Aurélien Tchouaméni was heavily linked with a transfer to Liverpool last summer. The upcoming tie with Real Madrid will send a further Jude Bellingham message.
Just as it is set on Jude Bellingham for the upcoming summer market, Liverpool knew who it wanted in last year’s transfer window. The top target was Aurélien Tchouaméni, who had made a serious impression in Ligue 1 while contracted to AS Monaco.
The French starlet was painting himself as an elite prospect, and one who was also capable of delivering immediately upon a hypothetical arrival at Anfield. He was physical and proactive, while offering a solid degree of contribution in attack and particularly defense.
Given how Jürgen Klopp’s midfield department had developed since the manager’s appointment back in 2015, it was time for fresh legs to be installed. Tchouaméni’s signature would have been perfect timing just weeks after Liverpool fell short of securing an unprecedented quadruple, but Real Madrid managed to attract him to the Bernabéu.
After trying and failing to land the signature of Kylian Mbappé, the Spanish giant was determined to land Tchouaméni, eventually overpaying through desperation in their attempts to sign him.
On the back of losing out to Real Madrid, Klopp seemed to make a strange decision. Instead of sourcing an alternative option from the market, he initially decided to stick with his options, presenting 37-year-old James Milner with a one-year contract extension.
The Reds boss seemed to think that everything would be fine, but it didn’t take long for reality to change his mind. Liverpool failed to win any of its first three Premier League matches, and the usual suspects in his squad picked up injuries.
It became apparent that Klopp’s engine room was shattered. After playing 63 matches in all competitions in the previous season, the Anfield outfit had no energy left, with Milner, Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcântara aging beyond their prime years.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keïta suffered fitness setbacks, while the likes of Harvey Elliott, Curtis Jones and Fábio Carvalho battled for consistency as youthful talents who weren’t yet ready to deliver every single week.
Klopp panicked and sanctioned the loan move for Arthur Melo from Juventus, a player who hasn’t yet featured in a Premier League match for Liverpool, as he picked up a serious injury just weeks after arriving on Merseyside.
Since, Liverpool has truly suffered, against the ball in particular. It has appeared wide open on the defensive side of the game, conceding almost twice as many goals as fifth-placed Newcastle United. It has simply been too easy to cut the Reds apart.
Klopp has publicly called for his midfielders to ‘win more challenges’ on several occasions this term, which is ominous considering one of Tchouaméni’s biggest strengths.
The Frenchman is the ball-winning presence that Liverpool has been lacking in the center. He’s ranked inside the top three players across Europe’s top five leagues for tackles and interceptions in each of the last two full campaigns, placing joint-top in 2020/21 and third last season.
This week, the Champions League is due to return and Liverpool is scheduled to face Real Madrid on Tuesday night. Even with Tchouaméni a fitness doubt, having missed the last match with flu, the heavyweight clash will act as a timely reminder for Klopp ahead of the upcoming summer transfer window.
With Bellingham touted for a move to Merseyside in the coming months, the Reds boss boss must be ruthless with his midfield renovation and even if he fails to land his top target from Borussia Dortmund, he must explore alternative options.
Nobody knows how Liverpool would have fared with Tchouaméni on the pitch this term, but it is reasonable to suggest the 23-year-old would have addressed many of Klopp’s concerns.
Next season, perhaps Bellingham will get a chance to show supporters exactly why he was deemed to be worth the wait.