Liverpool “keeping a close eye” on ex-Wolves loanee – with Pep Lijnders key

Liverpool are building a strong relationship with Porto due to transfer business, and that may continue according to reports in Portugal, with interest in Vitinha.

After only one deal between the two sides in their history before 2020, Liverpool and Porto have now shaken hands on three more transfers.

The first was Marko Grujic‘s loan switch for the 2020/21 campaign, which was then made permanent the following summer, before Luis Diaz swapped the Estadio do Dragao for Anfield in January.

Their growing bond comes due to an increased influence for coaches Pepijn Lijnders and Vitor Matos, along with the imminent promotion of Julian Ward to sporting director.

According to Portuguese newspaper O Jogo, as cited by Sport Witness, Lijnders has been tasked with “keeping a close eye” on Porto midfielder Vitinha ahead of a possible bid for the 22-year-old.

Vitinha was on loan with Wolves last season, though only made 22 appearances, and has grown in stature for Porto this season.

A central midfielder who thrives in balancing his duties in defence and attack, Vitinha has scored three and assisted three in 38 games for his parent club this term, as sides across Europe “position themselves” for a deal.

Liverpool are claimed to be among those, with the assignment of Lijnders suggesting a move could be possible in the future – particularly as James Milner nears the end of his contract.

Moreover, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita are into the final year of their deals this summer, with there a chance that Klopp overhauls his midfield ranks as his bid to reshape the squad before his 2024 exit continues.

It has even been suggested that Lijnders could take over from Klopp in two years’ time, which would make his interest in Vitinha even more valid.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 8, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (L) and first-team development coach Pepijn Lijnders during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Athletic Club de Bilbao at Anfield. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Lijnders, as assistant manager, and Matos, who serves as elite development coach, are both key figures in Klopp’s backroom, while Ward has taken a central role in transfers as he prepares to take over from Michael Edwards.

Ward previously worked as head of analysis and technical scouting for the Portuguese Football Federation, and utilised his connections in the country as European scouting manager for Spain and Portugal upon his move to Liverpool in 2012.

There should be no issues in approaching Porto for talks, then, though O Jogo maintain that the Primeira Liga side are “not willing to make sales.”

Vitinha’s €40 million release clause, which is worth around £33 million, is likely to stand.