Liverpool Opinion: Benfica starlet linked with a world-record move to Anfield
According to the Metro, Liverpool have opened negotiations with Benfica over a potential world-record transfer move for 21-year-old centre-back Francisco Reis Ferreira in the summer, with Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund also interested in the Portuguese youth international.
Ferreira made his senior first-team debut last month and has established himself as a mainstay in Bruno Lage’s side, catching the eyes of several top clubs across Europe with his consistently impressive performances at the back.
The Record claims that Liverpool have been monitoring Ferreira for quite a while and the Reds had made a move to take the youngster on loan with an option to buy him permanently for £10million back in 2017, only to see their offer turned down by Benfica.
However, Liverpool will have to shatter their own club-record fee of £75 million which they paid for Virgil van Dijk if the Reds want to sign Ferreira in the summer, with the player recently putting pen to paper on a new contract with a mammoth release clause of £85 million.
With some of the elite clubs across Europe lining up a big-money move for the youngster, let us take a closer look at one of Benfica’s most highly-rated prospects- Francisco Reis Ferreira.
Born in the city of Oliveira de Azeméis, Porto, Portugal, Ferreira joined the Benfica youth system in 2011 and was promoted to the reserve team in the 2015-16 season.
After his impressive displays for the reserve team, Ferreira was promoted to Benfica’s first team in February 2019 and he made his debut as a substitute in a 2-1 victory over Sporting CP in the semi-finals of the Taca de Portugal. Ferreira scored his first goal in his first start for Benfica, netting the sixth in a 10-0 drubbing of Nacional in the Primeira Liga.
The 21-year-old has been able to replicate his amazing displays in the Europa League as well, scoring in victories over Galatasaray in the Round of 32 followed by the winner against Dynamo Zagreb in the second leg of the Round of 16 tie.
Ferreira has won a total of 51 caps for Portugal at all youth levels, including 8 at the U21 level.
Style of Play
Standing at 6ft. 4 inches with a towering frame, Ferreira ia very much a physically dominating centre-half who excels with his aerial ability. He has a good jump and gets off the ground quickly to beat his offensive counterparts to the aerial balls inside the box.
Despite being tall and strong, Ferreira is very sharp and agile for a centre-back of his stature. He has shown amazing game-reading ability, both in the air and off the ground, which allows him to cut out attacks effortlessly. Truth be told, Ferreira hasn’t looked like a 21-year-old rookie playing in his first season at the senior level, with his high levels of awareness and astute positioning at the back making him look like an impenetrable wall at the heart of the defence.
Ferreira has also impressed with his decision-making and composure, knowing exactly when to slide in, whilst preferring to stay on his feet and intercept on other occasions. To add to that, the Portuguese starlet is blessed with exceptional ball-playing qualities, calm in possession and adept at playing the ball out from the back with his range of passing. He often tends to switch the play with his pinpoint long-passing, which is certainly another valuable asset in his CV.
The 21-year-old averages 57.2 passes per game with an accuracy percentage of 88.5, including 5.2 successful long balls, 1.8 tackles, 1.6 interceptions and 3.8 clearances per game in the Liga NOS this term, figures which speak volumes of his well-rounded attributes as a central defender.
What does the future hold?
Ferreira has already shown strong signs of excellence and is currently enjoying a wonderful breakout season in the Primeira Liga. However, he is still very much inexperienced at the highest level and a move to the Premier League would be a massive jump for him both in terms of quality and intensity.
£85 million might be a bit too much for Liverpool to splash on a relatively unproven talent but Jurgen Klopp has definitely seen something in the player which has prompted the Reds to open negotiations. If the move does eventually materialise for Ferreira, he will have to compete with the likes of established players like Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip.
Given that neither Matip nor Lovren has looked particularly solid during their time at Anfield, Liverpool might just consider making a move for Ferreira to increase competition for places alongside van Dijk at the heart of the defence.
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The 21-year-old definitely has the potential to make the grade at Liverpool and it shouldn’t be surprising to see him don the famous red jersey for years to come if the Merseyside giants manage to land him in the summer.
Slow and steady – Here’s how Klopp has successfully built a Liverpool squad that doesn’t need major additions anymore
Liverpool opinion: How Klopp has built a squad that doesn’t need major additions
Until the summer of 2015, three months before the arrival of Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool were a club that usually signed raw talents. The idea was to groom them over two to three seasons and then the big clubs would snap those up players to enhance the quality of their own squads.
For instance, at the end of a rollercoaster 2013/14 campaign where the Steven Gerrard slip was famous and Brendan Rodgers’ Reds missed the title by a whisker, the club were more scared of losing their best player Luis Suarez instead of readying themselves to work wonders again the following season.
