Nico Barella could be the player Liverpool are looking for. Reports link the Italian with the Reds once again.
Liverpool quite plainly need to sign a new midfielder in 2023. James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all out of contract next year, while Jordan Henderson and Thiago don’t have fitness records you can rely on as they move through their 30s.
That leaves a trio of young midfielders – Harvey Elliott, Curtis Jones and Fabio Carvalho – that represent the future, not the present. Thus Liverpool are linked with a plethora of transfers right now.
And with good reason. Barella is a world-class talent, labelled one of the three best in Europe by Fabio Capello last year. That’s precisely the level Jurgen Klopp and co. should look at.
We think they’d get something special in Barella, if they pulled a deal off. He could be the player Naby Keita always threatened to become.
Nico Barella as a Liverpool player
Keita has had games where he’s truly outstanding, such as at Old Trafford last year. At his best, the Guinean moves the ball through midfield, drifts into the box and causes chaos. He can pulls defenders around, disrupt defences and show the kind of close control that few possess.
But we rarely see it. Keita is wildly inconsistent, both with his fitness and his performances. In that sense, Barella could be the upgrade Liverpool need.
Statsbomb data on Fbref shows it off. Barella is a magician in getting the ball into the box and is 99th percentile as a midfielder across Europe’s top 5 leagues at completing passes into the penalty area.
The Italian is 98th percentile at carrying the ball into the box, too, and 99th for creating shots from open play. The only midfielder who consistently ranks ahead of him is Kevin De Bruyne.
This is what Barella excels at. He’s someone who breaks forward from midfield, finds space between the lines and feeds the forwards in dangerous areas. They’re the skills Liverpool have always asked for from Keita but in Barella, they’ve reportedly found their answer