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INTERVIEW: Romain Collet-Gaudin dishes on Nabil Fekir

French journalist Romain Collet-Gaudin (@RomainCG75) works for Canal+ and Eurosport and broke news of the meeting between Jürgen Klopp and Lyon superstar Nabil Fekir. Since links emerged between the Merseysiders and the French international Sunday, speculation has rapidly intensified, with some saying the deal is all but done.

Collet-Gaudin took the time to speak with LFC Transfer Room’s Audrey Corminboeuf (@_AudreYNWA) about the odds-and-ends of the report, Fekir as a player, and how he thinks the Frenchman would fare at Liverpool.

What can you tell us about the reported negotiations between Liverpool and Lyon for Nabil Fekir?

There is an agreement between Lyon and Liverpool on a transfer fee of €70M, bonus included. Nabil Fekir’s brother (Yassin, who plays with the Lyon reserves) should be included in the transaction. Fekir should sign for 5 years.

Jürgen Klopp and Nabil Fekir met several months ago and talked again recently. According to other journalists, Jean Michel Aulas (Lyon’s president) also travelled to Liverpool to negotiate.

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There will be no announcement until June 30, as Fekir is still under contract with Lyon. In terms of wages, if he signs, I think he’ll be in the top five highest paid players. At Lyon, he earns €300K per month.

Apparently everything is done — Fekir wants to move and there is a good understanding between the player and Klopp. Bar a problem with the medical, Nabil Fekir should be a Red next season.

How reliable do you believe the information is?

Everyone has his own sources — I have mine. I didn’t originally have the info saying the deal was done, but after making some calls, I heard about the meeting between Klopp and Fekir. The information is very reliable.

Jean Michel Aulas denied it this weekend, but as there are two games remaining and players are still under contract, he has to do it out of respect for the supporters. As a journalist, when I have an information, I share it. I received hundreds of messages from Liverpool supporters trying to get more information. But I’m not Nabil Fekir — it’s still his own decision to sign for Liverpool.

What was Gérard Houllier’s role in the talks?

Gérard Houllier managed both Liverpool and Lyon. He must have said a lot of positive things about Liverpool to Nabil Fekir. Given his relationship with Jean-Michel Aulas, he could have told Liverpool to pay enough to make sure they’d get him.

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Describe Nabil Fekir as a player

Nabil Fekir is left-footed and he makes me think of Lionel Messi. He is 1m73 tall and he is a robust player. He’s strong with the ball and when he accelerates, he’s hard to stop.

His improvement has been impressive. He made a name for himself during the 14-15 season, but got injured with the French national team in September 2015. It stopped his development, as he was outstanding at the time.

He came back last year, but really made a difference this season.

Playing alongside players like Mariano Diaz, Memphis Depay and Bertrand Traore helped him reach another level.

Nabil Fekir is a versatile player who can play as a central midfielder, attacking midfielder, winger and even as a striker.

Would he fit into this Liverpool team?

Yes, given how versatile he is. [But] we never know in football. Maybe Liverpool wants to buy a player like Fekir in anticipation of Mohamed Salah’s departure to Madrid? I don’t know.

But if Liverpool can keep the front three and add Fekir, it would be beneficial. For me, he’d take Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s position if he signs. It all depends on Klopp’s tactics. He could also play in front with Roberto Firmino in a 4-4-2.

Would you consider Fekir to be Coutinho’s replacement?

He’s not the same kind of player. You can’t replace a player because players are so different from each other — it’s hard to find an equivalent. [But] Fekir is an excellent choice, as he is also a good free kick taker.

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How would he adapt to the Premier League?

When I speak with players from the French Ligue 1, they tell me it’s a physical competition. Physically, Ligue 1 is very similar to the Premier League. Nabil Fekir has the abilities to establish himself at Liverpool and in the Premier League.

According to The Guardian, there have been rumors about Fekir’s behavior, namely not caring enough about his physique. What’s your opinion of Fekir’s conduct?

At Lyon, he behaves like this because he’s kind of the star of the team, even if he plays with players like Memphis Depay or Mariano Diaz. He’s the king at Lyon and he knows that it won’t be the same at Liverpool. He’ll understand quickly if he keeps up this behavior, he’ll be taken out of the starting XI or even the first team. But he’s a clever player and will change his behavior sooner or later.

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We spoke a lot about Thomas Lemar potentially coming to Liverpool. Do you think that, if Fekir signs, it means Liverpool have moved on from Lemar?

Yes, especially when you see Lemar’s season with Monaco. When you spend €70M on Fekir and there are rumors that you may sign Dembele too, you don’t add much more on a player like Lemar, who is similar to Fekir. If Fekir signs, it will be over for Lemar at Liverpool and he will probably join Arsenal.

Do you think it would make more sense for Fekir to join Arsenal and play again with former strike partner Alexandre Lacazette?

Does Arsenal want him? That’s the question…

It’s clear that it’s always easier to know someone when you arrive at a new place. It’s easier to fit in a new team if you know other players. But at this level, it doesn’t make any difference. Except for the language, I can’t see how Fekir couldn’t adapt to an English side. And when you watch both teams play, Fekir fits in better with Liverpool.

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Does Fekir have a genuine chance of joining the French national team in Russia?

When you take a look back at his season, maybe yes. There can still be some injuries, of course. For me, (France) have three players for two spots in Florian Thauvin, Dimitri Payet and Fekir. Anything can happen until Didier Deschamps announces the players who will fly to Russia. If Fekir scores in the two remaining games, it can tip the scales in his favour.

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If Liverpool don’t finish in the Top 4 and lose the Champions League final to Real Madrid, they won’t play Champions League football next year. Do you think this would potentially affect Fekir’s move?

I don’t think it will influence his decision. Liverpool just have to draw against Brighton (at the weekend) to be in Champions League next season. I can’t see him not moving to Liverpool just because of that. Given the information I have, I can’t see Nabil Fekir not being a Red next season.

Audrey Corminboeuf
Just a Swiss girl supporting the best team in the world. YNWA

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