That fear eventually turned into reality when the Uruguayan made his move to Barcelona and Liverpool had to contend with replacements of the likes of Rickie Lambert, Mario Balotelli, who, with all due respect, are nowhere near Suarez’s quality.
Arrival of Klopp
When Jurgen Klopp arrived in October 2015, the first of many challenges lying ahead of him was to turn his squad and the city of Liverpool from doubters to believers. And those were the German’s words during his first interview as well.
It took him some time but the former Borussia Dortmund boss has got it right in due course of time.
When he first arrived, muscle injuries to players and inconsistency was the general theme of things. However, the manager remained calm and kept working to improve the quality of this squad.
In terms of transfer activities, the research work of Michael Edwards, the inputs of Michael Gordon, and Klopp’s trust in the duo have worked wonders in the past two to three summer windows.
The trio has a specific open-book style of work when it comes to identifying players who can better their squad. They don’t always look for the big names; rather the focus is on matching the profile of the player with the system of play currently deployed at Melwood training centre.
Because of this, we have seen since the summer of 2016 that despite not spending enormous money, they have built a squad worthy of challenging for every trophy possible in European and English football.
Furthermore, there is a belief among the players that they can win special things here rather than just making personal progress and win trophies elsewhere.
Shrewd transfer businesses
Not many approved of that transfer but the combo of Klopp-Gordon-Edwards had faith in their process and now, the left-back is one of the best in the world.
Liverpool also signed Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah in subsequent summers and gelled them with Roberto Firmino as one of the deadliest front lines in Europe.
While these things were put into place, the need for a commanding centre-back was apparent. Virgil van Dijk was earmarked as the transfer target in the summer of 2017 but Southampton weren’t happy with how Liverpool approached them for the transfer.
At this point in time, any other manager would have panicked and looked for alternative solutions but not Klopp.
He remained calm while Edwards and co. took their time to repair the broken relationship with Southampton and eventually, Van Dijk’s transfer was completed six months after the desired time.
With Loris Karius committing blunders in the 2018 Champions League final, Alisson had to be bought and Liverpool did just that, convincing Roma to sell the Brazilian to them ahead of Chelsea or Real Madrid (h/t Metro).
Same was the case with the signings of Fabinho, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Klopp-Edwards-Gordon trio earmarked these progressive midfield players as their targets and got the deals done without much trouble.
Squad is complete and doesn’t require major additions
Having won the Champions League three weeks back, Liverpool are in a situation where they can approach any big player this smmer.
However, things have been pretty quiet so far and the focus should only be on adding backups in certain positions rather than going helter-skelter to enhance the quality of a certain area.
The goalkeeping options are fixed, with Alisson as number one and Simon Mignolet as the backup. The back four are settled, apart from the fact that they need Andy Robertson’s backup after the departure of Alberto Moreno.
The midfield is an area where Liverpool are most complete. With Naby Keita taking time to settle in his first season at Anfield and Oxlade-Chamberlain expected to be fully fit during this pre-season, they will be like new signings for the club. Adam Lallana looks adamant to stay at the club and fight for his place in the team.
In the front line, the trio of Mane, Salah and Firmino are fixed, with able support coming from Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri. Also, expect the promising Rhian Brewster to get some game time next season.
Besides a new left-back, they would do well by signing an extra winger, who can deputise for Salah/Mane as per the requirement.
Reading through Liverpool’s slow yet steady progress in terms of building their squad goes to show that trust, clarity in thought and focus on a strong foundation are the most important things in club football.
For this reason, the Reds are quiet in this transfer window and two more backup additions would further enhance their chances of challenging for more trophies next season.
Liverpool would succeed in replacing Alberto Moreno by signing this 22-year-old La Liga ace with €50m release clause
Liverpool Opinion: Why Junior Firpo would be a brilliant fit at Anfield?
Junior Firpo, 22, had an injury-hit season with Real Betis that limited him to just 29 appearances across all competitions. He has a contract until 2023 at Betis and the La Liga club are adamant that any club who wants the flying left-back must pay his release clause, which is €50 million.
The report claims that Barcelona are also interested in the Spanish U-21 international, as the La Liga champions view him as someone that could be a back-up to Jordi Alba and at the same time also develop into a world-class player.
However, Liverpool must do everything possible to beat Barcelona to the signing of Firpo.
The Reds have spent heavily in the transfer market over the course of the last 18 months, recruiting Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk. And the moves have worked wonders as Alisson and Van Dijk were the pillars for Liverpool’s Champions League triumph last season, although they missed out on the Premier League title to Manchester City.
Jurgen Klopp wants to reinforce the left-hand side of his team’s defence after the Merseysiders released Alberto Moreno upon the expiration of his contract this summer.
