Impressing on loan at Deportivo de La Coruna this season, Ben Twelves assesses whether Luis Alberto can return to a playing role in Jurgen Klopp’s team.
Loaned out for a second successive season without even a sniff of first-team consideration, Luis Alberto’s Anfield career seemed all but over.
But an impressive campaign at Deportivo La Coruna has raised questions over whether it really is the end for the £7 million signing on Merseyside.
As the Spaniard is linked with a move to make his Estadio Raizor spell permanent, there is a growing feeling that he still yet has a role to play.
So, is time up for Alberto’s Liverpool career over, or can he return to a play a part next season?
Deportivo de La Coruna Impact
Enduring a season of frustration at Malaga last year, it’s been anything but for Alberto this season at Deportivo.
A feeling of wanting to make up for lost time has emanated from the determined 23-year-old, and he has done exactly that in a strong period under Victor Sanchez, described as a “breath of fresh air” by Depor expert Chris Moar in December.
Alberto signalled his intent to ensure of more productive loan this time, taking no time to announce himself by posting a goal and an assist in a 3-1 win against Rayo Vallecano on his first start for the club.
Hitting the ground running, he has maintained that momentum, becoming a key part of Sanchez’s side at the Raizor – where he has won admirers with his technical skill and weekly contributions, showcasing his talent with the most consistency in his senior career to date.
Impressive form has come from the left, right and even as the central, creative hub of Depor’s three-man attacking midfield unit – a role that shows the trust Sanchez has in the No. 23 to carry the creative responsibility for his team.
Working in support of main striker, Lucas Perez – who Alberto has developed a lethal partnership with – he has reached an impressive tally of six goals and six assists in all competitions, the last strike a brilliant solo effort to help Depor end a 13-game winless run against Levante.
Citing Sanchez as a key factor behind his decision to move, reuniting with the former Sevilla assistant manager has certainly been productive, shown with the Depor manager now wanting to make Alberto’s stay permanent.
And a good move it has proved for Deportivo’s fortunes, as hey sit comfortably in 10th currently, with Alberto a key figure in that push for mid-table stability – and the Reds now have a talented, confident player to welcome back.
Potential Liverpool Role
Alberto will be looking to force his way into Klopp’s densely populated attacking-midfield ranks, hoping his versatility, technical play and creativity proves enough to catch the Liverpool boss’ attention.
Labelled a “consistent contributor” by Moar, his ability to spot and execute through passes, play a quick one-or-two-touch game and interchange with team-mates could make him at home in Klopp’s slick attacking style.
Clever with his link-up play, combined with his happiness to operate across the width of the pitch, he could provide a handy and adaptable foil in any of the roles in Klopp’s preferred attacking-midfield trio.
But reservations over the Spaniard come with his questionable suitability to Klopp’s defend-from-the-front, aggressive pressing style.
Alberto is not the most athletic or pacy player and his defensive contribution is one of the weaker aspects of his game – something that he may be able to compromise in Sanchez’s compact setup, but would prove detrimental in Liverpool’s energetic system.
There is no place in Klopp’s team for one feature without the other, and Alberto’s debatable defensive work rate could prove his downfall in attempting to secure a permanent place in Klopp’s attacking department.
At 23-years-old, there is time ahead for Klopp to work with and improve the ex-Sevilla midfielder, but whether it is enough for him to feature at Anfield remains to be seen.
Can Alberto Feature for the Reds?
With a summer of much activity expected, and current options at Klopp’s disposal, it is hard to see where Alberto fits in as a permanent member of the squad.
The Spaniard would certainly not feature ahead of Philippe Coutinho or Roberto Firmino of the current first-choice attackers, while Mario Gotze’s increasingly realistic transfer to Merseyside will see him command a starting berth.
With the possibility of a wide option also to arrive, likely relegating Adam Lallana to rightful squad status, and the return of fellow loanee Lazar Markovic added to talented hopefuls like Jordon Ibe and Sheyi Ojo, places in Klopp’s attacking sector are scarce.
There would likely be no place for Alberto if Liverpool missed out on European football – but he could feature if Europa League was secured, with Klopp needing a bigger, quality squad to compete across four competitions.
Alberto is undoubtedly a talented player and certainly deserves a chance to prove his suitability for the long term in a make-or-break pre-season campaign.
Thereafter, he is likely to find his future again lies away from Anfield – but on a permanent basis this time.