On Sunday, Liverpool officially completed the signing of Dominik Szoboszlai, their second midfield signing this summer.
According to The Athletic’s James Pearce, the Reds are currently not planning to add a third as they now have nine options, including Trent Alexander-Arnold. If one of those players leaves, the stance could change, but for now it seems that Liverpool’s midfield business is done.
Roméo Lavia had emerged as the strongest candidate to sign number three, but Liverpool are said to view his $64m (£50m/€58m) asking price as ‘much too high’ and believe the squad is already complete .
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Pearce also points out that Lavia has so far made only 17 more first-team appearances than Stefan Bajčetić, which is part of the reason why the links have always been a head-scratcher.
Lavia is undoubtedly one of the most exciting defensive midfielders in Europe, but surely that label can also be applied to Bajčetić?
He made an impressive senior breakthrough in 2022-23 and stood out as one of the big pluses of a mostly dismal season, as he made 19 appearances and six Premier League starts.
But given an adductor injury in March, he may have played a big role in the final run-up, narrowing the 17-game gap to Lavia even further.
Both players are on Goal’s list of football’s 50 Greatest Prodigies, and both are nominated for the 2023 Golden Boy award.
If Liverpool sign Lavia, it risks creating a collision course between two top talents.
Both players would in fact compete to replace Fabinho, either when the Brazilian fell to the bench or moved all the way through.
It looks like the team will be built around the hybrid midfielder Alexander-Arnold in the future, leaving only one position in the double pivot.
All in all, the acquisition of Lavia would look like a questionable selection, likely leading to at least one of the two players getting frustrated and looking for a transfer.
Some have pointed out that Bajčetić also excelled slightly higher up the pitch as a left-sided number eight, and suggested that Liverpool could accommodate both players on that basis.
But the main point here is that the role of the number eight on the left has changed with Liverpool’s move to a rectangular midfield. Alexis Mac Allister was bought to play that part, and Bajčetić just isn’t in the same mold.
The situation in the defensive midfield looked to be a dilemma for the Reds at first. Fabinho, previously seen as an indispensable linchpin and one of the best players in his position, declined for most of the season, but then showed signs of recovery as a new system was implemented for the run-up.
Is he in decline, or can he get back into shape now that he’s surrounded by more energy and more protection?
Then, in Bajčetić, you had an up and coming youngster who wasn’t quite ready to be the number one option, but who certainly seemed to be on an elite trajectory.
Ultimately, if Liverpool were to add a number six, they might need a transformer, a player like Declan Rice, Moisés Caicedo or Aurélien Tchouaméni. Those players are poised to dominate in midfield for the better part of a decade, and you’d probably be willing to sell Fabinho and eventually sacrifice Bajcetic if it meant adding them to your side.
However, the reality is they are all out of Liverpool’s price range, with Rice on the verge of sealing a $132m (£105m/€123m) move to Arsenal, Caicedo apparently valued at $102m/£ 80m/€93m (via Football London) and Tchouaméni off the market for just under $115m/£90m/€105m (via Mirror).
Second tier options like Lavia, on the other hand, are too similar to what the club already has. At a whopping $64 million, you can certainly see why the Reds would be hesitant.
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