet left foot that can deliver different kinds of crosses depending on his target.
A 7-month layoff due to a knee injury can be significant, especially for a player whose game relies on speed and quick cuts, but given his performances thus far, his age, positional need, and that he'd likely be available at a reasonable price, Amavi would be a terrific pick-up for Liverpool this summer. Also, we need to meet our Jordan quota now that Rossiter is moving on.
That's all the relegation racers for this week. Join us next time as we move onto the continent to the Bundesliga.