Liverpool have been linked with a summer move for highly-rated Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Granit Xhaka, and he would be the perfect midfield addition.
Last month, German paper Bild reported that Reds boss Jurgen Klopp had met with Xhaka’s agent, Andy Gross, to discuss a potential transfer for his player – and that the player was Klopp’s No.1 priority for the summer.
Xhaka is someone who has been on the radar of some of Europe’s top clubs for a while now, with many regarding him as one of Europe’s finest young midfielders.
Should Klopp get his man it would be both a big statement of intent and a superb signing.
Xhaka has been seen as the future of Swiss football ever since breaking into the FC Basel first-team back in the 2010/11 season.
The 23-year-old was once dubbed the ‘young Schweinsteiger’ by legendary manager Ottmar Hitzfeld, which is high praise indeed.
Forget about the leggy, one-paced Bastian Schweinsteiger you have seen in a Man United shirt this season; at his peak he was one of the finest central midfielders of his generation.
He was classy in possession, an expert reader of the game, a born leader and occasionally a threat in the final third. Xhaka is no different, and is the complete modern day midfielder.
His influential performances at the heart of the Basel midfield earned him a move to Monchengladbach in the summer of 2012 and he continued to grow from that point on.
He has captained the Bundesliga side this season, further outlining his pedigree, chipping in with three goals so far in 2015/16.
To sum up his qualities, Bayern Munich have been rumoured to be lining up Xhaka as Xabi Alonso’s long-term replacement this summer. And we all know he good he is.
A major upgrade for Liverpool
Ever since the exit of Javier Mascherano in 2010, Liverpool have been crying out for a truly top class defensive midfielder.
Lucas Leiva has been an excellent servant to the club for almost a decade, but he has always been that level below the very best in his position.
Xhaka would represent a significant upgrade on the Brazilian in so many aspects, and would finally solve the midfield issue that has proved problematic for so long.
For starters, the young Switzerland international possesses great dynamism, unlike Lucas, with an ability to cover ground quickly and out-muscle opponents.
At 6″1 tall, he also carries an aerial presence that Liverpool lack – bringing in Matip and Grujic (and Steven Caulker) shows that Klopp clearly wants more height in his team.
Xhaxa, who can play in any of the midfield positions, has won an average of 3.4 aerial duels per game in the league this season, which is superior to both Lucas (2.6) and Emre Can (1.6).
Then there’s his use of the ball, which is far more slick and incisive that any current Liverpool midfielder.
The versatile 23-year-old will keep possession with ease when required, but whereas someone like Lucas is limited when it comes to opening up opposition defences, Xhaka’s eye-catching left foot is more than capable.
In many ways, he is Can but with more intelligence. He is similar in build and stature, but is far less likely to have a brain-freeze in a key area of the pitch.
It must be stressed that the Swiss star is far more than a just a sitting midfielder, however.
While not prolific in front of goal by any means, similar to Schweinsteiger in fact, he has a more attack-minded mentality than someone like Lucas, Nemanja Matic or Sergio Busquets.
Occasionally when a player is linked with a move to a new club, there are reservations about certain aspects of his game.
With Xhaka, however, it really is tough to find any real negatives about him becoming a Liverpool player.
He is at a perfect age in terms of being experienced but still having years ahead of him; he is tall, strong, creative and influential, and is better than anything the Reds have currently.
Some will point towards the fact that is known for having a bit of a short fuse, but frankly, Liverpool need some Mascherano-esque nastiness in their ranks.
The squad that Klopp has inherited is far too nice and easy to bully, and some bite and attitude would be much appreciated.
Being realistic, there is still every chance that Liverpool will be pipped to the post by a European heavyweight like Bayern. It would be tough to turn them down if you were in Xhaka’s shoes.
Klopp’s pulling power does certainly act as a huge advantage, though, especially in comparison to when Brendan Rodgers was in charge, and the German meeting the player’s agent can only bode well.
We have seen so many brilliant rumoured transfer targets move elsewhere recently, so it would be wrong to get our hopes up, but if Liverpool could sign Xhaka it would be a fantastic signing.
(statistics via WhoScored)