When rumours came out of Anfield that Liverpool weren’t looking to replace Georginio Wijnaldum, Liverpool fans were sent into a frenzy.
I mean, how could the club respond to losing one of the best players of the Jurgen Klopp era by sitting on their hands? Surely they would have to do something to offset the loss of a player Klopp described as the heart and soul of his squad?
Maybe, though, the Reds’ plan all along has been to sign a new midfielder…just not one who can directly replace the Dutchman.
In effect, Liverpool already signed their Wijnaldum replacement 12 months ago. Thiago, though not as relentlessly available, does much of the same job, and offers experience, leadership and knowhow in the middle of the park.
With Thiago, Jordan Henderson and James Milner all still around, there wouldn’t have been too much sense in signing another experienced head at the peak of their powers this summer.
Nor would there have been a great amount of logic behind signing someone with exactly the same attributes as Wijnaldum – because, let’s face it, they wouldn’t be anywhere near as good.
Instead, the plan seems to be to recruit someone different, who can bring something unique to the table now, and be moulded over time into the type of reliable, influential figure that Wijnaldum became over his five years under Klopp. That’s where Florian Neuhaus comes in.
The 24-year-old has long been a reported target for Liverpool, but recent reports in Germany – stemming from Sport 1’s Florian Plettenberg – suggest they are about to take that to another level. It isn’t believed that a bid has been made yet, but it could come after the Euros, when the player is prepared to start thinking about his future.
He’s going to the tournament with Germany after a stellar season with Borussia Monchengladbach earned him a place in Joachim Low’s squad.
He has been at the heart of everything Gladbach did under Marco Rose, scoring eight times and registering eight assists in all competitions last term, and establishing himself as one of the Bundesliga‘s most creative central midfielders.
He’s a strong dribbler and can usually spot a key pass or a route to goal. If there’s nothing on, though, he knows when to play it simple – he very rarely gives the ball away.
Neuhaus is by no means the finished article, and the idea of him stepping in for Wijnaldum – one of the most relentlessly energetic and reliable players in world football – may raise some anxieties. He doesn’t have the defensive work-rate to fulfil the same role, and that is the primary drawback to his game that means he is available for around £35m this summer.
But Liverpool wouldn’t be seriously looking at him if they didn’t feel he could pick that up over time. It’s the same story for most of their signings under Klopp – they take players who aren’t the finished article and mould them in their image.
He may not be a ready-made replacement for WIjnaldum, but that sort of player doesn’t exist – at least not for an affordable price. It seems Klopp is turning to what he has to provide the leadership and reliability of his Dutch talisman.
In his new signing, he wants someone who can provide something new and fresh in the short-term, while gradually crafting out a role for themselves in the starting XI.
There’s no doubt Neuhaus would add some firepower to a Liverpool midfield that desperately needs it – so there is something to be very excited about there.