Five Alternatives to Liverpool’s Top Midfield Target Naby Keita

Having secured a top-four finish, Liverpool will be back among Europe’s elites next season – granted they win their Champions League qualifier.

As such, much has been made of the improvements needed over the summer transfer window. After starting the season so brightly, providing the closest challenge to Chelsea at one stage, Liverpool will be eager to strengthen their squad in order to mount a challenge on the domestic and European front.

Virgil Van Dijk has been earmarked as the main defensive target to provide some order and authority to an otherwise flaky backline while Liverpool have already signed Mohamed Salah from Roma.

That leaves central midfield, where RB Leipzig’s Naby Keita is Klopp’s preferred choice.

Often pedestrian and turgid in possession, Liverpool need a burst of energy and invention. Keita represents that, having had a thoroughly impressive season in the Bundesliga.

An all-round midfielder blessed with creativity and flair, along with the discipline and doggedness to get dirty when needed, it’s clear why Liverpool want him so badly.

However, it’s proving incredibly difficult to prize him away from RB Leipzig this summer, and it may be that Klopp halts his efforts in the knowledge the Guinean is available for £48million next summer due to a release clause in his contract.

Here are cheaper alternatives that could do the job.

Leon Goretzka

With his contract expiring in approximately a year’s time, Goretzka offers a very real and quality option for Liverpool’s midfield.

Forward thinking on the ball, Goretzka takes players out of the game with ease, drifting between the lines with his direct style of play.

He’s always looking to get his side on the front foot, creating an average 0f 1.13 chances per game – something Liverpool are often accused of failing to do with stale passages of play.

The 22-year-old has scored a total of eight goals in all competitions this season, registering three assists in the process. In the dribbling department, Goretzka also excels in comparison with Liverpool’s current midfielders.

The Schalke midfielder achieves an average of 1.03 successful take-ons per 90 minutes, with Wijnaldum coming the closest to matching that with an average of 0.78.

Goretza commits opponents and opens space for his teammates with his progressive and adventurous style of play. Liverpool were found out for being too hesitant at times last season but the 22-year-old could carve open some real chances for Klopp’s side.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

The Lazio midfielder would represent a much cheaper prospect than bringing Keita to Anfield.

6ft 3 in size, Milinkovic-Savic would bring much needed physicality to the midfield. The Serbian wins an average of 4.4 aerial duels per 90 minutes which would put him in good stead to deal with the rigour of England’s top tier.

Operating across the board in midfield in Lazio’s 4-3-3 formation as an attacking midfielder and a defensive anchor, Savic has the sort of flexibility that Klopp looks for in his players. Such versatility would see him do well alongside Can, Henderson or Wijnaldum.

Furthermore, his ability to roam from box-to-box and add a seamlessness to the transition between midfield and attack would be a valuable asset. Milinkovic-Savic completed an average of 1.2 key passes per game this season, showing good decision making on the ball.

The 22-year-old has established himself as a key member of the Lazio side, contributing a total of seven goals and nine assists in the Serie A and Coppa Italia.

His impressive form has seen clubs across Europe sit up and take notice and Liverpool should certainly throw their hat in the ring this summer should a deal for Keita fail to materialise.

Piotr Zielinski

Just 12 months ago Zielinski was pictured in Liverpool red and while a move fail to materialise, Liverpool could be back in for him this summer.

Playing a total of 1850 minutes this season, Zielinski was involved in 12 goals – three less than Naby Keita.

A pass completion rate of 88% illustrates his quality on the ball, while working hard off it. With an average success rate of 50% in terms of duels compared to Emre Can’s 40.91%, Zielinski’s athleticism would fit well into Klopp’s high-press system.

The Polish international doesn’t just opt for the safe pass but instead drives forward with the ball, committing players before slotting through his teammates. An average of 1.44 take-ons per ninety minutes reflects just that.

Such was the case against Bologna this season when Zielinski picked up the ball out wide and cruised past two defenders and driving into space become passing it to his teammate to score. That is exactly what Liverpool lacked last season; that decisiveness and drive on the ball to take the game to their opponents.

Renato Sanches

A big move to Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich promised so much for Renato Sanches, but has failed to come up trumps. The midfielder made just six starts in the league this season with 11 appearances from the bench totally just 615 minutes of football.

However, at the age of 19-years-old it’s clear he has talent in his boots. A hard working midfielder through and through, Sanches does the dirty work while possessing brilliant vision and creativity when the ball is at his feet.

Klopp loves to buy young prospects that haven’t quite reached their heights yet and such could be the case with Sanches. Everyone can see what a bright future he has but with Bayern reportedly ready to listen to loan offers, that future seems to lie elsewhere.

Kevin Kampl

A big move to Borussia Dortmund may not have worked out for Kampl, but he’s really come into his own at Bayer Leverkusen. Despite a poor campaign for the club, the midfielder showed he has exactly what it takes to be a box-to-box midfielder.

Creating a total of 38 chances for his teammates in the league this season translates to an average of 1.27 chances per 90 minutes – better than Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum while only slightly behind Lallana on 1.35.

In the defensive department, Kampl makes 2.37 interceptions per game, a much better statistic than any of Liverpool’s current midfield options. He may not have the flash and verve of Naby Ketia but he can certainly do a job at both ends of the field.

He’s got one hell of an engine, too.