Why would Liverpool need Sporting Lisbon's Joao Mario?
The midfield at Liverpool has undergone somewhat of a transformation at Liverpool this summer, with Joe Allen heading for the exit door, Lucas Leiva and Lazar Markovic continually linked with moves away, James Milner moving to left-back and Georginio Wijnaldum coming in to add to Marko Grujic, Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson and Emre Can.
With all that at their disposal in the centre of the park and further options out wide in Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino to add to the front three or fold back into a four man midfield, it seems bizarre that manager Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool would be pursuing Sporting Lisbon’s Portuguese international midfielder and European champion, Joao Mario, let alone going back in with an improved bid according to the Daily Telegraph.
A £33million bid for the 23-year old has already been rejected by Sporting according to the report, yet it hasn’t deterred Liverpool from continuing in their pursuit, but why with so many midfielders already at their disposal would Joao Mario have something to offer?
Firstly, most of Liverpool’s midfield options are concentrated in central areas, bar out and out wide players who usually form part of a front three-4-3-3 formation attack. Although Liverpool’s centre midfielders are capable of versatility, Mario is a player who has featured on the right of a 4-3-3 in a tournament winning side; Portugal at Euro 2016. He shone in that role, constantly working to close down play and demonstrating a clever eye for a pass, as well as being an effective midfield engine. With Markovic gradually frozen out of the side, and Allen leaving the club possibly to be followed by Lucas, there may well be room for Mario if Klopp chooses to deploy Wijnaldum in a deep role and place any of his other midfielders out on the left of the three-man midfield.
If Klopp once more also chooses to use Firmino as the spearhead, they may be more room for Mario since one of Liverpool’s other midfielders capable of joining the attack such as Adam Lallana, may need to be deployed on the flank vacated by Firmino in the front three. This would mean a need for a midfielder to play on the wide of the midfield three and Mario would be a perfect fit given his creativity and work rate, and with Liverpool having been thinned by injuries of late, particularly with a long-term spell on the sidelines for Henderson, Klopp may need the Portuguese to add depth to his side, which makes up for the lack of goals from the Portuguese.
If those expected to depart do indeed happen to leave Anfield, then Mario will be required to add depth, but he may also be the perfect engine to slot into the midfield spot vacated by Milner, if the England international is regularly used at left-back in the coming campaign. The work-rate, creativity and delivery is there, but he somewhat lacks the spark to be in the front three as shown by his displays in France for Portugal this summer. He was however, a critical component of a hard-working midfield, and that graft to help shield the back-four will be vital in big games for Liverpool this season. He certainly has big game experience under his belt even at the tender age of 23, with a European Championship Winners medal to his name after only 18 international caps, and has come up against some of Europe’s best players, including Gareth Bale, where he slammed the breaks on the mercurial Real Madrid man in Portugal’s semi-final with Wales.
A lot of midfielders they may have, but with much wheeling and dealing on Merseyside this summer, there may well be room for Joao Mario, and there is no reason to suggest that the Sporting midfielder won’t be an important cog in the Liverpool machine that Klopp is constructing over this coming season. Though Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain are amongst the other interested parties, thus an acquisition may not be so simple.
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