Liverpool began their Champions League defence with a trip to face Napoli, a fixture loaded with potential to disrupt the Reds’ perfect start to the season.
It was a team that caused the Reds untold problems in the equivalent fixture last season. Despite going on to add a sixth Champions League to the Melwood cabinet, Liverpool’s away record in the group stage was rightly maligned. The Reds lost all three away fixtures, with the Napoli reverse owing to a 90th minute winner from Lorenzo Insigne.
Insigne, a player historically linked with the Reds, dented Liverpool’s hopes on the night. The Italian’s contribution fuelled an ever-growing clamour for his arrival on Merseyside. Liverpool’s rampant front three – plus a surprisingly resurgent Divock Origi – assuaged the need for such a signing, with speculation subsiding considerably since.
Liverpool’s transfer needs have piqued an interest in another Napoli player, with Spaniard Fabian Ruiz seemingly being watched by Jürgen Klopp. Slightly pejorative terms have been applied to the Reds midfield, with fans and pundits commenting on a perceived lack of eclecticism in the central area of the pitch.
Notwithstanding the individual – and collective – brilliance of Gini Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, and Naby Keïta, innovation dictates that Liverpool will be looking to potential signings.
Having reached the pinnacle of European football once more, the trick now is to remain there. Consolidated success correlates with having a variety of ways to win. The signing of Fabián Ruiz would give Liverpool a fuller arsenal.
The former Real Betis player models himself on Barcelona legend Xavi, but presents slightly more explosively than his compatriot. Fabián made 40 appearances in his maiden season with Napoli, scoring seven goals.
In an excessively talented Spanish midfield, he made his national debut in June this year. Sergio Busquets believes he can become the best midfielder in the world. He’s only 23. And his mother is his idol.
Beyond this, Ruiz has a 91% pass accuracy in Serie A this season. That’s higher than Henderson (79), Milner (82), Fabinho (85) and Wijnaldum (90). Passing statistics aren’t a steadfast barometer of performance, particularly given the Premier League’s reputation as the toughest domestic league.
Yet what Ruiz’s statistics show is a focus on caring for the ball, combined with his defining dynamism. Liverpool would greatly benefit from having a player of such pedigree, whatever the known quality of the current midfield.
Against the Reds at the San Paolo, he ran the show. Only Trent Alexander-Arnold saw more possession than the midfielder as he helped his side to a solid performance. With a 91% pass success rate, and 100% success in dribbling and tackling, he hardly put a foot wrong against the European champions.
The game gave Liverpool fans the chance to have a closer look at someone who could really improve the Reds’ options. As a fanbase famed for being able to appreciate talent in the opposition, the Spaniard’s performance will no doubt be well-received by all corners.