2WKN2WP Porto's Alan Varela during the UEFA Champions League match at Estadio do Dragao in Porto, Portugal. Picture date: Wednesday February 21, 2024.

Liverpool in ‘formal talks’ over £60m Porto midfielder they have scouted for years

Liverpool are claimed to have begun “formal talks” over a deal for Porto midfielder Alan Varela, with interest dating back to his time in Argentina.

While the Reds are yet to appoint their next manager, work will be going on behind the scenes when it comes to reshaping the squad for next season.

One such target, it appears, could be Varela, the 22-year-old defensive midfielder who has shone since making the move to Porto last summer.

According to Argentine journalist Luis Fregossi, Liverpool have entered “formal talks” with Porto over a deal that would land the player’s former club, Boca Juniors, a 20 percent payout.

Varela has a release clause in his contract worth €70 million (£60.4m), which would see Boca receive €14 million (£12.1m).

Liverpool are said to be “closest to hiring” Varela, who “already knows what contract he would have” if he were to make the switch to Anfield – which, Fregossi claims, would “surely take place in June.”

It is not the first time Liverpool have been linked with the Argentine, and in fact they have been tracking his progress for years.

Scouts were reported to have been in attendance for a number of Boca Juniors fixtures in 2023, prior to Varela’s €11 million switch to Porto last summer.

Scouts have watched him in Portugal

They have monitored his performances since, with Portuguese newspaper O Jogo claiming earlier this month that scouts watched Porto’s 2-1 defeat to Vitoria SC.

Liverpool are not alone in their interest, of course, with Man City, Man United, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund all linked.

But Fregossi’s updates are certainly intriguing, with a further addition in midfield likely as Thiago prepares to depart at the end of the season.

Varela is a natural No. 6 who is particularly comfortable in possession, with FBref listing him in the 92nd percentile for pass completion among midfielders across the top 15 leagues in football.

Sporting Lisbon head coach Ruben Amorim dismissed reports linking him with Liverpool (John Walton/PA)

Crucially, the Argentina U23 midfielder has a perfect record when it comes to injuries, with his only absence reported by Transfermarkt due to COVID-19 quarantine in 2021, when he missed two games for Boca Juniors.

A new team of sporting director Richard Hughes and assistant David Woodfine are coordinating with Fenway Sports Group’s CEO of Football Michael Edwards and Liverpool’s recruitment staff when it comes to targets this summer.

Many of those will be long-standing, as the club shifts back to a data-led process after conceding power to Jurgen Klopp in recent seasons.

Portugal will be considered a key market, particularly with Sporting CP’s Ruben Amorim the front-runner to take over from Klopp – and Varela has now proved himself capable of stepping up.