FC Twente hot-shot Luuk de Jong has been attracting interest from all over Europe but it is increasingly becoming apparent that Liverpool are in the driving seat for his signature this summer. Director of Football Damien Comolli has undertaken several scouting missions to De Grolsch Veste to personally oversee the 21 year old’s development and the player’s agent Marco de Marchi recently admitted that the Reds were extremely keen.
He also added however, “Several English and German teams follow him” and with that in mind Liverpool would be wise to prepare their bid and swoop at the earliest opportunity. Here’s why….
He’s the poacher Liverpool so desperately need
A lot has been made of Liverpool’s wastefulness in front of goal this season and rightfully so; the stats are staggering and can be broken down into all sorts of eyebrow-raising figures but ultimately it comes down to this – they have only scored five more than bottom-placed Wolves. What particularly frustrates the Anfield faithful is how water-tight their defence has been because if things were how they (arguably) should be up front Liverpool would be challenging for third spot at present instead of chasing Newcastle for sixth.
Suarez has been wonderful to watch at times but with very little end product whilst Carroll’s trio of strikes is an abysmal return considering his fee and capabilities. The 21 times the Reds have hit the woodwork does suggest at rotten misfortune rather than profligacy but there can be no doubt that Liverpool are in dire need of a hungry, lean poacher who thrives on chances. With a one-in-two strike rate in the Dutch top flight De Jong has all the makings of being that man.
He would be a round hole in a round peg
On far too many occasions this season Liverpool’s slick momentum has come to a grinding halt at the size 13s of Andy Carroll. With a clunky touch and pedestrian intent he has evidently been a square peg in a round hole. In short, Dalglish paid top dollar for a beast and got a burden.
De Jong may not carry the same imposing physical threat as the Geordie lummox but at 6ft 2 the Swiss-born Dutchman is more than capable in the air whilst his slender frame is deceptively durable in the challenge. Furthermore his movement is intelligent and nuanced and you feel, should he and Suarez tune into the same wavelengths, the duo could spark up a devastating and cunning attack force.
Above and beyond even this however is De Jong’s sure touch – Twente play some delightful stuff and not only does he play the role of the classic number 9 impeccably the youngster is often involved early on in the move linking up play and bringing in others around him.
He is open to the idea
“I’m still very happy playing for Twente, but every player has dreams. Mine is to play in a nice foreign competition one day. And the Premier League is a really nice competition. I don’t have real plans for the future – I’ll see what comes my way.”
So said De Jong at the tail-end of last year and as everyone knows this is footballer code for ‘A big money move? Abso-bloody-lutely! Where do I sign?’
Liverpool can also be encouraged by the fact that Twente is currently bossed by Steve McClaren who is not the type to stand in a player’s way and halt his career trajectory. The wally with the brolly was fully on board with the Edin Dzeko deal that took the Bosnian to City from Wolfsburg and indeed publicly backed the player at every opportunity when he initially struggled to settle on British soil.
Rarely does the lad have a poor game and even when his scoring form deserts him De Jong is intelligent enough to recognize this and adjust his game accordingly, dropping deeper than usual or drifting into wide areas and creating space for team-mates. His work-rate is not in doubt and it’s this selfless attitude that should encourage Liverpool supporters most of all – yes he is deadly in and around the box and has talent to spare…but he will also put in a shift and never hide.
At 21 De Jong is primed and ready to parade his talents on the bigger stage. With over 80 league appearances under his belt (and 7 full international caps) he’s made his mistakes and served his apprenticeship. I personally believe that the well-worn axiom that a player reaches his peak around the age of 27 does not apply to out-and-out strikers due to the fearlessness and decisiveness of youth being a huge advantage for the role. Get him now, let him play his natural game and watch the goals rain in from every angle.
He’d be cheaper than you think
A tip-off this week suggested the deal would ultimately climb to £27m but it is hard to countenance such a fee considering that, for all his promise, De Jong remains unproven at the highest level. Considering that Twente were prepared to sell Bryan Ruiz last summer for shy of £11m a more realistic figure of around £15m can safely be estimated. For a player who could potentially be the solution to several woes that amounts to a bargain at today’s prices.
So why didn’t Liverpool make their widely-touted swoop in January? Primarily there are three reasons for this –
Firstly De Jong understandably wants to see out a successful season at Twente who are pushing Ajax and AZ Alkmaar hard for the Eredivisie title.
From Liverpool’s side they were hesitant to commit to a mid-term splurge in the transfer market particularly when it became apparent that Carroll was going nowhere.
Lastly, buying the latest hot-shot from the Dutch league is always a high-risk proposition no matter how searing the goal-scoring stats. For every Van Nistelrooy there is a Kezman and even the player currently keeping De Jong out of the Holland first XI Huntelaar suffered two high-profile mis-steps at Milan and Madrid before rediscovering his shooting boots at Schalke.
Tearing apart the Eredivisie is certainly not a guaranteed barometer of excellence and Comolli and co are wise to take every precaution before making their move.
However such circumspection brings its own risks and should De Jong continue with his blistering form and garner wider interest then Liverpool could well find themselves in a bidding war during the summer. Should he additionally enjoy a successful Euros then his price will undoubtedly soar.