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Liverpool

Is Marko Grujic already showing he could be a Naby Keita alternative for Liverpool?

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After Liverpool opened their pre-season schedule on Wednesday night at Prenton Park, a convincing 4-0 win over non-league Tranmere Rovers seemed the perfect start. Less optimistic news came on Thursday morning, as The Times suggested that Red Bull Leipzig have officially told the Reds that they have no plans to sell midfielder Naby Keita.

Keita is understood to be one of the club’s top targets this summer with his dynamism and energy in midfield understood to be exactly what Jurgen Klopp is looking to add to his midfield trio alongside the likes of Jordan Henderson, Emre Can, Adam Lallana and Georgino Wijnaldum.

However, Klopp may find another option even closer to home after Wednesday night’s game. Young midfielder Marko Grujic stole the show with his commanding midfield display in the first 45 minutes and certainly made his case. Capping his display off with a superb goal from 30 yards, the 21-year-old made a clear impression.

Grujic’s goal came from nothing, with a sharp turn in midfield, followed up by a low and curling effort which found the bottom corner in impressive style, to give his side a 2-0 lead.

Even asides from the goal, Grujic looked good on and off the ball. With the ball at his feet, his distribution looked promising as he drove forwards and repeatedly found Sheyi Ojo on the left flank to create opportunities, with Ojo’s pace and dribbling another major threat.

Off the ball, Grujic did not allow his National League opposition a moments peace. Right from the off, he was quick to close down the Tranmere players and harried them until he either won the ball off them or forced them into an error.

Despite all the signs of promise from the Serbian, Liverpool fans must be cautious. Grujic was equally as impressive as times last pre-season, even scoring a sensational headed goal against Barcelona at Wembley, but failed to produce the goods once the season kicked off.

In fairness, his impact was hugely limited by injury with a hamstring problem forcing him onto the sidelines for the majority of the campaign. Even then, to have only played 39 minutes across five substitute appearances, with only nine minutes from the end of September, will have been disappointing in his debut season in the Premier League.

There are doubts over whether Grujic has the fitness and the strength to adapt to life in England, with his early appearance against Burnley last season doing little to argue his corner against critics, who said that he would be easily bullied off the ball by the Premier League’s more physical players.

Grujic clearly lacks the established quality of Keita, but if Red Bull Leipzig do refuse to sell to Liverpool this summer then there are certainly worse options than to give Grujic more opportunities. Alongside the experience of the likes of Jordan Henderson or James Milner, he could go on to become the long term midfielder that the Reds need.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by nhan dinh bong da Quyet.

Sam is a football journalist focusing on English football at all levels and Spanish football. He also writes for Spain's biggest daily sports newspaper, MARCA, as well as The Boot Room. Find Sam on Twitter at @samleveridge.

Championship

Conor Coady shows Liverpool what they’re missing in masterful Wolves campaign

The Wolves captain was tipped for big things at Liverpool but never made the grade.

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Back in 2011, Liverpool had one of their young starlets being tipped to become the ‘next Steven Gerrard.’ It was a tag being occasionally branded around the club about young talent Conor Coady. With good reason as well. The teenager was looking like the most natural successor to Gerrard yet.

The summer previous, he had helped England win the UEFA under-17 Championships, which is where the hype all began. Liverpool had unearthed a gem who immediately found himself tipped to become a future Kop captain.

But it never happened for the young man.

(Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)

Instead, he headed to Sheffield United on loan – where he excelled. After getting a taste for regular football, the idea of returning to the reserve life with Liverpool clearly did not appeal to the utility man. Therefore, he left Liverpool in 2014, joining Huddersfield Town.

Liverpool fans soon forgot about him. Just another hyped up youngster who could not match the expectations laid at their door?

Well, this season Coady has finally looked like the real deal.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

The Melwood talent did not stick with Huddersfield for long. In 2015 he joined Wolverhampton Wanderers and he is now looking like the talent Liverpool thought they had at Molineux.

