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Liverpool could look to £23m former target to replace Gini Wijnaldum

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Liverpool’s pursuit of a new midfielder has presented a number of credible options, but it could be that the availability of a former target gives Jurgen Klopp the ideal solution.

While it has been claimed that the Reds are not actively searching for a Gini Wijnaldum replacement, recent reports suggest the contrary.

Liverpool have been linked with moves for the likes of Florian Neuhaus, Yves Bissouma, John McGinn and Renato Sanches, with their net cast wide but the profile of their candidates consistent.

The ages of those touted with a move to Anfield this summer range from 19 to 26, with the average being 24, suggesting unlike the signing of Thiago last year, the Reds are seeking a player Klopp can mould.

It would follow the trend set by Wijnaldum’s own transition on Merseyside, with the manager explaining following his exit how he had progressed into a “controlling midfielder” over the five years since his £25 million switch from Newcastle.

“From the young kid who was an offensive 10, to a winger at Newcastle, to coming here and becoming such a controlling midfielder, that’s a massive step,” Klopp reflected last month.

“You can only do that when you understand the game really in the right way, and he did that.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 8, 2021: Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara (L) celebrates with team-mate Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Southampton FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As it stands, Thiago, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho will comprise Liverpool’s first-choice midfield next season, while Curtis Jones is primed to step up and the likes of James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are able to fill in.

But if Klopp is seeking another project, similar to when the 25-year-old Wijnaldum swapped Tyneside for Merseyside, then it makes sense to look to the transfer market.

Neuhaus, Sanches, Otavio and Ryan Gravenberch would all fit the bill, but whether deals can be made with their current clubs remains to be seen, as the existence of a shortlist alludes.

An interesting option has emerged elsewhere, however, in the form of Borussia Dortmund’s Julian Brandt.

It has been claimed in Italy that Lazio are readying a deal for the Germany international that would see an initial £3.4 million fee paid to facilitate his season-long loan, with a £19.8 million option to buy next summer.

Brandt was an ever-present in the matchday squad at Dortmund last season, but found himself in and out of the starting lineup, playing the full 90 minutes only seven times out of 45 appearances to average just 44 minutes on the pitch per outing.

Julian Brandt (Pic: PA Images)

This was the least football Brandt has played since his breakthrough at Bayer Leverkusen in 2014, with a remarkably clean injury record making him a dependable figure for Roger Schmidt, Heiko Herrlich, Peter Bosz, Lucien Favre and Edin Terzic.

Conflicting reports over incoming Dortmund manager Marco Rose’s plans for the 25-year-old, however, opens up the prospect of a move away from the Westfalenstadion.

Lazio could be an attractive offer for Brandt, but if he is made available it would be no surprise to see him return to Liverpool’s radar.

Klopp had, of course, looked to tempt his countryman to Anfield in both 2017 and 2019, alerted by a £21.5 million release clause and the form that saw him score 42 goals and assist another 51 in 215 games for Leverkusen.

Four years ago, Brandt opted to sign a new contract with Leverkusen, with Liverpool turning their attention to Mohamed Salah instead, while two years later Dortmund pipped the Reds to the post.

Salah’s record-breaking success at Anfield has not quite been mirrored by Brandt at Dortmund, but then they are hardly comparable players.

At Dortmund, the German has been converted from winger to midfielder, with the majority of his appearances for the Bundesliga club coming as either a No. 8 or a No. 10.

If that sounds familiar, it is as it reflects Wijnaldum’s own shift from prodigious winger at PSV Eindhoven to pace-setting central midfielder at Liverpool.

Brandt is not quite there in terms of the role of Klopp’s old No. 5, but there are elements of his game that suggest he could fill the hole left by the departed Dutchman.

He is proactive with the ball and possesses a keen awareness of the space around him, and looks to drive his team up the pitch whenever possible.

For players in his position he ranks in the 95th percentile in terms of both passes attempted and completed, while he is in the 90th percentile for progressive passes both made and received.

He also ranks relatively high defensively, with his 19.65 pressures and 1.84 tackles made per 90 in the 84th percentile.

SOUTH BEND, INDIANA, USA - Friday, July 19, 2019: Borussia Dortmund's Julian Brandt during a friendly match between Liverpool FC and Borussia Dortmund at the Notre Dame Stadium on day four of the club's pre-season tour of America. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

For Dortmund, he has not been the most prolific creator, but if he was to fill the Wijnaldum role in Klopp’s midfield it can be argued that this would not be part of his remit.

Standing at 6’1″, Brandt would have a significant physical advantage over his predecessor, and having missed only 13 games through injury over the past seven seasons, his body should stand up to the demands of Liverpool’s system.

  • 2014/15: 41 in squad; 14 starts; 21 on as sub; 7 injured
  • 2015/16: 48 in squad; 23 starts; 21 on as sub; 1 injured
  • 2016/17: 41 in squad; 32 starts; 8 on as sub; 1 injured
  • 2017/18: 39 in squad; 30 starts; 9 on as sub; 0 injured
  • 2018/19: 44 in squad; 38 starts; 5 on as sub; 0 injured
  • 2019/20: 42 in squad; 32 starts; 10 on as sub; 4 injured
  • 2020/21: 51 in squad; 22 starts; 23 on as sub; 0 injured

That is not to say that he wouldn’t be required to adapt to a new role on Merseyside, but if the Reds are looking for an outside-the-box solution to their midfield problem, Brandt should certainly be considered.

With the options already at his disposal, Klopp could conceivably oversee a slow adjustment period for Brandt while also giving more opportunities to Jones.

If Liverpool were to push for Brandt’s signature, they could even present a readymade alternative to Lazio in the form of Xherdan Shaqiri.

Shaqiri has been revealed as a target for the Rome side, with a £13 million price tag set, and though the Reds are unlikely to consider a loan-to-buy deal, an existing relationship between the two clubs could aid any negotiations.

England's Eric Dier (left) and Germany's Julian Brandt (right) battle for the ball

In theory, Brandt could even fill in for both Wijnaldum and Shaqiri, and with Klopp favouring flexible players to specialists, the two birds with one stone method could suit Liverpool.

At around £23 million, a versatile, durable attacker-cum-midfielder who only turned 25 in May and already has 215 Bundesliga appearances under his belt would be an excellent addition.

In many ways, signing Brandt would be on-brand for Liverpool.

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