Liverpool has a slew of issues to address in the coming transfer window, but the opportunity to future-proof one key position this summer could prove wise
There is no doubt that this summer will be a time of great change at Anfield, with several first-team players expected to depart and reinforcements expected to arrive. One rising La Liga star could be an astute acquisition, securing one key position years ahead of schedule.
Jürgen Klopp and his recruitment team clearly have their work cut out for them ahead of the upcoming transfer window, with strengthening in midfield, the center of defense, and possibly in goal expected to be high on the agenda during what will be a pivotal summer. Initially, there were doubts about the Reds’ ability to address all of their issues in a single transfer window, given that the potential signing of Jude Bellingham would have consumed a large portion of their budget.
However, one positive result of Liverpool’s decision to withdraw from the race for the Borussia Dortmund starlet is that more funds will undoubtedly be available for the Anfield recruitment team to address the variety of issues that have plagued Klopp’s squad this season. In this vein, one area where the Reds may look to strengthen is on the right side of attack, where Liverpool could use some depth.
With this in mind, Spanish newspaper AS reports that Liverpool will compete with Aston Villa for the signature of Athletic Bilbao winger Nico Williams this summer, who has excelled for the Basque giants this season. The 20-year-old has had a breakout season in La Liga this season, but the San Mamés club may struggle to keep hold of the highly-rated talent, who has a $55 million (£44 million/€50 million) release clause in his contract, in the coming years.
With 14 goal involvements — eight strikes and six assists — this season, it is clear that Williams is a player on the rise. It will be interesting to see whether the eight-time Spain international will follow in the footsteps of his brother Iaki and devote his career to his boyhood club or whether he wants to test himself in the Premier League.
What is clear is that the young winger possesses all of the characteristics necessary to emerge as an elite-level performer in the coming years, with the starlet’s brother among those waxing lyrical about Williams’ potential, telling Mundo Deportivo earlier this season: “In one-on-one combat, he is virtually unstoppable. He is a gifted individual, a rough diamond that needs to be polished.”
Liverpool’s current first-choice on the right side of attack is, of course, talisman Salah, but given his age, there may be concerns about the number of minutes the Egyptian has played this season — he has played more minutes than any other outfield Reds player. The main reason for the 30-year-lack old’s of rest this season is that Jürgen Klopp, despite having a large number of forwards in his squad, does not have an obvious senior rotation option.
It remains to be seen whether Luis Daz will be used in this role following his return from injury, but given that his nine-minute cameo on the right flank against Leeds United was only his third appearance in the position during his time at Anfield, one has to wonder if a specialist insurgent will be sought in the summer. Of course, Klopp will be concerned that rising starlet Ben Doak’s path to the first team will be obstructed, but at 17, bringing in an understudy who is far further along in his development, such as Williams, makes a lot of sense.
Indeed, with the aforementioned Salah approaching 30 and not getting any younger, future-proofing that position now could end up saving Liverpool a fortune in the coming years. To be sure, the Egyptian leaving in the next transfer window would be a huge surprise. However, two recent examples, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino, have demonstrated the value of essentially replacing a player while they are still at the club, as with the signings of Daz and Cody Gakpo, respectively.
This level of preparation in terms of Klopp’s forward line evolution has paid dividends in recent seasons, and it would not be surprising to see Liverpool repeat this trick when it comes to eventually replacing Salah. Reds fans may not want to think about life without the ‘Egyptian King’ just yet, but bringing in Williams as his understudy and eventual successor could prove to be a wise move.