Liverpool have stepped up their pursuit of Ryan Gravenberch in recent days. But who is the Bayern Munich midfielder and how could he fit in?
According to the Times‘ Jonathan Northcroft, the club have “stepped up” their efforts to sign Gravenberch, valued at £25 million, including talks with his father and agent in the Netherlands.
This comes as part of a planned rebuild of the midfield ranks this summer, with the Dutchman expected to be one of at least three new faces brought in.
Gravenberch may be a familiar name, but many supporters may still be unaware of the 20-year-old ahead of a proposed switch to Merseyside.
So who is Liverpool target Ryan Gravenberch?
Who is Ryan Gravenberch?
Though he does not turn 21 until May, Gravenberch has been on the senior stage for almost five years now, having emerged as a 16-year-old at Ajax.
His debut against PSV Eindhoven in 2018 made him the youngest-ever Ajax player to feature in the Eredivisie, breaking a record held by Clarence Seedorf for almost 26 years.
A product of the Ajax academy, who he joined from local club AVV Zeeburgia in 2010, Gravenberch swiftly established himself as a key player in Amsterdam.
He made 103 appearances over four seasons, with 12 goals and 13 assists, before joining Bayern in a £21 million deal last summer.
Like Virgil van Dijk and Gini Wijnaldum, he is of Surinamese descent, and he made his debut for the Netherlands national team in 2021.
What type of player is he?
“I’m a big player, but also technical,” Gravenberch explained after joining Bayern in 2022.
The 6’3″ Dutchman has largely been deployed as a central midfielder for both Ajax and Bayern, either in a two-man or three-man unit, and recently Thomas Tuchel explained he is at his best as a No. 8.
Upon his switch to Munich, Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said:
“Ryan Gravenberch will offer a lot to our team.
“He’s one of the biggest talents in Europe, has superb technical ability, always finds solutions in tight spaces, is very dynamic and a goal threat.”
And during pre-season, Bayern team-mate Joshua Kimmich explained that he “hardly loses a ball.”
Gravenberch is a progressive midfield player who looks to move the ball up the pitch whenever possible, with FBref statistics claiming Alexis Mac Allister as the midfielder he is most similar to.
What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Gravenberch is at his best as a ball-carrying, line-breaking No. 8, who is also capable of dropping deeper to build up play from the No. 6 position.
He is far from the finished product, but he slots in well as a midfielder who carries possession before linking with the attacking players, while also serving as a goal threat.
Over the past year, Gravenberch is in the 95th percentile for shot-creating actions among midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues, and in the 93rd percentile for expected goals and assists.
However, there remain concerns over his work rate off the ball, with Munich publication Abendzeitung Munchen reporting in November that Bayern coaches identified his defensive game as “problematic.”
Where would he fit in at Liverpool?
Gravenberch could seemingly be considered a work in progress – who, it would appear, has not been trusted at Bayern, with only four starts and 711 minutes on the pitch this season.
But there is a clear vacancy in Klopp’s midfield ranks, and though the Dutchman is unlikely to arrive as a first-choice starter, he could fit the mould as one of the No. 8s.
If there are reservations over his off-ball work, however, it may require time on the training ground before he is given a regular role.
Arriving as one of three new midfield signings should suit this, as Gravenberch could, at least initially, take up one of the squad roles currently held by Naby Keita, Arthur and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The hope would be that he could then progress and develop into the world-class midfielder he was projected to be at Ajax.