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It’s set to be both a busy and tricky summer for Liverpool, who need to restructure their squad somewhat after a disappointing year but face having to do so without Champions League finance, with a top-four spot looking beyond them going into the final five games of the Premier League season.
RedBird Capital Partners recently buying a stake in Fenway Sports Group, the owners of Liverpool, is set ensure the Reds can operate in the transfer market at the same level as they did pre-pandemic.
But it will not suddenly mean Liverpool have the financial backing to explore blockbuster deals for the likes of Erling Haaland or Kylian Mbappe.
Even with added cash thanks to RedBird’s £538million investment, the coronavirus crisis will still impact how many clubs want to buy Liverpool’s out-of-favour players and how much they are willing to pay for them, with big-money sales having been pivotal to the Merseyside outfit’s business model under FSG.
So as of yet, it is unclear just how many signings Liverpool will make, though it’s clear their side needs a refresh as the bulk of Jurgen Klopp’s team begins to reach its late 20s.
One of Liverpool’s biggest priorities of the next window will be to add to their front-line, with Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino having been carried by Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota this term.
Salah and Jota have contributed 41 of the 60 goals scored by the quartet across all competitions and the Portuguese has proven an inspired buy from Wolves, given his output comes in spite of missing three months with injury.
When Jota was sidelined, Liverpool sorely missed their summer signing with Mane and Firmino out of form and neither Divock Origi or Xherdan Shaqiri as effective as they previously have been.
It appears inevitable the bench-warming duo will depart Anfield in the next few months, albeit for lower fees than might have been expected pre-Covid, and if they do, Liverpool need a new forward capable of contributing more than the pair.
Mane and Firmino can no longer be assured of their starting roles while Salah’s future isn’t clear either, the Egyptian out of contract in 2023 and having teased interest in a move to Spain’s La Liga.
Liverpool sporting director Michael Edwards and manager Klopp are therefore on the lookout for a forward who is ideally both young and versatile, who can provide regular goals and assists but also contribute to the press, and who is still affordable and gettable without the lure of Champions League.
It is certainly conceivable that they might land on PSV Eindhoven’s Donyell Malen as their ideal man, particularly given alternatives – Leeds United’s Raphinha or Pedro Neto of Wolves – will be vastly more expensive.
Indeed, reports earlier this week emanating from Netherlands outlet Voetbal International indicate that Liverpool are even at the ‘front of the queue’ for Malen, ahead of the likes of Barcelona.
It’s claimed PSV would sell the 22-year-old attacker for £25m, despite his output of 25 goals and nine assists in 42 matches this season, that return coming largely from centre-forward.
The Netherlands international can also play on the left and the right and is valued at £27m by Transfermarkt, meaning Liverpool potentially have a chance to sign him at a fee lower than his market value.
Since joining from Arsenal’s youth team in 2017, the former Ajax prospect has produced a respectable 53 goals and 23 assists for the Eredivisie giants, also racking up eight caps for his country and scoring twice on the international stage.
Profile-wise, Malen seems to be ideal for Liverpool, and he’d certainly be an upgrade on Origi at the very least.
Direct, pacey and capable of playing through the middle or as a wide forward, Malen displays excellent finishing combined with clever movement and tricky dribbling.
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He scores goals himself and creates them for his team-mates too, and seems to have all the attributes expected from a well-rounded modern-day attacker.
Malen also puts in the hard yards defensively, with comparisons having been made with Liverpool’s own Mane and Salah previously, as well as Alexis Sanchez – the pre-Manchester United version at least.
Former Ajax youth coach Brian Tevreden said: “It’s hard to describe him. If I have to compare him with a player in the Premier League, he seems a bit like Alexis Sanchez.”
Were he available at £25m as those reports claim, there is every reason to believe Malen could come in and have an instant impact at Liverpool much in the same way that Jota has.
Edwards and Klopp might tend to agree if reports of their interest are indeed genuine.
Another Jota-like signing is precisely what Klopp and co. need in case Mane and Firmino’s underperformance continues, and Malen seems to have the talent and tools to become a central figure in this phase of Liverpool’s attack and the next one.
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