Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud has emerged as a likely target for Liverpool this summer, with Jurgen Klopp identifying a gem.
Dahoud is widely reported to be on Klopp’s list of priority targets ahead of the summer, as the Liverpool manager looks to overhaul his midfield ranks for his first full campaign at the club.
The Gladbach star, 20, is believed to be valued at around £20 million, thought the Bundesliga side are battling to hold onto their prodigious talent, with fellow midfielders Granit Xhaka and Havard Nordtveit both likely to leave this summer.
But Liverpool’s financial muscle could sway this decision, and if so Dahoud would join another young midfielder, Marko Grujic, in Klopp’s squad for 2016/17.
But who is Dahoud, and what could he bring to Liverpool next season and beyond?
Dahoud is in his first season in the Gladbach senior squad, but has already established himself as a key player in Andre Schubert’s well-oiled midfield.
The Syrian-born Germany youth international joined Gladbach from 2. Bundesliga side Fortuna Dusseldorf in 2010, taking up a spot in his new club’s U17 ranks for the 2011/12 campaign.
Dahoud quickly made an impression, featuring in 21 of 25 B-Junioren Bundesliga West games that season as the young Gladbach outfit lost just five times throughout a campaign that saw them notch 7-0 and 7-1 victories over Preussen Munster and SV Bergisch Gladbach respectively.
The next season saw Dahoud score seven goals and register nine assists in 23 appearances for Gladbach’s U17s, including a one-goal, one-assist display away to Borussia Dortmund.
Spending the next two seasons progressing through the ranks from the U19s to the reserves, regularly training with the first team, Dahoud was promoted to Lucien Favre’s senior squad for 2015/16, after making his Bundesliga debut towards the end of the previous campaign.
When Schubert took over from Favre in September, promoted from his role as Gladbach’s U23s coach, the 44-year-old was well aware of the talent at his disposal.
Dahoud has started all but one of his last 24 Bundesliga appearances, growing into his role in Schubert’s 4-4-2 system.
Playing Style, Strengths & Weaknesses
“He’s a classic street footballer: he only wants to play football. He doesn’t care for the publicity,” Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl said of Dahoud in February, underlining the midfielder as a highly focussed young talent.
Installed in Schubert’s midfield towards the beginning of 2015/16, Dahoud was highlighted as a replacement for Christoph Kramer, the German international midfielder who spent two seasons on loan at Gladbach before returning to Bayer Leverkusen.
An all-action, never-say-die midfielder, Dahoud has filled in superbly for the departed Kramer and, at 20, may even be an upgrade on a player five years his senior.
Alongside the tenacious, ball-winning playmaker Xhaka in Schubert’s 4-4-2 system, Dahoud operates as the archetypal box-to-box midfielder.
Tackles & Interceptions Per 90 (League Only)
Dahoud – 2.9T, 2.3I
Can – 2.8T, 2.2I
Henderson – 2.9T 1.5I
Milner – 2.8T, 1.3I
Allen – 4.3T, 0.7I
Lucas – 5.4T, 2.1I
With wingers Fabian Johnson and Ibrahima Traore bombing forward, Gladbach rely on Dahoud relentless running and energetic pressing game to establish a balance, with Schubert describing him as a player with “a real engine,” and “a willing runner.”
Dahoud covers an average of 13km per game, which, to make a comparison, was more than any midfielder in the Premier League back in September, with Liverpool’s James Milner averaging the highest distance covered, at 12.29km per game.
This allows Dahoud to break up play with consistency in the middle of the park, and so far this season he has averaged 2.9 successful tackles and 2.3 interceptions per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga, more than Milner, who averages 2.8 tackles and 1.3 interceptions per 90.
Far from just a runner, however, Dahoud possesses supreme technical quality and a strong eye for a pass, dovetailing with Xhaka to operate as Gladbach’s metronomic deep-lying playmaker, shown in two mature displays against Juventus in the Champions League this season.
Seemingly not fazed by a big-game atmosphere, two of Dahoud’s standout league performances this season came in December’s 3-1 win at home to Bayern Munich and February’s win at home to Rhine derby rivals Cologne, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 triumph.
“Dahoud was sensational against Cologne,” Xhaka said after the game. “The lad’s only 20, he’ll only get better. He’s incredibly important to us, he’s still young and can still learn a lot.”
While Xhaka’s post-match words were intended as praise, the Gladbach captain did highlight the early stage in Dahoud’s development, and while he currently serves as a strong, well-rounded midfielder, he is yet to develop the tactical intelligence required to thrive consistently at the top.
This should be expected at 20, however, and after a comfortable season in Klopp’s former battleground, may have proved himself worthy of a place in the German’s midfield at Liverpool.
Where Would Dahoud Fit in at Liverpool?
Possessing the quality and ability to develop into a strong, all-round midfielder, and with the intelligence and tenacity to negate his slight, 5’9″ frame, Dahoud would have a clear role in Klopp’s midfield.
Grujic’s arrival will provide Klopp with a bullish, physical central midfielder also capable of shining in the box-to-box role, giving the 48-year-old plenty of options as he looks to build a high-tempo pressing side for the Premier League.
At Gladbach, Dahoud plays alongside an aggressive ball-winner and midfield general in Xhaka and is supported by a tireless runner in makeshift forward Lars Stindl, and this system could be replicated at Liverpool.
Emre Can is firmly established as one of the first names on Klopp’s teamsheet, and at 22, can go on to fill that role as a dominant, authoritative presence in the midfield.
The nimble, dynamic Dahoud could present Can with the perfect partner in the future, with their energy and ability to cover ground complementing each other in the middle of the park, and Dahoud would likely be the more progressive of the two.
While sanctioning a £20 million outlay on a 20-year-old may be deemed a risk, Klopp will be encouraged by his experience with Gladbach’s famous production line in the past, having plucked a 22-year-old Marco Reus from Die Fohlen back in 2012, with Reus joining Dortmund for £12 million.
Dahoud is likely to join Reus in the German national team before long, and Liverpool should move quick to sign him this summer—as the Gladbach man is set to become a real top-level star.