One of the hottest talents in European football could be heading for the Premier League.
There was never any doubting Jurgen Klopp, surely? Last term Liverpool looked a shadow of the team that had run Manchester City so close to the title, and indeed won the Premier League during that bizarre campaign during the pandemic.
The club had lost its aura and that was largely due to a paperweight midfield that was without a cut and thrust capable of competing with the barnstorming central areas that City and Arsenal possess.
They lacked a Rodri, a Thomas Partey, players who crash around while still bringing an element of class to the way they use the football.
However, in 2023/24, that problem has been fixed. A holding midfielder is perhaps still required but in Dominik Szoboszlai, Ryan Gravenberch and Alexis Mac Allister, a brighter picture has been painted.
So, the thought of adding to that young triumvirate of players is exciting. Enter the January transfer window…
Liverpool’s January plans
Chief among the club’s plans for the upcoming transfer window will be keeping Mohamed Salah who was the subject of a mega bid from Saudi in the summer.
The thought of their great Egyptian leaving in the next few years is becoming more of a reality the longer time goes on and finding an heir apparent is wise.
It perhaps explains recent links to Bayer Leverkusen sensation Florian Wirtz. The German has attracted the interest of Chelsea of late according to reports but Liverpool are in the conversation too.
Indeed, as per claims in Spain, the Reds are even preparing a €92m (£80m) bid to lure the 20-year-old away from the Bundesliga.
Wirtz’s stats this season
Widely renowned as one of the most promising young footballers on the continent, Wirtz has recovered exceptionally well from a horrendous ACL injury that kept him out of action for the best part of nine months in the latter stages of 2022.
Despite that, he was still able to feature 25 times across all competitions for Leverkusen last term, posting four goals and eight assists.
In 2023/24, however, he has gone to another level. Under the wing of former Liverpool hero Xabi Alonso, Wirtz already has six goals and ten assists in 17 outings.
It’s been a remarkable start to the season for a young talent who sadly for Alonso seems destined for greater pastures.
Wirtz’s style of play
Wirtz is a phenomenally versatile player having played on the wing fleetingly in his young career, as well as a second striker and as a classic number 10. It’s in that attacking midfield position, however, where he’s been electric this season.
A right-footed talent, the player’s heat map (as per Sofascore) dictates that he likes to drift inside onto his favoured foot, often operating in the left-hand channel.
Though, as a remarkable goal in October (shown below) dictates, he can also operate equally as well on the opposing side, gliding past players in jaw-dropping fashion.
This is seemingly a player who has it all. Anton Ferdinand, whether you take his opinion seriously or not, is one man who has been left in awe of the Germany international who he claimed should be spoken about “in the same way as Bellingham”, a man Liverpool were so religiously linked with before his move to Real Madrid.
Klopp may have Szoboszlai in his ranks now, a man compared to the marvellous Philippe Coutinho but truth be told, Wirtz is the true heir.
Like the Brazilian who left Anfield for Barcelona, he likes those left-hand channels, cutting inside and unleashing a deadly dose of creativity.
At his peak, Coutinho was a freak of nature in the opposition’s third of the pitch. During 2017/18, he sat inside the top 2% of positionally similar players in the Premier League for progressive passes per 90 (11.77) and progressive carries (5.60).
Wirtz isn’t quite the same level of ball carrier, managing 4.23 per 90 this season in the Bundesliga, but his creativity is immense. Ranking inside the top 2% of positionally similar players in the German top-flight, he has registered 7.59 progressive passes. It’s not quite the dizzy heights of Coutinho just yet but at the age of just 20, these numbers will certainly get even better.
Such a generational talent would, therefore, be a wonderful addition to the Anfield ranks. It’s just a pity they’ll have to break the bank to seal their next Coutinho.