Liverpool’s first opponents on their US tour are Serie A club AS Roma. Jack Lusby selects three players to keep an eye out for.
With Liverpool’s USA pre-season tour set to commence on Thursday morning (00.30am UK time) with a mouth-watering tie against Italian side AS Roma, Reds manager Brendan Rodgers could do worse than turning transfer attentions towards some of the talents on show.
Under new manager Rudi Garcia, the Serie A side followed a similar trajectory as Rodgers’ side—with no European competition, Roma stormed to second in the Italian top division.
This was despite losing arguably their brightest talent in Erik Lamela, who departed in an ill-fated £30 million move to Premier League also-rans Spurs.
Garcia has brought together an impressive squad, and here are three targets Liverpool should look at signing during this contest.
Moroccan centre-back Medhi Benatia moved to Roma from fellow Serie A side Udinese last summer, and proved one of the signings of the season, Europe-wide.
The 27-year-old made 32 starts under Garcia last season, scoring five goals and helping keep 18 clean sheets—a phenomenal return for any defensive player, and the main reason behind Roma’s success in 2013/14.
According to Squawka, the Moroccan international made on average 10 defensive actions per game last season, including a total of 219 clearances, 90 interceptions and 20 blocks.
Furthermore, an average passing accuracy of 89 per cent shows the defender’s composure in possession—a vital trait within Rodgers’ side.
Comfortable on the ball, and adept both in reading the game and in defensive situations, Benatia is a complete central defender.
Prising the defender from Garcia’s hands, however, may prove a tough task.
Reports, via the Daily Express, quote the Frenchman as claiming “Mehdi is under contract and will play with Roma this season. Tomorrow Benatia will play against Liverpool,” following interest from Spurs, Manchester United and Chelsea.
However, a player of the calibre of Benatia—a right-footed centre-back, no less—should demand no stone be left unturned this transfer window.
Another player central to Garcia’s success with Roma last season is fellow summer acquisition Kevin Strootman, who joined the Serie A side from PSV Eindhoven.
The Dutchman was unfortunate to miss his country’s World Cup contention through injury, and would have provided a much-needed resource in the centre of midfield for Louis van Gaal’s side.
Last season, the midfielder made 25 Serie A appearances for Roma, scoring five goals and making six assists.
Primarily a defensive midfielder, the Dutchman is hugely adept with the ball at his feet, and Squawka show that the midfielder boasted an average passing accuracy of 88 per cent last season, and Strootman’s 47 chances created were the fourth highest of Garcia’s squad.
Furthermore, according to WhoScored, the midfielder made on average 3.3 tackles per game in 2013/14, acting as a solid defensive base for Roma.
Despite Bosnia and Herzegovina’s dismal World Cup, Roma playmaker Miralem Pjanic stood out as one of the top performers of the group stages at this year’s tournament.
According to the Daily Mail, against Argentina the midfielder “was the only Bosnian to complete more than 90 per cent of his passes and he created four chances for his team-mates, the most in his team.”
“Only Lionel Messi was able to match that amount of creativity.”
Joining Roma in 2011, the 24-year-old has become central to the Serie A side’s success in recent years, operating as the primary creative outlet.
In 35 league appearances last season, Pjanic scored six goals and made a further six assists.
Pjanic was Roma’s most creative player last season, with Squawka showing the midfielder as having created 72 chances for his teammates—only Luis Suarez (87) made more for Liverpool in 2013/14.
What’s more, an average of 2.1 tackles per game—from a No. 10 position, no less—proves that the midfielder is happy to help with defensive work, an important facet of Rodgers’ Liverpool system.
The Reds may be heavily-loaded in the midfield, with a plethora of creative options, but Pjanic is a talent worth keeping an eye on.
Which Roma players would you like to see at Liverpool next season? Let us know in the comments below.