The remarkable £51m goal-scoring midfielder who could take Liverpool to the next level this summer

Liverpool have been linked with a stylish goal-scoring midfielder from Serie A - but what would he bring to Anfield if he signs?
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It’s not often that a player being targeted by a top-flight club openly tells the world that he wants to move, and that he’d cheerfully consider moving to your country – but that’s just what Teun Koopmeiners, who has been linked with a host of clubs including Liverpool, did a few days ago.

“I told Atalanta that in the coming summer, I want to move,” the 26-year-old Dutch midfielder told media in his homeland. “My fiancée and I are having a great time in Italy, but for some clubs in England I could even bear the rainy days there…”

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Now that’s a proper old-fashioned come-and-get-me plea if ever we saw one. Not that it necessarily means Liverpool will be the beneficiaries of a transfer, with Juventus, Napoli and Arsenal all possible destinations too. The queue for one of the most technically impressive players in Europe is lengthening by the day.

But if Liverpool do decide to make a bid – Atalanta are believed to want €50-60m (£43-51m) for one of their star assets – what kind of player would they be getting, and how would he fit in at Anfield? What kind of bang would the Reds be getting for a pretty substantial amount of buck?

For starters, they would get goals. Koopmeiners just bagged a brace in a 2-2 draw against Juventus which took him to 10 goals in Serie A this season, the same mark he managed last year – and in his last three seasons in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar, he notched up 34 Eredivise goals. He is a genuine goal-scoring midfielder.

Much of that is thanks to two happy knacks that he has – the first, of finding little pockets of space between defenders which give him a lot of extra room in which to operate. And the second is beautiful natural timing of his strikes. With minimal backlift or apparent effort, he generates power and accuracy easily. His goals are often extremely aesthetically pleasing to watch, as is much of the rest of his game.

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The underlying numbers behind his goal-scoring are pretty remarkable, too. Those 10 goals came at an xG of barely more than five, and he scores with just under a quarter of all his attempts on goal. There isn’t a striker in the world who wouldn’t be proud of numbers like that. He is a very dangerous man in the final third.

That quality is made all the more remarkable because of the fact that, by elite standards, he’s fairly slow. He doesn’t have a quick burst of speed in his boots and he doesn’t leave defenders trailing in his wake. Instead, he just find little half-spaces they never even knew they needed to worry about and pings the ball into the back of the net like a golfer nailing a five iron.

He’s also an exceptional technician with a lovely first touch and graceful movement with the ball. To make up for his lack of pace, he can thread his way through defenders with quick touches which sends them the wrong way and shields the ball at the same time. For a relatively slow player, he’s surprisingly hard to tackle, and is excellent at working his way out of tight spaces to pick a pass. That lack of speed combined with his lovely technique makes him a beautifully languid player to watch – a midfield playmaker and goalscorer with just a little touch of Dimitar Berbatov about him.

He's also surprisingly effective in the press for a player without top-end speed, which is perhaps where the Berbatov comparison breaks down. He’s got plenty of stamina and while he might not get about the field as quickly as some players, he’s more than willing to put himself about and his heat maps show him popping up all over the midfield trying to put out fires. He makes a healthy number of tackles and interceptions and recovers nearly five loose balls a game, so if Liverpool’s next manager persists with a strong pressing game, Koopmeiners is unlikely to be found wanting.

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The only real query with the Dutchman is whether he really fills a position of need for Liverpool. They already have Dominik Szoboszlai as an attacking playmaker and Harvey Elliott, Curtis Jones, Alexis Mac Allister and Ryan Gravenberch in slightly deeper midfield roles. It’s debatable as to whether they really need to spend so much money on an area of the field in which they already have plenty of quality.

So it may not be too much of a tragedy if Liverpool miss out – which Fabrizio Romano, at least, thinks is likely to happen as he believes that Juventus are leading the race as it stands. Plenty could change by the time we get to the summer, however, and he’s certainly got the kind of talent to be worth a bid.

In terms of Premier League clubs, it could well be the case that Arsenal need Koopmeiners more given their lack of depth in the final third – but links between the Gunners and the Dutchman have cooled noticeably after his name cropped up a few times not so long ago. Tottenham Hotspur have come up in conversation, as well - but it’s Liverpool whose name is getting the most mentions right now. Whether that translates into a transfer remains to be seen, but Liverpool would be getting a very pleasing player if it does.

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