Liverpool will not sign Jude Bellingham this summer, but one of his international teammates could prove to be a more cost-effective alternative to the Borussia Dortmund starlet
When Liverpool decided to withdraw from the race to sign Jude Bellingham, fans were understandably concerned about who the Reds might instead target. If only raw data is considered, one of the England starlet’s international teammates stands out.
There is no doubt that this summer will be one of significant change at Anfield, with the midfield being a major source of concern as several first-team players look set to leave at the end of the season. Furthermore, the Reds’ recruitment chiefs will not want to repeat last season’s costly mistake of failing to sign an alternative after failing to secure a deal for their top target.
Of course, there will be a plethora of factors that will ultimately influence Jürgen Klopp and his staff’s decisions when it comes to identifying targets for the upcoming transfer window, but one would assume that performance-led data will be front-and-center in this regard. In this vein, it would be remiss not to recognize which player statistically has the most in common with Bellingham in order to gain some insight into whom Liverpool may try to sign this summer.
When the football statistics website FBref examines the statistical data of players from across Europe’s top five leagues to suggest players who are similar in terms of their performances, one name comes up that may surprise some observers. According to them, the player most similar to Bellingham in this regard is Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher, who, perhaps unsurprisingly, has been linked with a move to Anfield this summer (via the ECHO).
According to the Daily Mail, the England international is expected to leave Stamford Bridge in the coming months as chairman Todd Boehly attempts to balance the books after a $745 million (£600 million/€680 million) spending spree since taking over the West London club. This summer, there will be a bidding war for the former Crystal Palace loanee’s signature, with Borussia Dortmund, Brighton, and Newcastle all reportedly keeping tabs on the 23-year-old, who is valued at $35 million (£28 million/€32 million) by TransferMarkt.
Given the stylistic similarities between Bellingham and Gallagher, it is not surprising to see Dortmund vying for the latter’s services, especially if the Bundesliga giants are resigned to the former leaving the club. Looking at the data compiled by FBref, it is clear that both players are particularly gifted at breaking up play and carrying the ball forward from deep, which will be especially appealing to any side that employs a gegenpressing system.
When one considers that both players have been in the top 10% of midfielders in Europe over the last year for metrics as diverse as blocks, successful take-ons, touches in the opposition penalty area, and non-penalty expected goals (xg) per 90 minutes, it is clear that both players are statistically excellent across the board. It is sometimes true that the best way to judge a player is visually, but there is no denying that data like this plays a huge role in player recruitment, and it would be unrealistic to suggest that it would not play a role in a club’s decision about whether to sign a player.
In reality, Liverpool has not been nearly as effective in the opposition half this season, and it is easy to see why bringing in a player who is tenacious in winning the ball back and capable of making an impact in the final third would be high on the agenda at Anfield. Assuming Klopp does not intend to change his system before the start of the next season, most supporters would surely agree that, based on this evidence, Gallagher would likely operate stylistically in one of the German manager’s teams.
The prospect of signing the Chelsea academy product may not raise as many eyebrows as more glamorous names, but the case for signing Gallagher at a low cost is quite compelling. Finally, a signing should always be judged on his way out rather than his arrival, and in the case of this England star, Anfield could be the ideal place for him to develop if Klopp can take his game to the next level.