Ramirez Rumour Review: Big-name stars linked as Champions League win boosts LFC’s profile further

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By Matthew Ramirez – @Matt_J_Ramirez

To those loyal Kopite readers who have been here from the start, you will recognise this series from our time during the January transfer window. To those of you who are new here, welcome” This is a segment where we look at the week’s tastiest transfer rumours revolving LFC and give our take.

Every week I will pick the three most linked players and discuss their performances over this past campaign, how they will fit into our squad and give my opinion on whether the signing is realistic or just another rubbish rumour.

To kick us off for summer 2019’s silly season, we kick-off with three huge rumours that just won’t seem to go away…

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Nabil Fekir – Olympique Lyonnais

Here we go again. Our season has just ended and this guy is already being linked with us again. Not going to lie guys, between last summer and January, I am pretty sick of hearing about Fekir.

There is no doubt he is a class act and would improve our side, but right now I’m just hoping he signs for someone, anyone, quickly so that the links can stop and we can finally put this one to bed. Regardless of my feelings towards this undying link, i’ll fill you in on the latest news surrounding the Frenchman.

Fekir is an advanced midfielder who can also deputise as a second striker. He is Lyon’s captain and, if latest reports are to be believed, he has told the higher-ups at the French club that he wants out by the end of the window. Other reports circulating are stating that he would also be available for as little as £15 million, which would be an absolute steal and a masterstroke by Michael Edwards if he ends up pulling this one off.

In terms of his stats, the World Cup-winner has 12 goals and nine assists across 39 games this season and is about to turn 26 meaning that, in theory, his prime is still ahead of him. Although his goal tally is down from last season (which saw him net 23), Fekir’s quality and creativity from midfield would still be a great asset to any club and I would love to see him at Liverpool.

I’m always hopeful of a deal being made, especially considering how we have been consistently and publicly linked with the lad for a solid year now. However, I am wary that neither club have confirmed negotiations as of yet and that the constant ‘links’ may be a ploy by journalists to attract readers.

If a deal is to go through I hope it is done sharpish, as I would much rather be writing a ‘transfer confirmed’ piece on the lad as opposed to having him appear in every Rumour Review.

Verdict: 2.5/5

Matthijs de Ligt – AFC Ajax

Last week I made a case for us not exactly needing de Ligt should all of our central defenders stay at the club. I still hold this opinion as I believe the young Dutchman shouldn’t be our No.1 priority in this window. With this being said, I would absolutely love it if we signed him. You can’t have enough good players at your club and he would certainly add to that.

Unfortunately for all of us, we aren’t the only team interested, and although we are a much more attractive prospect than we have been in previous seasons, I doubt the young Ajax man will choose Anfield as his next destination. This comes down to one reason. Money.

Do I believe that we have the finances capable of signing him, 100% yes. However, if reports are to be believed that De Ligt is looking for wages in the region of £250,000 a week (which would make him our highest earner), then regardless of our ability to pay that, I highly doubt that we will.

According to Spotrac, our highest earner at the moment is Mo Salah who is in fact on £200,000 a week, with Virgil van Dijk and Roberto Firmino coming second behind the Egyptian, both earning £180,000 a week.

These figures show that Liverpool have the capability to pay high wages, but the difference is that these three have proven that they are world-class and, more importantly, that they are able to excel at Premier League level. Moreover, making the 19-year-old the club’s highest earner straight off the bat could disturb the balance of squad, something which I believe is too great a risk to take – such as Arsenal with Mesut Ozil and Manchester United with Alexis Sanchez.

Although de Ligt has played at a very high level this season, it is important to note that he is not Premier League-tested and that this is also his breakthrough season on the world stage. Many players have shown an ability to perform at the top level for a single season, but they fail to repeat in future. One thing Liverpool will be wary of is tying themselves down to a long-term high paying contract that may not be worthwhile in the long run.

I am by no means stating that de Ligt will be a flop should he come to the Premier League, but it is something to consider as we have witnessed more experienced players struggle in England despite being held in high regard on the continent. Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Tiémoué Bakayoko and World Cup-winner Shkodran Mustafi are just a few examples.

With this being said, if Liverpool decide they are willing to pay the money then they should definitely target him. He would definitely improve our side and develop the defensive relationship he already has with Virgil van Dijk at international level. This season, the young captain has helped Ajax keep 24 clean sheets in his 55 appearances and he has also aided the side by scoring seven goals and assisting a further four times.

I hope we are able to make this rumour a reality but at the moment I’m not quite sure how realistic that would be.

Verdict: 2/5

Nicolas Pépé – LOSC Lille

This is the guy I think that Liverpool should be looking to get through the door – and if reports are to be believed then there is a realistic chance of this happening very soon.

Not many had heard of the young Ivorian until this season, but he was already starting to court interest around Europe last year. In the 2017/18 campaign, Pépé featured 38 times for a struggling Lille side which finished 17th in Ligue 1.

Operating down the right wing, the tricky winger notched 14 goals and five assists as he proved to be an important player in ensuring top flight survival for the French side. This season he has improved on those numbers and now every top club is on high alert.

Having played 41 games this past season, Pépé has blasted home 23 goals and laid on 12 assists as he starred in a remarkable Lille revival which saw the club finish second in the league, their highest finish since winning the division back in the 2010/11 season.

If we break it down, the winger looks like an ideal signing for us at the moment. Firstly he is a very talented attacking threat that would provide us extensive cover for Mo Salah down the right wing – which is where he predominately plays.

Secondly though, Pépé is a very versatile player and he has shown an ability this season to excel in any attacking position, including leading the attack in the No.9 role. This again only adds to his value as his arrival would mean added cover for Roberto Firmino as well as Sadio Mané.

Moreover, as opposed to solely providing cover, the Ivorian would also provide extra fire power off the bench. This is something which we have lacked this season, in contrast to Manchester City who have the likes of Leroy Sané and Gabriel Jesus as usual substitutes.

His addition would also put extra pressure on our famed front three as he will undoubtedly look to push on and fight for a place in the first team. Although Mané, Salah and Firmino are already performing at a very high level, the prospect of them upping their game a further gear to keep Pépé out of the team is an exciting prospect.

Current reports swirling around at the moment claim that Lille have given the player permission to speak with the Reds, and a reported figure of around £60 million is being suggested. I do in fact believe that this rumour has some meat to it, and I can see Edwards and co pulling this one off rather sharpish.

Hopefully in the next few days I will find myself writing an in depth look at ‘Nicolas Pépé, the newest Kopite’.

Verdict: 4/5

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