With Todd Cantwell among the names touted with Liverpool ahead of the summer transfer window, the Norwich midfielder presents an interesting target.
Instead, Cantwell is “not considered an active target,” with the club merely keeping track of his progress at Carrow Road as one of many options for the future.
But his name emerging on the radar is eye-catching, particularly as it came immediately after an impressive performance in Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Norwich.
Cantwell was, undoubtedly, the Canaries’ biggest threat on an evening that saw them push the Reds to the limit, creating the most chances for the hosts (two), producing the joint-most dribbles (two) and completing the most tackles (four).
He was also fouled as many times as the entire Liverpool side combined (five).
With Adam Lallana leaving the club on the expiry of his contract this summer, and Xherdan Shaqiri likely to join him through the exit door, there is scope for further additions to Klopp’s squad ranks in attack.
But should Cantwell be the target Liverpool opt for, or is Norwich‘s No. 14 simply another name on Michael Edwards’ spreadsheet?
There are obvious qualities which see the midfielder fit the profile for Edwards, firstly that he is young, at 21, and should command a reasonable fee as he heads for relegation with Norwich.
He would also match up to Klopp’s expectations in terms of hard work, physicality, tactical flexibility and, as he is proving in his first season in the top flight, end product.
Cantwell has predominantly played on the left of a five-man midfield for Norwich this season, but has filled in on the right and, briefly, as a No. 10, too.
One of his biggest strengths is his ability to drift into dangerous areas, however, which ensures that, when Daniel Farke’s side attack, he is one of their biggest threats regardless.
In Norwich‘s 3-1 win over Newcastle in August, for example, Cantwell was able to switch flanks with Emi Buendia as the Magpies struggled to contain a fluid forward line, and the Englishman ended the game with a pair of assists as Teemu Pukki scored a hat-trick:
* Video via Sky Sports; geographic restrictions may apply.
One came after a strong, mazy dribble through the middle, laying the ball on for the Finn to double his tally, while his other was the result of a well-timed run into space before Pukki picked it off him to secure the match ball.
He is relentlessly positive, playing with his head up and relishing the challenge of riding tackles, and has a penchant for the unpredictable.
So far this season, only Pukki (11) has scored more goals for Norwich than Cantwell (six), while no player aged 21 or under has scored more in the English top flight.
One of those came in the 3-2 victory over Man City in September, which saw him show intelligence to peel off the shoulder of Kyle Walker as Pukki attracted three City defenders, before tapping in the striker’s squared pass.
There remain, of course, weaknesses to Cantwell’s game, but the manner in which he has improved over the past 12 months suggests he can continue to iron these out over the years.
One flaw that blights the youngster is a lack of real pace, which could hold him back in Klopp’s squad if he were to operate as a winger; similar to Lallana, he would be better-served in a central role, which he has previously described as “a favoured one.”
His assertion in a recent interview with the Telegraph that “if you get the balance [between arrogance and self-confidence] right, you can get the best out of yourself” would likely appeal to Klopp too.
He explained: “As a kid I was written off and people said: ‘Yeah, he’s a brilliant footballer but he’s not strong enough, he’s not tall enough, he’s not got the right attitude, he’s not prepared to work hard enough’. At this level you definitely need belief.”
This is a quality that Klopp embraces, and there is no suggestion Cantwell is a disruptive character—quite the opposite—and working under Farke he has shown humility, work rate and persistence in a pressing system.
But there are question marks over whether he would be the right target for the Reds this summer, particularly as he would block the pathway for two youngsters already at the club.
Neither Curtis Jones or Harvey Elliott can boast the experience Cantwell has accrued over his two years as a senior professional—which included a half-season loan with Fortuna Sittard—but they could exceed his potential.
Jones is a similar player in terms of build, approach and versatility, and is already making a claim for Lallana’s place in the squad, able to fill roles on the left and as a No. 8.
Meanwhile Elliott is a prodigious talent whose performances on the right flank this season have caught the eye in terms of his confidence and, despite only being 16, he is already able to perform at first-team level.
Both Jones and Elliott possess the same footballing arrogance that Cantwell does, but neither would require another outlay in the summer to secure their services.
Much would depend on the price tag Norwich set for the young midfielder, as with Shaqiri expected to leave too there may be space opening up in Klopp’s squad.
With the Canaries set to return to the Championship after just one season back in the top flight, Cantwell is likely to emerge as a target for a host of top clubs, and there is precedent for Liverpool signing relegated players (see: Shaqiri, Andy Robertson, Gini Wijnaldum).
But like his predecessor at Carrow Road, James Maddison, and the likes of David Brooks and Ryan Sessegnon, it could be that it is deemed too early to make a move.