Liverpool could grab transfer robbery as Barcelona’s seven-man release spree hints at FSG chance
Wrong direction. The action or process of leading someone to the wrong place or in the wrong direction – at least that’s the definition offered by a quick Google search. Barcelona is the birthplace of this stuff, with Las Ramblas an unfortunate hotbed of scams and the like, and it looks like the sleight of hand may extend to the football club.
Look over here! We signed Ferran Torres, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Adama Traore. Ignore the fact that Traore is just on loan, and making the signing permanent might be financially impossible. Forget we lost Lionel Messi for nothing last summer. And certainly don’t look at the seven players queuing to leave.
According to the BBC’s reading of an AS report, seven players are set to be “released” this summer. The original publication names Sergi Roberto, Luuk de Jong, Clément Lenglet, Samuel Umtiti, Neto, Óscar Mingueza, Riqui Puig and Martin Braithwaite as those to whom “the door was opened”, although only the first two are actually out of contract come the end of the season. Indeed, much to the chagrin of the club’s fans, Lenglet is under contract until 2026. Either way, a planned exodus on this scale suggests lingering financial problems.
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Liverpool won’t be fooled by the misdirection, but neither will the FSG turn their heads with any of the names on the apparent ‘to be released’ list. In truth, it mostly reads as a who’s who of Barcelona’s costly mistakes, partly explaining how they got into this mess in the first place. However, there is at least one failed move to Camp Nou which could turn into an Anfield masterstroke.
AS classifies Memphis Depay in the “pending” file. Meanwhile, Mundo Deportivo are reporting interest in the Premier League with Spurs top. Barcelona appear to be willing to keep the Dutchman, but they are keen to know his role for next season, and a transfer is still firmly on the table if there is suitable interest. With attention oscillating between flashy entries and attempted exits, Liverpool could cut through the Catalan noise to find the only real deal on offer – beating Tottenham again for a key transfer.
Premier League fans will remember Depay as a Manchester United flop. La Liga followers won’t necessarily have the brightest view of him either, as his season at Barcelona has been disrupted by injuries. However, for those who have listened to his time in Ligue 1 in the meantime, it is clear that he is a hugely talented player and one who could play a useful role in the Liverpool squad.
Adept in the middle and on the wing, Depay offers the kind of versatility that Jürgen Klopp admires. His most recent outings have come in the middle, and that’s where Liverpool could make the best use of him. He shares a lot of key traits with Roberto Firmino; it seems likely that FSG will finally draw a line under the 30-year-old’s stay at Anfield, and the Dutchman has fewer years on the clock. The Brazilian’s more than two years a junior, he would be an intriguing mid-term option.
Like at Barcelona, Depay would have to settle for less than the first choice at Liverpool, but his ability to play in multiple positions would give him plenty of minutes. FSG’s recruitment team will be well aware of his qualities – his spell in Spain, seen as something of a failure, boasts impressive underlying numbers.
So far, his debut season at Barcelona has scored 10 goals in 20 appearances. Four have come from the penalty spot, but Depay is still in the 80th percentile of La Liga forwards this season for goals per 90 when penalties are excluded (FBRef). Meanwhile, his expected assists are in the 94th percentile.
It is this ‘creative striker’ role that Liverpool will miss if Firmino is replaced by FSG. Diogo Jota is a poacher at heart and doesn’t offer the same level of bonding. Depay is a master at this: he’s in the 97th percentile of Spain’s top-flight forwards for successful passes, and ranks in the 99th percentile for key passes and progressive passing distance by 90.
Although he’s not a voracious presser like Firmino, Depay is at least an effective presser. He sits in the 89th percentile of La Liga forwards in this respect and could adapt to the rigors of Klopp’s system, especially in a squad role.
Having signed for Lyon with 20 goals and 12 assists in his final season, there is plenty of evidence that the 28-year-old is an elite striker. Liverpool have maintained a challenge on multiple fronts this season thanks in part to their excellent depth, and FSG cannot afford to lose that. Cashing in on Firmino or even Sadio Mané this summer may be justified, but it would require replacement signings: Depay is a potentially nifty budget solution.
Barcelona will be open for sale, with his contract running until 2023 and any transfer fundraising proposals gratefully received in the Camp Nou at present. While they might prefer their flashy signings to grab the headlines, a line of players is coming out the exit door, and FSG could take advantage of the ongoing cost-cutting to bring Depay to Liverpool.