While it has been widely reported that Liverpool have completed their transfer deal for the summer, rumors linking players to moves to Anfield continue to circulate. You can’t blame the agents for pushing these stories on their clients, when the Reds’ interest is a serious seal of approval these days.
The club may have only made three signings, but their deals have revamped three sections of the team. The acquisitions of Calvin Ramsay, Fabio Carvalho and Darwin Nunez will provide an injection of exciting young talent in defence, midfield and attacking line respectively.
But, having lost Aurelien Tchouameni, it’s clear the Reds were aiming to add another top star to their center-park options. It has been claimed that they are interested in signing Nicolo Barella from Inter Milan for £85m, and it’s obvious how these stories might have started.
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Jurgen Klopp spoke about him before the Champions League duel with Inter Milan. “He is a very good player, a very good player. I like him a lot,” Klopp said. “He has everything you want in a midfielder. He’s aggressive, he’s technically [good]he can run for a long time and all that sort of stuff.” With praise as exaggerated as that, transfer calls between Barella and the Reds were inevitable.
The 25-year-old has just enjoyed the most creative season of his career, scoring 12 goals as Inter failed to defend their Serie A title. Just seven players from Europe’s top five leagues (one of whom was Mohamed Salah) received more assists in 2021/22.
And while Liverpool’s midfielders are unlikely to create goals, Barella’s record puts the Reds’ lack of power from central areas into focus. Nine different men started a league game in the midfield of Klopp’s team last season, and in those matches the players in question collectively contributed 12 assists, to equal the Italian’s total.
Barella’s other stats also illustrate that he can press, carry the ball well and cross and pass into the penalty area regularly. While a move to Liverpool seems very unlikely at this point, there is little doubt that he has the skills that would catch the attention of the club’s scouts and analysts.
However, with the midfielders Klopp can call up, the Reds don’t necessarily need to sign another one. As they went after Tchouameni, this may have been partly due to his availability rather than because they needed to meet an urgent need.
With reports emerging that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is set to stay at Liverpool to fulfill the final year of his contract, the need for reinforcements in midfield naturally retracts. This works in more ways than one, as according to Statsbomb data, one of the players most similar to the former Arsenal player is Barella.
According to FBRef, Oxlade-Chamberlain has racked up some impressive numbers in the past year, although he doesn’t play as often as he would like. He ranks among the top four midfielders in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain in stats such as pressing in the final third and pressing success rate, taking the ball to the third striker or opponent’s area and passing into the penalty area. .
That is, Liverpool already have their Barella in the form of Oxlade-Chamberlain. His performances were disappointing at times in 2021/22, which helps explain why he hasn’t started a European league or game after mid-February.
But the numbers suggest he was still producing at a pretty good standard, and it will be interesting to see how often he plays for the Reds next season. It is very unlikely that Barella will.