A ‘strong’ Liverpool relationship could help find an heir to Fabinho in the transfer market, with Darwin Núñez part of a recurrent and encouraging trend.
The decision of the Anfield recruitment team to pull out of the race to sign Jude Bellingham took many by surprise but attention will now very quickly turn to who the Reds will look to alternatively target. One Premier League star could prove to be an astute purchase and Liverpool may already have a major advantage in the race for his signature.
Undoubtedly, the sheer amount of problem areas that urgently need fixing in Jürgen Klopp’s squad will have influenced the club’s decision to not pursue a deal for Borussia Dortmund ace Bellingham, with the fact that the Reds potentially require several additions in midfield alone surely a key concern as it is. Digging a little deeper, it is quite possible that Liverpool not only needs to add a couple of box-to-box midfielders but could also probably do with strengthening in the ‘number six’ role.
Of course, last summer, the stark decline in Fabinho’s performances this season would not have been predicted by many, but it would not be a major surprise to see Klopp decide that Liverpool has now seen the best of the Brazilian. With this in mind, a move for a replacement for the 29-year-old would, therefore, likely be in order.
As such, links in recent times with Fulham midfield anchor João Palhinha do make a lot of sense, especially following his imperious performances since swapping Lisbon for West London last summer. In retrospect, the Portuguese international was something of a coup for Marco Silva’s side last July, and it would be fair to suggest that he has comfortably been one of the most effective defensive midfielders in the Premier League this season — he has made more tackles than any player in the division this term, with 105.
According to Football Insider, the 27-year-old star has been scouted by Liverpool on multiple occasions this season and, given the strength of his performances at Craven Cottage, it is unlikely that they will have been put off by what they have seen. What has been overlooked by some observers is that Palhinha can boast genuine pedigree too, having won the Primeira Liga, while also having played in both the Champions League and Europa League, as well as being named in the squad for Portugal’s last two international tournaments.
On top of this, it appears that Liverpool may have another ace to play when it comes to beating other rumored suitors such as Arsenal and Manchester United to the 20-time international. Football Insider has described the relationship between Liverpool and Gestifute — the agency that represents him — as ‘strong’. It is worth noting that the Reds have had numerous dealings with the Jorge Mendes-owned agency in recent times with current stars Fabinho, Diogo Jota, and Darwin Núñez also on their books.
Having penned a five-year deal upon signing for the Cottagers last summer, it is clear that the club is not necessarily under any pressure to sell, but one does wonder whether they would resist the chance to grab a sizable return on their $25m (£20m/€23m) investment if Liverpool comes calling.
In hindsight, Fulham got itself a bargain last summer when it comes to Palhinha. It would not be a major surprise to see the London club demand nearly double this if it were to ultimately sell the Portuguese midfielder, with his current valuation standing at $39m (£31m/€35m), according to Transfermarkt.
In comparison, Fabinho is valued at $50m (£40m/€45m) by Transfermarkt and, if a bid comes in for the Klopp mainstay, it would be interesting to see whether Liverpool would decide to move the player on following a concerning drop in his performances this term. By contrast to Palhina’s 105 tackles this season, the Brazilian has managed just 52, with the former Sporting Lisbon man also besting him in terms of tackle success, with a rate of 73 percent to Fabinho’s 61 percent, as per Infogol.
Liverpool has a major decision to make this summer when it comes to the ‘number six’ position and given the fact that Fabinho is potentially the Reds’ only realistic sellable midfield asset, cashing in on him would make some sense. In Palhinha, the Reds may well have a ready-made replacement who can hit the ground running, having already adjusted well to life in the Premier League.