According to many, the hug at full-time following Liverpool’s fortunate 2-2 draw with Wolves between Jurgen Klopp and Matheus Nunes is further evidence the Portuguese midfielder is Anfield bound in the summer.
Nunes had been pretty good, in fairness. Much better than Fabinho, Jordan Henderson or Thiago, anyway, who as a trio, are looking increasingly incapable of of fulfilling the physical demands required of an all-action Klopp midfield.
In fact, we could really do with a player like Nunes right now. Or even better, six months ago, when we were initially linked to the former Sporting Lisbon star. And not because he’s been especially brilliant in England; he hasn’t – but because he’s still a significant upgrade on what we currently have available.
The whole Nunes situation is really odd and symbolic of the mistakes the transfer team, which involves Klopp and Pep Lijnders, have made regarding regenerating the midfield in the past four years.
So what’s happened and where are we now? It’s complicated, but here’s a run down.
Wolves signed Nunes for £38m mid-August (Sky Sports). Liverpool had been heavily linked and fans were upset when we’d let an affordable option pass us by.
Nunes has been poor at Wolves, in general. He was dropped after a series of nothing performances – and certainly hasn’t looked like a player who’s increased his value.
But last week, respectable, refutable Telegraph journalists John Percy and Sam Wallace made very strong claims that an arrangement for the 24-year-old to join Liverpool in summer 2023 was part of the deal that saw him head to Wolves originally. And that Liverpool will pay £44m for his services, making Wolves a small profit and securing the Reds a midfielder 12 months after they needed one.
It’s very strange. It’s been abhorrently clear to anybody that Liverpool needed enforcements and legs in midfield before this season began. Why would we have arranged a deal for a player to come to England and perhaps prove himself unworthy, for us to then bring him to Anfield for a more expensive fee than we could have spent when we actually required him…?
Yet, Percy and Wallace would not have penned this exclusive unless it was all but confirmed.
Did we want Nunes to get experience in England before we got him? Were we worried he wouldn’t play much in his debut season at Liverpool and then regress? There’s even rumours about Klopp not wanting a player who was unvaccinated, although these are very much unsubstantiated.
Our midfield this campaign has been beyond poor. Thiago has hustled, but he’s approaching his 32nd birthday and is never too far away from an injury. Fabinho has been very poor and Jordan Henderson inconsistent. Harvey Elliott doesn’t work in a midfield three, while Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner are leaving in the summer on the expiration of their contracts. Curtis Jones is an enigma and the less said about Arthur Melo’s loan deal the better.
The issue is the idea that there aren’t suitable players out there who can improve us. It’s nonsense. Newcastle signed Bruno Guimares a year ago. West Ham signed Lucas Pacqueta. Both walk into our midfield. Brighton signed Moises Caicedo for peanuts. Benfica bought Enzo Fernandez and are now demanding €120m for his services.
Yes, we might be holding out for Jude Bellingham, but if we don’t finish in the top four because the current options cannot run anymore, the Englishman will go to Real Madrid or Manchester City. We’ve signed one midfielder (Thiago) in four and a half years. Whatever the game plan is, it hasn’t worked.
There are still 20-odd days of the January transfer window left – but it doesn’t look like anything will be done. It’s not that Klopp’s current players aren’t listening to him, it’s that they’re incapable of doing what he’s asking of them. It’s a big problem.