One issue with Coady has always been his position. Often moved around the park, this season he has played as a settled central defender. The results have been exceptional. Coady has been one of the best players in the Championship this campaign. That was highlighted by his inclusion in the Championship team of the season. The 25-year-old is now looking like a future Premier League star and will be playing in the big time next season after captaining Wolves to the Championship summit.

When Liverpool sold Coady to Huddersfield, they did so for a fee reported to be just £500,000 by the Liverpool Echo. The Reds obviously felt he would not live up to those once lofty expectations.

Based on his form this season, Liverpool could be rueing this mistake in the not so distant future.

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Everton

Liverpool fans will love who are favourites to sign Mario Balotelli

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Mario Balotelli
Photo: Getty Images.

Mario Balotelli is not a man who conjures up fond memories for Liverpool fans, but that could all be about to change if the betting is accurate in forecasting where he could move if he leaves OGC Nice this summer with one Premier League side leading the race to bring him back to England.

Whilst Serie A sides are the frontrunners in the betting to sign Mario Balotelli, there are also several English clubs in the mix, based on odds offered by Sky Bet. Favourites are the side that Liverpool fans would both find hilarious and dread in equal measure: Everton.

Odds on the controversial Italian moving to Goodison Park this summer are as low as 8/1, whilst West Ham are also in the running at 12/1.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The centre forward picked up more yellow cards, seven, than goals, four, during his time on Merseyside but has scored 39 goals in 61 games for his new club in France and insists he’s a new, mature man.

Italy still seems his most likely destination with Napoli and Juventus leading the odds, but a move to Everton would give Balotelli the chance to either redeem himself with Liverpool fans by failing as much as he did at Anfield, or rebuild his reputation in the country where he made his name with Manchester City.

The Toffees are desperate to add firepower up-front, but having been so disappointed by their business last summer it is hard to see how taking a gamble on a player as volatile as Balotelli would be a wise move.

That said, they know that the quality is clearly there within the player and may have the same hope as Brendan Rodgers did when he signed Balotelli for Liverpool, that they can bring him in cheap, get the best out of him and sell him on for a profit.

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English Premier League

Rhian Brewster deserves shot at Liverpool first-team next season

The Liverpool teenager deserves a shot ahead of Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi.

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Liverpool fans were rightly excited about England under-17s World Cup win in India last summer. Firstly, it was great to see the English national team doing well at some level. Secondly, one of their own players, Rhian Brewster, was on fire.

The teenage striker won the Golden Boot prize at the competition after scoring eight goals for his nation, including hat-tricks against both the USA and Brazil.

His performances rightly had Liverpool fans excited for the season ahead, but it came too soon for the youngster. Brewster then suffered an ankle injury in January that needed surgery.

(Photo credit should read DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images)

However, despite his setback, it was reported last month by The Telegraph that Brewster will be promoted to the Liverpool first-team next season after his recovery period is over.

Rightly so. Liverpool should be ready to give the teenager his chance in the first-team at Anfield, as he has all the talent available to him to become a club goalscoring sensation.

In fact, if Liverpool want to be serious about him, they should ensure there are no blockages in his pathway.

The likes of Daniel Sturridge, currently on loan at West Brom, and Divock Origi, also on loan but at German side Wolfsburg, should no longer be considered ahead of Brewster in the pecking order.

Getting rid of the injury-prone Sturridge and Origi, who has struggled in the Bundesliga, will leave Brewster firmly in the mix for the striking position at Liverpool.

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Roberto Firmino obviously remains the first choice. But Liverpool also have England’s under-20 goalscoring sensation from the summer in Dominic Solanke. With the hard-working Danny Ings also present, Brewster fits in nicely to the Liverpool striking fold.

Some might say he is too young. But people said that about Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler. The fact is, nobody will know until he is thrown into that position.

Liverpool fans are some of the more supportive and understanding in the country when it comes to young talent, and would have all the patience in the world for the young striker.

It is time to cut the deadwood and make room for the future to blossom.

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