Jurgen Klopp praises Liverpool target Joao Palhinha as Fulham’s “connector”

It was a close-fought game at Anfield on Wednesday, with the presence of Joao Palhinha in midfield for Fulham vindicating Liverpool’s interest.

Palhinha is among the many midfielders being considered for a move to Anfield this summer, as Jurgen Klopp plots a rebuild in the middle of the park.

In March, the Mail‘s Sami Mokbel credited Liverpool with “serious” interest in the Portuguese, while GOAL‘s Neil Jones and the Mail‘s Dominic King are among those on Merseyside to corroborate reports.

There is no suggestion at this stage that Palhinha is high on the club’s list of targets, with Sporting CP’s Manuel Ugarte and Brighton‘s Moises Caicedo among the ball-winning midfielders also tracked.

But speaking in his post-match press conference, Klopp name-checked the 27-year-old as Fulham‘s “connector,” explaining that he made it a tough night.

“Defending the centre against Fulham is really important, because Palhinha is there,” he told reporters.

“That’s their connector, to get on the ball.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, May 3, 2023: Liverpool's Luis Diaz (L) is challenged by Fulham's João Palhinha during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Given the landscape of the game, with Liverpool seeing more of possession and being the dominant attacking side, it is no surprise that most of Fulham‘s touches of the ball came within their own half.

Per WhoScored, only centre-backs Tosin Adarabioyo (89) and Issa Diop (81) and right-back Cedric Soares (75) had more touches than Palhinha (71), who largely stayed at the base of the midfield.

Palhinha won seven tackles – with the next-highest across both teams being three – and made two interceptions, while he completed 91.1 percent of his attempted passes.

There were two successful dribbles and two shots on goal, too, with it clear that Fulham‘s No. 26 is crucial to all aspects of their game.

Klopp’s description of Palhinha as a “connector” rings true, then, with everything going through him in the middle of the park.

Whether it could be seen as an audition for the Portugal international – who only joined Fulham from Sporting CP last summer, in a deal worth £20 million – is unclear.

But the Liverpool manager’s praise for Palhinha shows he is certainly on his radar.