Liverpool are reportedly eyeing Renato Sanches as a replacement for Georginio Wijnaldum, who looks set to leave in the summer.
Once arguably the most sought after midfield talent in the world, a move from Benfica to Bayern Munich was a disappointment.
Having shone at the 2016 European Championships with Portugal, the now 23-year-old couldn’t break into the Bavarians first team. From there, a disastrous loan move to Swansea City looked to have broken Sanches’ career.
However, after joining French side, Lille, the young Portuguese has found his form again.
Away from the pressure of a massive club in the limelight, he has shone as part of a resurgent Lille side. Able to play through the centre or on the right-wing, his quick feet and athleticism have made him a potent weapon for the Ligue 1 side.
Now, links to Liverpool have arisen, and if he joins, a second chance at the highest level of European football beckons.
What both Sanches and Wijnaldum offer is versatility and Liverpool will certainly cherish that. Whether it’s Fabinho, Gini Wijnaldum or James Milner, Jurgen Klopp likes his players to be positionally versatile.
However, once you look a bit deeper, there are differences between the two. For example, their use of the ball is markedly different.
Wijnaldum boasts a passing accuracy of 92% for the 20/21 season. Meanwhile, Sanches‘ completion rate stands at only 85%. This could be explained, however, by their differing use of the ball. Sanches is far more offensive in his passing, playing over 10 passes into the final third per 90.
Wijnaldum by contrast only hits four passes into the same area.
This noticeably more attacking intent to Sanches’ passing of course has its benefits. It would relieve some of the pressure on the full-backs to break the defensive lines and give Liverpool a creative threat through the centre.
However, given the position of those full-backs, mistakes with these forward-thinking passes could leave the Reds open to the counter.
If he is to replace Wijnaldum, Sanches’ use of the ball may have to become a bit more conservative to fit Klopp’s system.
His pressing numbers, however, are encouraging. He and Wijnaldum both average 13 pressures per 90, with Wijnaldum having a slightly higher success rate at 36% compared to 33%.
With these numbers, added to his age and profile, Sanches is every inch a Jurgen Klopp signing. There will of course be doubters. His time at Swansea was disastrous, and others will point to an underwhelming time in Germany.
However, Jurgen Klopp has shown his skill at providing a platform for under-appreciated youngsters before. With Renato Sanches, he could do so again.