Liverpool are reportedly eyeing a swoop for Sporting Lisbon midfielder Manuel Ugarte, who has been in stellar form for his Portuguese outfit this season.
Having fallen from their perch after years of illustrious success under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool need to rebuild and forge a path back to the top, and the midfield in particular is set to see an overhaul.
James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all poised to depart in the summer as their contracts conclude, with loanee Arthur also on his way out, and Uruguayan Ugarte could be a brilliant addition to bring a new layer of robustness to the Reds’ centre.
According to Portuguese outlet O Jogo, a fee of £53m would be required to prise the 22-year-old away from Lisbon, but his performances this term have been emphatic and with Newcastle United also circling, the Anfield hierarchy might be wise to act swiftly.
Should Liverpool sign Manuel Ugarte?
Despite the forthcoming midfield exodus at Anfield, Ugarte could be viewed as a replacement for Thiago Alcantara, who has cut a frustrating figure for much of his time at the outfit.
Signing for Liverpool from Bayern Munich for £25m in 2020, the 32-year-old Spaniard has dazzled with his superlative ability but has often been confined to the medical room, missing 60 matches across his three campaigns for the Reds, and could be running out of time to forge a central role in Klopp’s plans.
Ugarte might not be a like-for-like change, but Klopp has not shirked from shifting the system before.
Gini Wijnaldum, relentless and tireless in his industrious midfield role, was replaced by the ball-playing wizard upon the expiry of his contract in 2021, a move which has arguably not quite worked.
For all of Thiago’s brilliant qualities as a pass master, he doesn’t quite fit the mould of a quintessential Jurgen Klopp midfielder, and Ugarte, who is himself an assured presence on the ball, completing a commendable career average 89.3% of his passes, could provide the vigour to raise the energy levels once more.
As per FBref, the Uruguayan menace ranks among the top 1% of midfielders in the ‘Men’s Next 8 divisions’ (the leagues below the established big five) for pass completion, also in the top 10% for successful take-ons, the top 1% for tackles and the top 2% for interceptions per 90.
He is the “midfield machine“, in the words of talent scout Jacek Kulig, that could revitalise Liverpool’s central engine and navigate a course back to the forefront of English and European football, with his seasonal heat map for Sporting highlighting his unrelenting ubiquity.
Also praised as a “warrior” by Kulig, Ugarte would bring the iron-clad resolve back to Anfield and fortify the midfield with his imposing demeanour on the pitch.
With Thiago’s fitness levels failing to meet the grade, Klopp must act ruthlessly and sign a prodigious talent awaiting a move to one of Europe’s biggest teams.