Liverpool Renew Interest in Ligue 1 Playmaker

Priyasha Bhowmik
Read Time:5 Minute, 49 Second

With Gini Wijnaldum’s exit in the cards, Liverpool were forced to look for replacements in the window itself. The latest link? Renato Sanches.

It was mid January, or, in football terms, mid winter transfer window. As usual, transfer rumours were flying about like loose leaves on a windy day and to nobody’s surprise, Liverpool seemed to be linked with about every football player to walk on Earth, including Sergio Ramos.

Worry not! Not all of these rumours were cock and bull stories, and today LFC Transfer Room will make you more familiar with a player who has seemed to arouse genuine interest from the red half of Merseyside.

A player who might replace Georginio Wjinaldum, especially with recent claims from the media that the Dutchman has decided to leave instead of renewing his contract with the Reds.

Renato Sanches

Some of you would surely remember a young Sanches playing for Welsh club Swansea in the 2017/18 Premier League season. On loan from Bayern Munich, Sanches hoped his English stint might rejuvenate his career, which was going downhill at the Allianz Arena.

Ever since the Bavarians signed the Portuguese youngster on 10 May 2016, making him the most expensive player to transfer out of Liga Nos, he had failed to impress.

The 2016 Golden Boy winner had a similar impact on Swansea, which is almost none. Struggling with injuries, Sanches made a disappointing return to Munich on 1 July 2018. At the end of the 2017/18 season, Swansea manager Carlos Carvalhal said,

“Renato knows he has had a very bad season. He is not at the level he was and when he had the injury in January, it finished him. Renato has a big talent, but he has much to learn. He stopped learning when he left Benfica and went to one of the biggest clubs in the world.”

Carlos Carvalhal on Renato Sanches

Sanches’ struggles continued and he was sold to Ligue 1 club, Lille, in 2018 at a reported fee of €23M, Lille’s record signing.

The move turned out to be a blessing. Sanches has turned about his career. Playing at the right in Lille’s often played 4-4-2, the 23 year old is showing frequent glimpses of the Benfica starlet which Bayern bought a few years ago.

Style of Play

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His style of play includes versatility in midfield, as well as being comfortable in defence, attacking, central and wide positions. His physical strength is a big attribute, as well as his passing abilities and composure while in possession. Sanches himself has claimed that he has molded his play of style according to that of Dutch legend, Clarence Seedorf, their intensities and passing styles said to be similar.

He also has a tendency to play longballs, shoot the ball from distance, cross and often plays the ball off the ground. He doesn’t make tackles

According to who, his strengths and weakness are:

Passing (strong)
Dribbling (strong)
Crossing (strong)
Defensive contribution (strong)

Aerial Duels (weak)
Tackling (weak)

2020/2021 statistics

His 2020/2021statistics are below: (includes Ligue 1, Coupe de la Ligue and Europa League)
(All are adjusted to be per game

Defensive statistics:

Tackles– 0.6
Interceptions– 0.2
Fouls given away– 1.2
Clearances– 0.4
Dribbled past– 0.7
Blocks– 0.1

Offensive statistics:

Goals– 3
Assists– 1
Shots– 0.9
Key passes– 0.5
Dribbles– 1.3
Fouls won– 0.9
Offsides– 0.1
Dispossessed– 0.6

Passing statistics:

Pass success rate– 89.9
Long balls– 3.7
Passes– 37.4
Crosses– 0.4
Thoughballs– 0.1

All of this was achieved through 865 minutes of action in 24 appearances across the 3 competitions (9 of the appearances being off the bench). He is also reasonably disciplined, with managing to get only 2 yellow cards.

He is in the Lille starting eleven 32% of the time this season, playing 33% of the available minutes and has participated in 4% of the Lille goals.

Gini’s replacement?

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Sanches is not a stranger in Liverpool’s rumor mill, and Jurgen Klopp seems to be a fan for quite a long time now. Although his Ligue 1 statistics are not as similar to Wjinaldum’s Premier League ones, as one might hope, he is certainly not someone to just not consider.

Sanches and Wjinaldum do have a similar pass completion rate (Sanches’ 89.1 vs Wjinaldum’s 91.4). However, the young Portuguese has a higher SpG (1 vs 0.8) and a overall rating which is pretty close to Wjinaldum’s (6.69vs 6.63). Gini has played 1952 minutes compared to Sanches’ 744 and on average wins 1.1 aerial duels, compared to Sanches’ 0.3.

Some similar statistics that Sanches shares with Wjinaldum are tackles per game ( 0.6 vs 0.8), clearances (0.5 vs 0.4), blocks (0.1 vs 0.1), dribbled past (0.9 vs 0.8), key passes (0.6 vs 0.6), dispossessed (0.7 vs 0.8) and average passes (44.1 vs 49.1).

A concerning note about Sanches, however, is his injury record. Georginio Wjinaldum has been a fitness wonder for Liverpool in this injury prone season, his replacement surely needs to be as available as he has been.

Alas, Sanches has been struggling with injuries since 2016, missing 56 games in 361 days spent on the sidelines over the last 4 years. Wjinaldum, on the other hand, has never missed a Liverpool game due to injury ever since his signing.

Will it happen?

With Sanches thriving in Ligue 1, whispers of a Premier League move are springing up everywhere. Trustworthy football journalist, Fabrizio Romano, has even let it slip in his Here We Go podcast in January that Liverpool might make a shock move for the Lille player in the summer transfer window, having monitored him previously.

“Pay attention to Renato Sanches. Next summer he will be on the market and Liverpool are looking at him. There is nothing advanced yet but they are looking at him as an opportunity. He’ll be a main target for top clubs and also for Liverpool.”

Fabrizio Romano on Liverpool’s interest in Renato Sanches

In in his more recent podcast, on the 15th of Feburary, Romano brought up Sanches yet again.

“The renewal of Georginio Wijnaldum’s contract remains extremely complicated because he could leave as a free agent in the summer and there has not been a definitive communication yet. The board is therefore evaluating the idea of buying a new midfielder, with many names on the list, including Renato Sanches of Lille. “

Although valued at €28M by TransferMarkt, Lille will, almost certainly, ask for a significantly higher price for Sanches. They have already rejected a €70m bid from the Premier League.

But, Lille are in desperate need of money and cashing in on Sanches in the summer would be perfect for them. Liverpool is said to see him as the number 1 option to fill the void that would surely be left by Wjinaldum if he leaves Liverpool in the summer.

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