It’s time to start looking forward.
Despite dark clouds still looming over Anfield in the wake of the club’s recent role in the Super League debacle, Liverpool have some serious planning to do.
FSG’s current relations with the club remained strained at best, perhaps permanently fractured at worst, but on the field, Liverpool still have the sizeable task of securing some form of European football next season.
Presently, it looks like this won’t be the Champions League, and that is a bitter pill to swallow.
Something else which is soon to leave a similarly nasty taste, however, is the impending departure of Gini Wijnaldum.
A deathly silence has fallen over the topic of the Dutchman’s future. An impasse in contract talks has now gone well beyond the standoff stage. A resolution of a parting of ways appears imminent and the whole episode has much the same feeling of Emre Can a few seasons ago.
Wijnaldum has been a fiercely loyal servant to Liverpool and, whether you see and value his incredibly versatile skill set or not, a key player at the heart of the midfield has to be replaced.
It’s no easy task, particularly when the player in question is as consistent and injury-free as Wijnaldum.
And so, is his replacement already making waves in the Premier League? We’re talking Yves Bissouma and, to be quite honest, everything about this prospective transfer would scream Liverpool.
Liverpool in the sense that it would be a move that perfectly aligns with everything the club has done over the past few years in the transfer market.
Identifying talent with the traits necessary to thrive in a Jurgen Klopp system has been a must for the pioneering brains in the club’s recruitment department. Incoming players must have an exceedingly high threshold for development, with youth and good value purchase price.
Bissouma, who turns 25 in August, ticks many if not all of these boxes.
A recent surge in speculation linking the Malian star with a big Premier League move has recalibrated Brighton‘s thinking somewhat, with the south coast club now reported to be reluctant to listen to any opening offers below the £40 million mark.
It’s steep, for sure, given Bissouma has only really made his breakthrough this season. Then again, many people were of a similar opinion when Klopp brought a certain Sadio Mane to Merseyside to the tune of £34 million. If the club recognises value, they will pay.
So, why Bissouma?
Liverpool need to get the midfield right next season to have any hope of getting back to their scintillating best and challenging for the title once more.
Bissouma has the tools to be that player, and his development under the very hands-on approach of Graham Potter in the last 12 months suggests he would be perfect for – and very receptive to – Klopp’s methodology.
Taking a look at the current league rankings by individual, Malian maestro Bissouma is clearly making a name for himself.
At present, he sits just outside of the top 20 midfielders in the division for pass completion, while is 18th in the league for overall passing accuracy.
This becomes all the more impressive when it is acknowledged that Bissouma is the third-top tackling midfielder in the league at present, while also dominating the percentages within the Brighton squad for both touches and midfield dribbles.
He takes the ball and makes things happen. When he isn’t able to, he’s winning it back.
Recoveries in midfield are vital for any team across the division, not just those scrapping it out towards the lower reaches of the table, and in this department, Bissouma is carving out something of a niche.
Recoveries mean possession and possession means control. It’s what every team strives for, and Brighton have a system in place which sees Bissouma regularly winning back the ball.
They may be a bottom-half club, but he is exceeding week on week and showing all the signs of a truly special player, who would improve exponentially with greater talent around him.
To quickly condense these figures together, Bissouma has flourished in arguably the world’s toughest division by showing he is ball-winner, a ball retainer and a creator all in one.
The former Lille man is not in the slightest afraid of getting on the ball, and Brighton have encouraged this habit generously all season.
Importantly, Bissouma has started 29 of Brighton’s 32 league games so far, after shaking off the niggling repercussions of an arduous shoulder surgery just prior to Potter’s appointment at the AMEX.
It’s the kind of consistency Liverpool need and Klopp demands. It is no fluke that Wijnaldum has played in every single one of the Reds’ league games so far this season.
If he is to depart Anfield for warmer climes – most likely Barcelona – this summer, Wijnaldum must be replaced by an equally adept footballer who can be relied upon to turn out week on week.
Bissouma is ready-made for the Premier League, after passing his audition with flying colours and playing a commanding role in pushing the Seagulls to the brink of survival following a season of football in the most unconventional of circumstances.
Everything about the Malian suggests he will appeal to Liverpool’s way of thinking.
Granted, he may not be the superstar name some rosy-eyed fans are craving, but Klopp’s machine has been admirably assembled using individual pieces whose value greatly exceed expectations when placed among the collective.
Should Liverpool miss out on Bissouma to a Premier League rival, it could be an error of judgement they long live to rue.