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Why it makes sense for Liverpool to sign Gelson Martins

In the last week, several Sporting CP players made the decision to terminate their contracts with the club. This came after several players and coaches were violently attacked at the club’s training centre by a group of ultras following their failure to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League.

One of said players is Portuguese winger Gelson Martins. This name may ring a bell, as the Reds were linked to him this time last season as a possible alternative to Mohamed Salah.

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Ian Doyle of the Liverpool Echo recently confirmed that the Portuguese international was considered as a possible target last summer, and with the Reds now looking to further reinforce their attacking options, Martins being available on a free may appeal to the likes of Jürgen Klopp and Michael Edwards.

What type of a player is he?

The first word that comes to mind with Martins is pace. He is able to play on both flanks but is mainly deployed on the right side and has had the job of providing service to the prolific Bas Dost for Sporting. His ability to pick up loose balls and drive forward at defences suggests he would fit in well at Liverpool, with the Reds having established themselves as one of the most breath-taking counterattacking teams in Europe.

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The numbers

Martins enjoyed a solid enough season in terms of offensive output, registering 10 goals and 9 assists in all competitions.

While there are certainly arguments to be made regarding the quality and consistency of the competition in Portugal, Martins’ statistical output is still pretty stellar, even when compared with the likes of Salah and Sadio Mané. That’s not only on the offensive side of the ball, but without it as well.

 

Across domestic leagues and European competitions, the Portuguese stacks up as follows:

  • Tackles per 90
    • Martins: 1.4 
    • Mané: 1.4
    • Salah: 0.4
  • Interceptions per 90
    • Martins: 0.7
    • Mané: 0.5
    • Salah: 0.2
  • Successful dribbles per 90
    • Martins: 2.8
    • Mané: 2.6
    • Salah: 2.4
  • Key passes per 90
    • Martins: 1.4
    • Mané: 1.6
    • Salah: 2.1

What would he bring?

Following Salah’s unfortunate injury in the Champions League final, it became apparent that the Reds did not have any pacy wingers in the same mold to replace him. We all know Adam Lallana’s quality as a midfielder, but a winger he is not, and the Reds suffered as a result of not being able to target both Real Madrid full-backs as was originally planned. Having a bench option with the immense pace of Martins could have helped Liverpool in exploiting gaps in the Madrid defence more easily, with Marcelo often spending his time high up the pitch, and Nacho being more of a centre-back than a right-back.

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After the sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in early January, the front three of Mané, Salah, and Roberto Firmino rarely got the opportunity to rest, and tired legs may have played a part in what was a shaky end to the Premier League season. When Coutinho was still at the club, Mané was occasionally rested and Coutinho deployed on the left, keeping the attacking players fresh each week.

If Martins were to become a Liverpool player, he could be seen as a deputy to both Mané and Salah, but he would give Klopp the chance to rotate his front three more often without compromising the pace in his squad.

Those who have watched Martins will know that his end product is an area of his game that must improve, as he is not as clinical as Liverpool’s current forward players. However, Klopp has shown his ability to take players with potential and improve them, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andy Robertson two such examples. What’s to say he couldn’t do the same with Martins?

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Martins came off the bench in Portugal’s most recent World Cup fixture against Morocco, and with Portugal likely to proceed into the last 16, fans will have more chances to watch him play.

A free transfer comes with a low risk, and therefore signing Gelson Martins seems a no-brainer.

Karan Singh Uka
Karan (@K16_LFC), "I'd go out and sweep the street and be proud to do it for Liverpool FC if they asked me to"

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