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Man City move for Alexis Mac Allister speaks volumes about Liverpool’s transfer plans



Man City move for Alexis Mac Allister speaks volumes about Liverpool’s transfer plans

Having taken the decision to step away from a pursuit of Jude Bellingham, Liverpool might have been forgiven for believing there would be less demand in those their attentions had instead been turned towards.

But after earmarking Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister as their primary target, post-Bellingham – a decision that was seemingly made, definitively, during the March international break when a recruitment meeting was undertaken – it appears as though the Reds are now also bracing themselves for similarly strong interest in the Argentina World Cup winner.

Reports over the weekend suggested Liverpool had all but agreed personal terms with Mac Allister, who is on the cusp of ending a campaign that has already seen him win a World Cup by inspiring Brighton to Europa League qualification. Those at Anfield have since dismissed those suggestions, which news of Man City’s emergence as an interested party would appear to strongly back up.

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Liverpool, then, are now heading into a critical summer embroiled in, at the very least, a three-way battle for Mac Allister’s signature, with Man City and Manchester United also keen on the 24-year-old. Brighton, for their part, will not let him walk away without a battle of their own, despite manager Roberto de Zerbi’s claim earlier this month that he may lose his No.10.

“I saw him down on the pitch looking very happy and obviously we want him to be here next season.” Brighton CEO, Paul Barber claimed in a chat with talkSPORT on Monday.

“Obviously we know there’s going to be a lot of clubs, not just in this country, but around Europe and around the world, that are going to be wanting him to play for them. But, at the moment he’s wearing blue and white stripes and I’m delighted about that.

“If I lost sleep over every report that I read about one of our players doing that then I wouldn’t be sleeping very much at all. At the moment, he’s focused on doing what he can for us during his final two games.”

‘Spinning plates’ has been the phrase around Liverpool’s list of transfer targets in recent months. The club’s inability to really know their Champions League fate either way has no doubt played a part in the recruitment team being in possession of a longer list than normal for this time of the year.

In recent years, Liverpool’s qualification for the European Cup has more often than not already been known, meaning planning has been easier when armed with the knowledge of the financial benefits that would be forthcoming as a result.

However, with a Europa League place now almost certain to be the sum of the Reds’ efforts across the last nine months, it has, inevitably, had a knock-on effect. Snaring the £130m-rated Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund under the noses of both Real Madrid and Manchester City was always going to be the tallest of orders without having Champions League evenings under the Anfield lights to offer, even if it is only to be for one campaign.

But Monday’s news that City have now also turned their attention to Mac Allister is further evidence that it is Real Madrid who have decisively won the race for England international Bellingham. In truth, Liverpool accepted some weeks ago that the 19-year-old would not be theirs and forward planning has been ongoing behind the scenes to ensure a difficult campaign is put right for the 2023/24.

The impending arrival of Jorg Schmadtke is a big step towards that as he gets set to fly into Merseyside to finalise his terms to become the new sporting director at the end of the season.

The apparently outspoken Schmadtke represents a break in tradition for sporting directors at Liverpool. The position has only ever been filled, officially, by Julian Ward and Michael Edwards – two personalities who prefer to shun the limelight and work quietly and proactively behind the scenes.

Schmadtke, in contrast, is famed, to an extent, for an argumentative, cantankerous approach, according to those with experience of his dealings in German football, where he built his reputation with Aachen, Hannover and Koln before helping Wolfsburg into the Champions League two years ago.

“I have no problems with anyone,” Schmadtke is quoted as saying once. “There are even people who want to see me again and have a coffee or a beer with me. I’m not as big an ass as people might think!”

It will be fascinating to see how the legendary goalkeeper is able to work in tandem with Klopp, who, like his compatriot, is no shrinking violet himself, But alongside chief scout Barry Hunter and head of recruitment Dave Fallows, it is a structure that needs to deliver this summer as a major period of transfer dealings approaches.

It is maybe no exaggeration to say this is Liverpool’s most important transfer window since 2018 when the additions of Alisson Becker, Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri – plus Virgil van Dijk earlier that year – helped transform the Reds from top-four hopefuls to Premier League runners-up and Champions League winners inside 12 months.

It might be heartening, in some respects, to find that it is not just Liverpool who view Mac Allister as an important target but the increased competition means the Reds will be forced to remain agile and nimble in their attempts to persuade the Argentina star that Anfield is the best destination for him, even if the Manchester giants are able to offer the Champions League here and now.

In many ways, it has echoes of Liverpool’s interest in Virgil van Dijk, who was also attracting admiring glances from both Chelsea and Man City back in the summer of 2017. Klopp and his team would eventually win that race and the rest was history. Something similar might be needed this time around.


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