It’s a rumour that simply won’t go away – Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool are being perennially linked with Barcelona youngster Ousmane Dembélé amid rumours that the Frenchman is unsettled at the Camp Nou.
It seems strange that Dembélé should be linked with the exit door so soon into his time with the Spanish giants, considering Barcelona forked out a whopping £135.5 million to Borussia Dortmund in order to secure his services.
While the links to such a clearly talented player who undoubtedly sits within the upper echelons of football’s talent pool are far more welcome than being linked with the likes of Mario Balotelli as Liverpool have been in the past, it is with some trepidation that the links have been received.
Perhaps the rumours surrounding Dembélé’s supposed attitude is something that might make Liverpool fans and Jürgen Klopp alike think twice – as we all know too well by now that Klopp will only sign players that he believes possess the right skillset and attitude to blend in with his squad.
While it is not beyond Klopp’s ability to bring in something of a ‘troublemaker’ into the ranks and turn him into a well-rounded professional, we’ve seen before that he will not tolerate such behaviours.
Remember Mamdou Sakho’s issues with punctuality and professionalism? Klopp soon had enough of that and sent him on his way – and you can’t help but feel that Dembélé would be a shoe-in for similar treatment should that behaviour happen under Klopp’s nose.
We are also all currently witnesses to the most harmonious Liverpool squad that we have seen for many years and anything that threatens that atmosphere must be put under the microscope and examined thoroughly for risks.
These are just the issues on the face of the transfer, let alone considering Dembélé’s sporadic form and hefty price tag Barcelona would likely demand for the 21-year-old when the weigh up how much they paid for him so recently.
When we delve a little deeper and look at where he would fit into the Liverpool squad tactically, we start to uncover a few more areas for which there are yet more questions as to how suitable bringing him to Anfield would be.
Dembélé primarily operates as an attacking wide-man, so would immediately face opposition from two of Liverpool’s key men in Salah and Mané for a starting role in the first team. While competition within the squad is always something that sides as big as Liverpool should be striving toward, paying such a hefty fee for Dembélé to predominantly sit on the bench seems a bit silly.
The current front three of Firmino, Salah and Mané have struck up such a rapport and understanding of each other’s game that it seems very unlikely that Klopp will be keen to break up that partnership for fear of reducing his side’s potency in attack.
So if he doesn’t fit directly into the front three, perhaps Klopp can re-mould him into a deeper lying attacker and creator, similar to the role he sculpted for Philippe Coutinho before his big money move to Spain.
Seems like a good plan on paper – until you think about the competition for spaces in the middle of the park for Liverpool.
While creativity has been a little lacking of late, summer signing Xherdan Shaqiri is more than stepping up to the plate with some magnificent performances, with Adam Lallana an option from the bench.
While Dembélé would be an upgrade on Lallana in terms of both quality and age, there’s also the small matter of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s eventual return to factor into this equation.
There’s no doubting that Ox’s name would’ve been one of the first on the team sheet this season if he hadn’t have been cruelly ruled out for the season when he suffered a major knee injury against Roma. When he’s fit again, Klopp will certainly look to the former Arsenal and Southampton man as a vital cog in his system.
So this already gives Liverpool the option of Shaqiri and Oxlade-Chamberlain for deep lying attackers, so do we need Dembélé to fill in there either?
That’s without mentioning Henderson, Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Keita and Milner who are all also vying for those precious starting roles in the team. Selection headache or what.
The anticipated departure of Adam Lallana at some point this season would make some space for a possible move for Dembélé, but given what happened with Nabil Fekir over the summer, a player of his ilk is far more likely to be on Michael Edwards’ radar than Dembélé.
While Liverpool do need to be looking to bigger and better players in transfer windows now, as they have done with Alisson Becker, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Naby Keita in recent times, they must also express a degree of caution.
Established players might also be a better option for Klopp rather than someone who, no offence to Dembélé, is still a bit of an uncut diamond. The raw potential is clearly there, but the consistency of a world-class performer is still lacking.
While an exciting signing like this would make fans happy and even more excited about the direct that Liverpool Football Club is heading in, I’m not sure that it fits with Klopp’s thinking at present.