Liverpool have had a disastrous season. Even an average Premier League fan would have pointed out the lack of talent in Liverpool’s current midfield before the start of the new season, especially given the drop in performances of players like Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, and the regular injuries to Thiago and Naby Keita.
After losing to Real Madrid in the pursuit of AS Monaco midfielder Aurélien Tchouaméni, Liverpool decided not to pursue any big targets and bought Arthur Melo on loan from Juventus. This decision may have cost The Reds this entire season and now they are looking at players such as Mason Mount, Matheus Nunes, Conor Gallagher, Alexis Mac Allister, Moises Caicedo, Teun Koopmeiners, Jesper Lindstrom, Youri Tielemans, Declan Rice, Jacob Ramsey, Nicolo Barella, Gavi, Ruben Neves and Gabri Veiga. But the biggest of them all is one called Jude Bellingham.
The English player who moved to Germany after an impressive season with his boyhood club Birmingham and since has gone on to become one of the very best prospects in Europe. The race for Bellingham is now hotting up as a host of clubs across the continent with Real Madrid rumored to be his next club with Dortmund expecting a fee in the region of £125 million thus pricing the Merseyside club out of a potential move.
So now the club have turned their attention towards a young Dutch midfielder Ryan Gravenberch. The former AFC Ajax star is considered to be one of the brightest young prospects in Europe with FC Bayern Munich snapping the player on a modest fee of €18 million, with an additional €5 million in variables. The club is reluctant to sell the player but a lack of game time at the Allianz Arena could see the player himself forcing a move out of the club.
If Liverpool could pull this one off it would be one of the smartest signings of the summer and The Reds sure need that in abundance given the uncertainty of the owners and their willingness to inject huge money in the club for transfer activities. Let’s take a look at Ryan Gravenberch, how he plays, which position he could play, etc.
His early years at AFC Ajax
Born in the year 2002, Gravenberch spent his entire childhood playing for the famed youth academy of AFC Ajax, which he joined at the age of 8 and at age 16, he was handed his first team debut on 23 September 2018, in a 3–0 Eredivisie loss to PSV. This meant that the young Dutch player became the youngest ever Ajax player to play in the Eredivisie at 16 years and 130 days, surpassing the record of 16 years and 242 days set by Clarence Seedorf.
Standing at 190cm, Ryan is someone who is known to dominate the midfield due to his lean and slender physique, add to that his playmaking capabilities, Gravenberch is known as the ‘complete package’. The now Dutch international is excellent with the ball at his feet and has the speed to transition the ball from defense to offense very quickly. Such is his rhythm, Gravenberch is a very difficult player to stop when he is transitioning the ball. He is an expert in picking the right players to pass on to when transitioning the play. His one-touch play helps in attacking the opposition quickly giving them less time to react. He has a knack for trying to hit a ‘worldie’ with 5 of his 12 goals for AFC Ajax coming from outside of the box. His movement off the ball and awareness to be at the right spots is a trait which his teams recover the ball from the opposition quickly.
What’s gone wrong at Bayern Munich
Gravenberch was one of the numerous players that left Ajax last summer including the now Red Devils manager Erik Ten Hag. A cut price for someone of his caliber looked like a bargain and his progression felt natural with Bayern in need for a player of his qualities. Hasan Salihamidzic, Bayern’s sporting director quoted at the start of the campaign, “He is one of the biggest talents in Europe. We’re confident that we’ll enjoy lots of success with him.”
It’s fair to say that has not happened, not yet. He has made 26 appearances in all competitions this season but only 3 of them have been starts. Gravenberch had previously expressed his frustrations at the lack of game time but to no avail. Thomas Tuchel who was appointed after Julian Nagelsmann’s sacking has favored Jamal Musiala, Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich with Gravenberch coming off the bench 4 times in seven games.
So all these events have hinted towards Ryan leaving the Allianz Arena with the player’s agent, Rafaela Pimenta, already looking for potential buyers, of which there are a few. The official stance on Gravenberch from the club’s perspective is that they are not looking to sell and Gravenberch is very much part of the future. But the player’s game time is set to get more difficult to achieve after the club has signed Konrad Laimer, from RB Leipzig on a pre-contract.
Reports across the German media have suggested that the player is available on a cut-price deal at £25m ($31m) after all Bayern did only pay an initial £16m ($20m) only a year ago, with an extra £4.4m ($5.5m) in add-ons, so a mark-up of around £5m ($6.2m) for a player who only turns 21 with his former AFC Ajax having retained a sell-on clause believed to be worth around 7.5 percent of any future profit.
Why should Liverpool go after Gravenberch instead of Jude
Liverpool are in need of a revamp of their midfield with Stefan Bajcetic looking like the best midfielder they have currently in their ranks and that says a lot about their current state. Jude Bellingham is the perfect and complete midfielder that any side in Europe would love to get their hands on. His amazing performances in Qatar 2022 World Cup and his current season at Dortmund are a great testament of what one would get if they have their hands on him.
Bellingham’s energetic style will help Liverpool create chances from their midfield, something the Reds have not been able to have as most of their creativity depends on Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold. Add to that his hardworking nature and positional awareness make him a player that could do great things under Jurgen Klopp.
But the valuation of the player is an important aspect for the Merseyside team who in the past five years have operated very smartly under former sporting director Michael Edwards. A transfer for him would require a £135m-plus transfer fee and a contract worth at least £80m over five years which could mean blowing up their transfer spend for the summer window on one player where the requirement would for at least two. These monstrous figures have become the benchmark if a superstar is available for sale but the Reds have never operated in this manner. The acquisitions of Salah, Mane, Firmino, Fabinho & Andrew Robertson were all made on low fees and it’s Klopp who has worked his magic with these players that turned them into superstars.
That’s why someone like Ryan Gravenberch is exactly the sort of player that they should go all out for. He can play multiple roles in the Liverpool midfield as a No.6, a No.8 and a No.10, as well as in two and three-man midfield combinations. Even if you have had a bit of a weird time in Bavaria it should not be a problem. Players like Mohamed Salah, Andy Robertson and Wijnaldum all have had times where they did not perform to the best of their abilities due to various factors and the success they have had at Anfield should be the side they should be looking at.