One of the shortest transfer sagas this summer, Saul Niguez, who was touted to switch clubs and move to Barcelona involving a swap deal with former teammate Antoine Griezmann is now on the radar of Liverpool and Manchester United after news broke out that talks have been stalled between the Spanish midfielder and the Catalonia club.
Saul was always marked for a move to the Premier League while he was also ‘close‘ to a move to Manchester United last summer. However, Liverpool have also joined the race now as they look to find a replacement for Gini Wijnaldum, who left the Reds for PSG this summer.
So, where could Saul fit better? In Klopp’s gegenpressing system or Solskjaer’s free-flowing United?
Player for player, there is not a lot of difference between Saul Niguez and Gini Wijnaldum. Both players worked as the progressive midfielders in their teams last season, while they also have reasonable defensive numbers. However, their main quality is the tireless work rate and ability to work in tight spaces and to connect the defence and the attack. Although Saul featured in a two-man midfield for the most part last season, he has a lot of experience in a 3 man midfield, something essential to play in Klopp’s system at Liverpool.
While the Reds already have 3 brilliant central midfielders in Fabinho, Thiago, and Jordan Henderson, the latter two have been injury prone, while neither can perform the job Wijnaldum did so successfully for the last 5 years. Technical brilliance; ability to run up and down the pitch; a desire to create chances– Saul’s style of play seamlessly fits into Klopp’s gegenpressing system. It must be noted that Saul does not have a lot of goal-contributions, however, neither did Wijnaldum in his time at Liverpool. Klopp relies on his forwards to bring the goals while he relies on his midfield and defence to hold the fort down and press the lives out of the opposition team.
Saul will, however, have to improve his creative numbers slightly as he averaged only 1 key pass per 90 minutes last season, however, that was down to Simeone’s system rather than Saul’s performances. The Spaniard was averaging 2.5 key passes in previous seasons as he used to play in a 3 man midfield, and Klopp would be hoping that Saul can get back to his creative best if he does decide to join the Anfield outfit.
B) MANCHESTER UNITED:
Although the Red Devils are leading the race to sign the Spaniard, he might not be the perfect fit for them now that they have signed Jadon Sancho. While Sancho and Saul might not play in the same position, Sancho’s arrival does mean that United will have three forwards in the team next season, which in turn, also lets only 3 midfielders on the pitch. Those areas are already occupied by Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba, while the remaining slot is reserved for Scott McTominay or another central defensive midfielder.
Moreover, Saul’s numbers going forward are not as good as Pogba or Bruno Fernandes, while he also does not have the dexterity to play in McTominay’s role. Donny van de Beek, who is a similar player to Saul, suffered for game-time last season and has been touted with a move away from Old Trafford this summer. One could also argue that Saul could be used in the tougher games, while Paul Pogba has also been linked with a move away from United as the Frenchman enters into the final year of his contract.
While there might be a future for Saul at United, there is no telling whether he will be a starter at the club this season. There are several qualities of Saul that could interest Solskajer, but the Spaniard just does not fit into the current system employed by the Norwegian.
Although Saul’s contract runs until 2026 with Atletico Madrid, the Spaniard has made his ambitions clear to Diego Simeone and the hierarchy, and it seems like the club are willing to let go of the midfielder for the right price. As per Mundo Deportivo, Atletico currently value Saul at €69 million, a price both English clubs shall pay, only if they feel the midfielder is the right man for them.
While Liverpool have been miserly since the Covid-19 pandemic, United have gone all guns blazing in the last couple of years. As per the Daily Mail, both clubs are said to begin talks with the player initially so as to agree personal terms with Saul before they land on a fee with Atletico Madrid.
Saul has been a terrific player for Atletico Madrid but it seems like the Spaniard’s 7-year stint with the club will come to an end this season as Liverpool and United battle to secure the Spaniard’s signature as they look to mount a title race this season.