Juventus club president Giuseppe Marotta has confirmed what has looked inevitable all season. The Italian giants are likely to complete the free signing of Emre Can from Liverpool after the Champions League Final. While at first this could be interpreted as a worry for Liverpool fans, a closer look at the situation reveals a lot more about where we now are as a football club.
Emre Can is a gifted player and at twenty four is the right age to be at a top club challenging for major honours. The odd thing about his agent’s enthusiasm for a move is that his client is already at a major club challenging for honours. Liverpool’s reluctance to play ball over unreasonable contract demands is quite telling on a number of levels.
Progression and plateau
First impressions of Can were reminiscent of a young Steven Gerrard. Obviously nowhere near as naturally gifted, nevertheless Can possessed a similar raw strength and a power surge from midfield as he strode forward with galloping confidence. He was biting in the tackle as a number six and strong in the air. At barely twenty, we all looked at each other with real hope that we had a gem on our hands.
That being said, four years on, and his progression haven’t quite gone to the dizzying heights we all hoped for in that disappointing 2014-15 campaign. Rightfully restored to midfield from an experiential and error-prone spell in a back three, he seemed set to benefit from the world-class coaching Klopp and his team could offer.
All too often though there has been a rash edge to his game. His touch can often be quite heavy and, at times, his final distribution can be woeful. For a player with the natural physique and athleticism of a box-to-box player, he seemed to calcify in a number six position. Effective though he was in Klopp’s high press, you couldn’t help but want more from a player with such natural talent.
With the summer window open and changes afoot, it is really interesting that Klopp and Liverpool are emboldened enough now to allow him to walk away to a Champions League competitor, and on a free at that.
Rewind six summers and Kenny Dalglish had just been sacked with the club way adrift of the elite in the Premier League and a squad bereft of the required quality to get us anywhere back near that level. Liverpool fans faced yet another summer of uncertainty and change as FSG took us in a new direction. The playing staff back then was woefully short in key areas, the midfield, in particular, was average at best.
Had Brendan Rodgers come in and inherited a side with a twenty-four-year-old Emre Can we would all have been desperate to cling on to him. With Spearing, Adam, Lucas, an ageing Gerrard and a then right winger, Jordan Henderson, we were to be honest, crap in the middle of the park. Can would have given us some real quality and his departure back then would have really hurt us and served a body blow to our ambitions. Not today though it seems. The squad is completely transformed and taken us to a position where we can risk not yielding to agent’s unreasonable demands.
Called his bluff
As per a previous article on this site, the midfield at the moment is sorely depleted and in need of reinforcements. With Naby Kieta arriving from Leipzig and others strongly linked over the past week, it is clear Klopp is confident enough in the club’s ability to replace the want a way German.
If we are being brutally honest as well, his pending departure doesn’t feel as seismic as Alonso’s, Suarez’s and Coutinho’s did. Quite simply, he is replaceable and the club has sent a strong message to all future and current staff; we will not be bullied or strong-armed into paying out daft wages and non-mutually beneficial contracts.
Can’s agent was said to be sniffing around a deal in excess of £150k a week and a release clause becoming active if we missed out on the top four. Mental demands for a player of his deficiencies and purely unreasonable in a current climate were a team with a squad as good as Chelsea’s can finish fifth.
Liverpool are not a club unwilling to pay the top money, one only needs to glance at Bobby’s new deal and Virgil Van Dijk’s transfer fee, but we were simply not willing to do it for a player who hasn’t consistently performed at the top level and has had his turned by a club willing to pay silly money.
There is also further logic to Klopp’s stance. His high pressing game is relentless and arduous. He needs men onboard and willing to run the lines for him to deliver the blistering press we have seen to such effect in the Champions League this year. Here Firmino is another interesting comparison to Can. The Brazilian arrived a year after the German and his game has reached the dizzying heights we all hoped for, but on top of that, his work rate and commitment to the team have been second to none. Hence the simple outcome, Bobby got his deal, Can didn’t.
For Liverpool to allow Can to leave on a free is eye-catching and bold, but increasingly looking like the correct decision. It is still a genuine shame for both parties and the Italian League isn’t really the vineyard for talent and star names it once was, but be that as it may, Can looks a goner. If he signs off by helping us win number six in Kiev, we will all wish him well.