Jack Hallows provides a detailed report on Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder and rumoured Liverpool target Ruben Neves.
It’s clear that Liverpool are targeting players that will bolster their midfield this summer.
Naby Keïta is already set to join from RB Leipzig but with Emre Can looking more likely to leave by the day, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson garnering unwanted reputations as being too injury prone and the jury still out on Gini Wijnaldum, reinforcements are certainly required.
Jorginho was one of the names strongly linked by the media after the closing of the winter transfer window but with the Napoli midfielder supposedly locked in “advanced talks” with Manchester City, other names have started to emerge.
Ruben Neves of Wolverhampton Wanderers is one of those names.
To those unfamiliar with the player, this may be a slightly underwhelming proposition. The Portuguese is a Championship player, aged just 21 and looks to fit the profile of promising, up-and-coming talent rather than ready-made world beater. However, there’s far more to him than just potential.
One of the driving factors behind Jürgen Klopp’s success in the transfer market at Liverpool thus far has been his unwillingness to purchase players whose attitude and style of play do not fit his model. In other words, you don’t make it onto Klopp’s shopping list unless he believes you can slot right in and do a job.
We’ve already seen it with the likes of Sadio Mané, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain, Andrew Robertson and of course, even Mohamed Salah. Question marks were raised over each and every one of these signings initially but doubts have been not so much brushed aside as crushed and blasted into tiny pieces.
With this in mind, it makes sense that if you were to profile Ruben Neves, you would note that the Portuguese midfielder is an intelligent, hard-tackling, hard-working and composed central midfielder who is also capable of scoring some delicious – and at times outrageous – goals.
He essentially fits the mould perfectly for what Klopp would want in his ‘number 6.’
According to WhoScored, Neves averages 2.2 successful tackles, 1.7 interceptions, 0.7 successful dribbles and 0.9 successful aerial duels per 90 minutes.
He’s also scored six goals and provided one assist and 32 key passes in his 40 appearances, averaging a goal contribution every 491 minutes – better than both Henderson and Wijnaldum in Liverpool’s current midfield while also managing more goals than Emre Can.
Of course, one could – probably correctly – argue that the Championship is not at the level of the Premier League or the Champions League so stats should be taken with a pinch of salt. However, it could also be argued that with better players around him and coach of the quality of Klopp, Neves would only improve, resulting in similar – if not better – numbers at a higher level.
Crucially, he’s also more than adept at taking set pieces – especially direct free kicks.
Since Philippe Coutinho left the Reds for Barcelona, Liverpool haven’t quite had the same success from their set pieces and despite Mo Salah, James Milner and even Virgil van Dijk all being capable of hitting a sweet free kick on their day, it would be a real positive for the Reds to have further options to call upon in their ranks.
Despite only being 21 years of age, the former Porto man also has accrued a wealth of first-team experience. From captaining Porto in the Champions League at just 18 years of age to featuring 40 times for Wolves this season and playing a major part in their promotion and impending title win to even managing five caps for his national side.
I know it’s not what Liverpool fans want to hear, especially given the extra revenue that’s come into the club through our Champions League progress this campaign but Neves would also provide Liverpool with a more affordable option.
Jorginho has been touted as worth £50m and with Naby Keïta already set to cost the Reds anywhere between £48m and £60m, signing a slightly cheaper option could free up funds to strengthen other areas of Klopp’s squad.
Look, he’s not the finished article. However, this doesn’t mean that the player can’t provide an upgrade on what Liverpool have already got in their ranks.
He’s at a similar level to Emre Can already, fits the profile of what Klopp wants as a number six better than Jordan Henderson and has time on his side that will allow him to only get better.
Plus, if I’ve learned anything since Klopp has come into the club, it’s that you can’t doubt his ability to sign players that fit his system and improve them beyond belief.