Moreno has played as a back-up to Andrew Robertson for the last couple of seasons at Anfield and he flattered to deceive in the limited performances. There was no way the Spaniard could get the nod ahead of Robertson, who cemented his reputation as one of Europe’s prime attacking left-backs last term.
With Moreno being released, Klopp has Robertson as the only left-back in his squad. To add a quality back-up for one of his key players in the Scotland international, the Liverpool boss must sign Junior Firpo.
A left-back by trade, Firpo is adept at playing as a left-sided midfielder or out wide, which will give Klopp a lot of tactical flexibility. He predominantly played on the left-wing for Betis last season, scoring three goals and registering five assists.
The 22-year-old has pace and power in abundance, with the ability to get forward and deliver teasing crosses into the box. He is an energetic presence on the left flank and despite being attack-minded, Firpo is also defensively sharp.
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Not only will Firpo compete with Robertson at left-back but he also can influence play further up the pitch. Klopp could use the Spanish Under-21 international’s versatility to great effect, mostly while giving rest to Sadio Mane in times of need. The fact that Firpo is a similar kind of left-back to Robertson would bode well for Klopp.
At just 22, Firpo is an exciting prospect and even if he will cost a pretty penny, Liverpool must not think twice in splashing the cash to get his signature.
Liverpool would find Alisson’s ideal understudy by signing this reliable 29-year-old Englishman – Here’s why
Liverpool Opinion: Alex McCarthy would be a good enough understudy to Alisson at Anfield
Mignolet and Loris Karius shared the No.1 role between the sticks at Anfield in the 2017-18 season but it has been all one-way traffic since the start of the previous campaign, with Brazilian international Alisson establishing himself as the undisputed first-choice under Jurgen Klopp.
Alisson, who was brought in from Roma last summer as a part of Liverpool’s spending spree, played a key role with the gloves this past season, as the Reds finished runners-up to Man City in the Premier League and clinched the Champions League title.
The Brazilian’s dominance in goal led to the sidelining of former No.1 Simon Mignolet, who made only one FA Cup and one League Cup appearance for Liverpool over the course of the previous campaign.
Mignolet’s desire to leave the club is quite understandable, given that a goalkeeper of his quality deserves to play a lot more at the highest level. Liverpool are expected to demand a sizeable fee for the ex-No.1 but, with the likes of Watford, Norwich City, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth all weighing up moves for the 31-year-old, one cannot help but feel that Liverpool are not going to have the luxury of having the hugely experienced Belgian as Alisson’s understudy next season. (h/t Daily Mail)
Alex McCarthy is not the only goalkeeper to have been linked with a move to Anfield in recent weeks, with the Daily Mail breaking the news that the Reds had made an enquiry about the availability of Cardiff City shot-stopper Neil Etheridge. However, as the reports suggest, Liverpool have now turned their attention towards Southampton’s McCarthy, as the search for an understudy to Alisson goes on.
The 29-year-old started as the No.1 between the sticks at St. Mary’s last term but a poor run of form coupled with the arrival of Ralph Hasenhuttl saw Angus Gunn finish the campaign as the new No.1 for the Saints. McCarthy conceded as many as 44 goals in 25 Premier League games for Southampton, managing just 4 clean sheets in the process.
While those numbers do not flatter whatsoever, Southampton as a unit underperformed in the first half of the last season under Mark Hughes, meaning that McCarthy’s performances weren’t that horrible after all. In fact, the 29-year-old made his England debut in a 3-0 victory over the United States at Wembley last year, almost six years to the day he received his first ever international call-up.
A youth graduate of Reading, McCarthy has enjoyed a nomadic career across the various divisions of English football, featuring for the likes of non-league sides Woking and Cambridge, Leeds United and Ipswich Town in the Championship, as well as for QPR, Southampton and Crystal Palace in the Premier League.
However, he has struggled to establish himself as the undisputed first-choice at St. Mary’s following his 2016 move from Palace, making just 50 appearances for the Saints in all competitions.
To put things into perspective, Southampton already have the likes of Fraser Forster and Angus Gunn in their ranks, so the Saints might be tempted to cash in on McCarthy should Liverpool come up with a good enough offer.
Although the chances of the 29-year-old playing regularly at Anfield look very slim, the prospect of playing for the Champions League winners might as well appeal to McCarthy, who remains hopeful of adding to his solitary England cap.
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With all due respect to Alisson, it is a no-brainer that Liverpool cannot afford to embark on the upcoming season with one senior goalkeeper in their ranks. McCarthy, though not a world-beater by any means, would be more than a useful back-up for Alisson, with Mignolet’s departure looking inevitable.
Having spent a fortune last summer, Liverpool look set for a quiet transfer window this time around following an incredible run in the Premier League and Champions League this past season. However, the arrival of Alex McCarthy would add much-needed depth in a key area for Jurgen Klopp.
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