Sometimes it seems as if players arrive at Liverpool in a whirlwind. The story breaks, the fee is agreed upon and within 48 hours they are photographed holding up a red shirt and signing their contract.
But these are long-term processes. Think of the two strikers who have signed Liverpool over the past year and a half. Liverpool have reportedly been following Diogo Jota for two years and Luis Díaz had also been on their radar for a long time before they hit their stride.
Both players were also mid-range in terms of price tag. Liverpool spent £41.5 million on Jota, while Díaz arrived for a fee of £37.5 million, albeit with significant additions.
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It turns out that another player being followed by Anfield recruiting staff is in that gold price range. Fabrizio Romano reported on Wednesday that Jonathan David will be available this summer for around £42 million as Lille prepares to leave as a ‘top clubs’ circle.
In September 2020, The Athletic revealed that David was on Liverpool’s attacking shortlist after ‘extensive’ scouting. Ultimately, the Reds would turn to Jota, and the Canadian would make a £24.3 million move from Belgium’s Ghent to Lille, but now that he’s back on the market, should Liverpool try to strike?
David, 22, has split his minutes almost equally this season between the striker and second striker roles. He plays next to or slightly behind Burak Yılmaz.
With 41 games of experience in the attacking midfield, he looks potentially well suited for a false 9 role in the front three of the Reds. Jurgen Klopp already has three options in the position, with Sadio Mane emerging as a competitor for Jota and Roberto Firmino, but it must be said that the contractual situation of two of those players remains uncertain.
Let’s assess his credentials, starting with goals. After scoring 13 in Lille’s title-winning campaign in 2020/21, he has won 17 in 44 games across all competitions this season, including 13 in the league. That puts him in sixth place in the Ligue 1 rankings and is, encouragingly, more or less in line with his xG of 12.6.
Some would question the quality of that particular division, but he also shone in the Champions League, scoring three times in the group stage before putting on a show against Chelsea in the round of 16.
At international level, David has scored 20 goals in 30 caps, helping his country reach the World Cup for the first time since 1986. By the time he travels to Qatar, his global profile could have grown significantly.
David has maintained that the speculation is not a distraction amid what was a tricky 2022. He has only scored once since the turn of the year following an electric first half of the season, although it’s worth noting that Lille’s title defense was generally a disaster, with Jocelyn Gourvennec’s side languishing in ninth place.
But what about its underlying numbers? Well, he’s pretty much in the right margin for expected goals per 90 (0.48) and goals in the opponent’s penalty area (4.5), and while you might want to see him get more shots than 1.9 someday, remember that he is sometimes in a more withdrawn role.
According to FBRef, he has a similar profile to Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette, who at times operated as a de facto false 9. But intriguingly, he compared himself to Firmino.
They certainly share an impressive work rate, with David in the 87th percentile for pressure per 90 and 72nd for tackles. In addition, one of his former coaches has emphasized his ability to “connect with teammates,” describing him as “a team player in the build,” while another source close to the youngster believes his “greatest strength is his tactical understanding of the game.” ‘. These are all qualities that are closely associated with the Brazilian.
He can and will continue to develop his all-round game, but if Liverpool decide they need another striker it will be hard to look past David for that reasonable price. This is a player who seems destined to become a superstar.