The latest midfielder to cause a stir among Liverpool fans on social media, Saúl Ñiguez is certainly worth a closer look.
Aged 26, the Atlético Madrid man is coming towards the years we have all come to know as a players peak. So, should a transfer to Liverpool or elsewhere materialise, there will be high expectations.
Let’s learn a little more about the man linked with a move to Merseyside.
What type of player is Saúl?
He is an equally accomplished orthodox central midfielder (if such a position exists in the modern era) or defensive central midfielder – given his employers and, in particular, his manager, the latter would be the position where he has plied his trade most frequently.
He is well versed at playing in a system with very clear defensive duties, as you could never accuse a Diego Simeone side as being particularly expansive. If he were to join Liverpool’s midfield, the very specific press and counter press adopted under Jürgen Klopp would likely not prove too much for him, neither physically nor tactically.
He would become our only genuine left footed central midfielder, which would compliment the already lightning-quick transitions. After all, shaping a ball into the path of Sadio Mané at full tilt is so much easier when not using the outside of your right boot or your weaker foot.
Saúl has cultured left foot and has scored some Gerrard-esque long-rangers in his time. He would add guile and goals to the Reds, as well as a wide-ranging passing game. Physically, he would be able to compete. But, and perhaps most importantly, he plays on the front foot looking forward, an attribute that would be well received by the Anfield faithful.
What has Saúl done in his Madrid career?
Born in Elche, Alicante, the Spaniard’s youth career started with Real Madrid before moving to cross-city rivals Atléti in 2008. He made his senior debut some three years later, before a season-long loan to Rayo Vallecano in 2013/14 where he made 34 appearances and earned a place in the starting XI on his return to the capital.
Since then, he has gone on to play more than 200 first team games scoring a surprisingly low 26 goals. Less surprising are his honours – he has won the Copa del Rey and Europa League on two occasions each, as well as a La Liga title and a European Super Cup success.
So it’s fair to say he would arrive with a winning mentality and not be adverse to the challenges of playing a club with a rich European and domestic pedigree.
In the modern era Spain has produced a swathe of world-class central midfield players, and during his career he is yet to fully nail down a regular starting berth in the international engine room. But being behind the likes of Andrés Iniesta, David Silva and Cesc Fábregas is hardly something to be ashamed of.
Why is Saúl linked with Liverpool?
If this were two years ago it would seem completely inconceivable that Saúl might be at a juncture in his career where a move might be on the cards such was his importance to Simeone. But as we know form isn’t a given and players suffer peaks and troughs.
So his potential availability should come with a little bit of a reality check. His form has been poor in the last year and the idea of players moving as “they need a new challenge” often needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.
So we wait and see. Could this be a ruse to initiate contract negotiations, or is he genuinely an option? If Klopp and his team have used tried and tested player profiling technique and Saúl is a fit, then of course we should all back that call.
Who else has been linked with Liverpool’s midfield?
If the rumour mill is to be believed, then there are several midfield players being considered by the transfer gurus at Anfield.
The likes of Yves Bissouma of Brighton and Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans seem more likely possibilities. The idea of Bayern Munich star Leon Goretzka is a little more far-fetched, but what’s a transfer window without a bit of romance?
Sandwiched in between these links, tenuous as they are, we have also seen rumours surrounding Florian Neuhaus, Renato Sanches and Sander Berge taking up the column inches in recent weeks and months.
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