Liverpool eye triple Premier League transfer raid as FSG consider £73m squad refresher
‘Premier League proven’ is a phrase that has come to be met with some disdain when engaging in transfer commentary, but the old mantra has held up fairly well for Liverpool in recent times. Looking through the club’s business under FSG, it is necessary to go all the way back to 2017 to find even one intra-league transfer where the value for money was questionable: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has had his moments, but injuries have prevented him living up to the price tag.
Since then, Virgil van Dijk, Xherdan Shaqiri, Diogo Jota and Harvey Elliott have come through the doors. Adrián was technically a free agent when he signed, so he can be excluded, although given the lack of transfer fee it is not like the Spaniard was awful business either. Even so, ignoring him, the success is almost absolute.
Shaqiri had exactly the kind of impact expected for a budget buy, contributing in key moments such as the Barcelona fightback. Van Dijk has of course been one of the most transformative signings of Liverpool’s modern era. Jota has settled in seamlessly at Anfield, while Elliott looks like one of the most exciting talents in the game.
In that same period, Naby Keïta, Thiago and Takumi Minamino have all come in and had their struggles. All could yet come good, and none have been unqualified disasters up to now, but in their own ways each have faced difficulties adapting to the league. Perhaps this has informed FSG’s interest in a triple transfer raid on one Premier League club.
According to Football Insider, Liverpool scouts have been watching three Leeds United players: Raphinha, Kalvin Phillips and Illan Meslier. It’s little surprise that Leeds in particular are of interest: the ball-playing, high-intensity approach instilled by Marcelo Bielsa has its similarities with Jürgen Klopp’s approach, and the likelihood of adapting to life at Anfield after leaving Elland Road seems high.
In all probability, FSG would not sanction transfer moves for all of the trio, although for what it’s worth Transfermarkt estimates their combined value at just shy of £73m. In reality, this figure would no doubt be higher: Raphinha alone would take up a fair chunk of that, particularly having impressed for Brazil recently. That’s the other side of ‘Premier League proven’ — it comes with Premier League prices.
Even so, Liverpool may well end up making a move for at least one of Phillips, Meslier and Raphinha, especially if Leeds’ struggles continue. The Yorkshire outfit had an exceptional first season back in the Premier League, achieving a top ten finish. The second half of the campaign in particular exhibited form worthy of a Champions League side. However, it took until the most recent round of fixtures for Bielsa to get his first win of 2021/22 on the board, and Leeds currently sit in 16th.
Relegation remains highly unlikely, but if the unthinkable happened then Liverpool would certainly be on hand with some offers. Repeating the Shaqiri and Elliott trick, one which was also executed to perfection with Andy Robertson, could prove a masterstroke by FSG. However, even in the far more plausible scenario that Leeds simply fall short of a European spot again, it still hands Klopp’s side a transfer advantage.
Particularly in the case of Raphinha, it is increasingly apparent that this is a player meant for the big stage. Phillips has a similarly burgeoning reputation, having impressed for England at the Euros. At 21, Meslier may well be content for a while longer, but there is little doubt that all three will want to be playing in the top competitions before too long. West Ham fended off approaches for Declan Rice this summer, no doubt partly thanks to the lure of a Europa League campaign — if Leeds fail to secure this same selling point, their star men could well become restless.
Even in this scenario, a Liverpool move for Meslier seems like an odd fit. Alisson recently signed a new six-year contract, while even a Leeds side outside of Europe is presumably a more attractive prospect for the French stopper than warming Liverpool’s bench. Furthermore, Klopp seems more than happy with Caoimhín Kelleher, who made his first start for Ireland over the international break.
However, transfer bids for Phillips and Raphinha make a whole lot of sense. Phillips showed at the Euros in particular that he can thrive in a slightly more advanced role — a defensive-minded number eight is exactly what is needed in Klopp’s Liverpool system, and the Leeds man could be the answer as Jordan Henderson and Thiago grow older. As for Raphinha, he has the ideal profile to ultimately take over from Mohamed Salah, while also possessing the quality to understudy across the front line or in midfield in the meantime.
Of course, scouting is just scouting. Liverpool scout thousands of players, and sign a mere handful. Even so, the interest in the Leeds trio is interesting: any transfer is still a long way from fruition, but if FSG clearly sense the potential opportunity to find another ‘Premier League proven’ gem.