Jürgen Klopp will look to evolve his side over the coming years, and Liverpool have been linked with summer transfer moves for a pair of exciting forwards.
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In any given week, Liverpool could be linked with a whole host of players in a variety of positions. This is normal, and generally how transfer rumours start. Most of them make little sense, while others do contain some element of truth in them. In other cases, it’s simply a matter of adding two and two to get five.
Many at this stage have learned just to take rumours with a pinch of salt, something to entertain oneself while in a car, on a bus or waiting in a queue. In recent weeks and months, Liverpool have been connected with summer moves for Roma’s Nicolo Zaniolo and Villarreal’s Arnut Danjuma.
The pair of them operate on different sides of the pitch, but both are young and have very bright futures ahead of them. Therefore, do the links to Liverpool make sense, and could Liverpool genuinely make a bid for them in the summer?
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Liverpool have first-hand experience of Danjuma, with the Reds seeing off Villarreal in the semi-final of the Champions League a few weeks ago. Danjuma didn’t exactly impress in the two legs, but this was more due to Unai Emery’s rigid tactics in the first leg — and missing out on the second due to injury.
Despite that, Danjuma has produced stellar performances this season following his move from Bournemouth last summer. A return of 16 goals in 34 games across all competitions is a very good showing for a player who has spent the majority of the season playing on the left wing. Emery has at times played him as a lone striker, and to very good effect, but Danjuma is more comfortable out wide, where he can use his searing pace to skip past opponents.
Danjuma could be an option for Jürgen Klopp this summer because he can operate in two roles in his 4-3-3 system. Even though we’ve seen Sadio Mané shifted into the middle to accommodate Luis Díaz, signing Danjuma could be a smart move, given that Diogo Jota can only really play through the middle, and doesn’t get involved in the game as much as Díaz or Mané.
But a move for Danjuma would only make sense financially (Transfermarkt values him at £45m) and tactically in the face of selling Jota, and this seems unlikely as Klopp thinks highly of the Portuguese forward. Jota has really developed over the last 12 months and it would be highly improbable for the club to undo all of that work by offloading him two years after arriving.
So how about Zaniolo? The youngster has had a mixed season under José Mourinho in the Italian capital, with moments of brilliance combined with poor performances. Zaniolo is still working his way back to his best form following two major ACL injuries and has at times struggled with the weight of expectation since his return.
Zaniolo operates on the opposite flank to Danjuma, and this is where he could be a realistic target for Liverpool. Mohamed Salah of course has control of that side of the pitch, but there’s little in the way of back-up to the Egyptian, and this was evident during his absence at the beginning of the year.
Now, there’s little chance of Zaniolo agreeing to come to Liverpool to be Salah’s back-up, but should the doubts over Salah’s contract extension persist, then Zaniolo could arrive with an eye on becoming the replacement — either this summer or next. Furthermore, the Roma man should theoretically come cheaper than his La Liga counterpart, with a Transfermarkt value just shy of £30m.
Zaniolo can also play as a second striker, but this isn’t a role Klopp tends to use in his 4-3-3 system. His likely place would be on the right and, like Danjuma, a move would only be necessary if one of the existing forwards left: in Zaniolo’s case, Salah.
Both would make good signings for Liverpool, but if we had to chose one, Zaniolo would be the smarter investment, as he’s three years younger and perhaps has a higher ceiling than Danjuma. With a combined value of £70m, a double raid seems unlikely. Either way, with Klopp now set to stay at Anfield through to 2026, FSG can make investments in the future of the team with a far clearer vision of what that future will look like.