Piotr Zielinski’s introduction to the Euros didn’t go that well and only lasted for one half, with the Liverpool transfer target looking unconvincing against Ukraine before being replaced at the break. That one uninspiring half of football has more than a few Liverpool fans already ready to write off the 22-year-old Poland international.
Empoli president Fabrizio Corsi, who watched Zielinski play 36 games for his club on loan from Udinese last season, is hoping that Liverpool feel similarly and abandon their pursuit of the player—so that he can sign for Serie A competitors Napoli instead. That’s because Corsi believes that the young midfielder’s game is better suited to Serie A.
"I would advise Zielinski to join Maurizio Sarri at Napoli," Corsi was quoted as saying by the Italian press today. "That’s nothing against Jürgen Klopp, who has been talking to the player since January. Because of that, Liverpool have moved forward—including in the head of the lad, who now has it in his mind to play in the Premier League."
One imagines, of course, that if Klopp has been talking to Zielinski since January—has made his signing a priority—that one bad half of football won’t be enough to turn the Liverpool manager as it has so many fickle fans. It would also go a long way towards explaining Zielinski’s extreme and very public eagerness to join the club.
Further, for those looking at Liverpool’s targets, mostly younger players not yet fully proven, and seeing the hand of the dreaded transfer committee at work, it should provide a strong rebuke. Zielinski, quite clearly, isn’t a committee target. Whoever first identified the player, it’s clear that Klopp rates him highly and has made him a priority target.
Much the same could be said of the club’s other signings and targets under Klopp, which have overwhelmingly been either from the Bundesliga or central and eastern Europe. Joel Matip, Marko Grujic, Loris Karius, Mario Götze, Mahmoud Dahoud, Piotr Zielinksi. None of these are the sorts of players previously targeted by the club.
Even the "Premier League proven" Sadio Mane fits a similar mould, having earned his Southampton move in 2014 after dominating the Austrian Bundesliga. In his two full senior seasons with Red Bull Salzburg, Mane scored 42 goals and 28 assists, with a goal or assist every 91 minutes he was on the pitch, a world class return albeit in a lesser league.
Klopp wants Zielinski. Hopefully, despite the doubts of some Liverpool fans following one bad half of football and the skepticism of Empoli’s president, he can get him.