We profile five players who could fill the shoes Fabinho, who looks set to leave Liverpool and become the latest big name player to join the Saudi Pro League
Liverpool find themselves in something of a predicament as Fabinho moves closer toward a transfer to Saudi Pro League club Al Ittihad.
The Brazilian signed for Liverpool from AS Monaco in 2018 and has gone on to play 219 times for the club, gaining the nicknames ‘Dyson’ and ‘The Lighthouse’ for his ability to read play and spring counter-attacks into action. Across five years on Merseyside, Fabinho has helped the team win every major honour they have competed for.
The Reds have already spent £95m on two midfield additions this summer – Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai. These are more attack-minded options, however, so should Fabinho depart in the coming days, it will be imperative to swiftly snap up a replacement with defensive capabilities in midfield.
In that area the Reds have so far been limited to links to youthful talents, so it will be interesting to see how Jurgen Klopp switches priorities to anyone more ready-made ahead of a crucial season.
This piece of business also comes at a difficult time, with two of the English top-flight’s biggest defensive midfield talents – Declan Rice and Moises Caicedo – having signed for Arsenal and set to join Chelsea respectively. So, working with players that are on the market and using Fbref.com’s database, here are five candidates to take Fabinho’s spot in the Liverpool squad:
The 19-year-old has been linked more than any other defensive midfielder so far this summer. He enjoyed a personally successful breakout in an otherwise chaotic relegation campaign with Southampton during 2022/23, making 29 Premier League appearances.
The ECHO understands that his age and experience would not be a barrier in his potential progression into Liverpool’s squad.
The foundations are clearly there with Lavia for Klopp to emulate his Fabinho project, based on the Belgian’s ability to turn defence into attack.
Throughout last season, Lavia managed 22 progressive carries of the ball, 21 of which entered the opponent’s defensive third. In comparison, Fabinho only recorded 15.
Although it could be argued that the Liverpool midfielder is more commonly associated with his passing range, something that Lavia trails in but not too far behind.
Fabinho completed 88.3% of his attempted passes, while Lavia completed 86.2%. Interestingly, however, the tables are turned when considering long-range passes (30+ yards). Lavia managed a success rate of 73.1% to Fabinho’s 69.4%.
Another target linked earlier in the summer, Borussia Monchengladbach’s Kone is one of the continent’s most exciting prospects in this position.
The Frenchman offers a similar attraction in the department of moving play forwards, with 166 progressive passes in 2022/23 trumping Fabinho’s total by five. Kone also made more tackles, 74 to 65.
The major downside to any move for the 22-year-old is that an injury sustained before France’s exit from the European Under-2 Championship last month means he would only be reaching fitness come the start of August. Klopp simply has too many issues of this nature already, with Stefan Bajcetic and Thiago also on the road to recovery.
Moving into the ready-made bracket, Fulham’s midfield general offers an interesting prospect for Klopp to mull over.
Since swapping Lisbon for London, the Portugal international impressed as his side bucked the trend to retain their Premier League status. He played a huge part in this, and this is the first reason he is an ideal, proven candidate for Liverpool.
In his first season in England, Palhinha completed and average of 34.5 90-minute matches, beating Fabinho, who only completed 29.7. Availability is going to be critical if the club wish to reach he pinnacle of English football once again.
Fulham’s midfielder also almost doubled Fabinho’s tackles-per-90 minutes, too, completing an average of 4.26 to 2.19.
An outside option, granted, though the Leicester City midfielder simply can’t be overlooked with six years’ worth of Premier League experience. What’s more, he’s still only 26.
Ndidi was a crucial cog in Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester teams that qualified for Europe and won the FA Cup, often being compared to Fabinho throughout the era.
The duo went almost tit-for-tat with combined tackles and interceptions last season, Fabinho’s total of narrowly beating Ndidi’s 99. The Nigerian also made more clearances, totalling 48.
That being said, the major aspect of his game that proves unattractive is his rate of errors leading to opposition shots, leading this list of candidates by a country mile with three in 27 appearances.
There’s a special reason the Real Madrid midfielder has been left until last. No, he’s not part of the ready-made list per se, but instead just seems simply untouchable.
Reports yesterday emerged about Tchouameni, stating that Real want to keep the player. Still, it does no harm in pointing out how perfect of a candidate he would be to plug the gap left by Fabinho’s departure.
Firstly, from an attacking point of view, he recorded the most attacking returns on this shortlist with four assists. This came despite starting only 24 times, compared to the likes of Palhinha’s 35 and Fabinho’s 31 starts.
His pass success is sublime, completing 92.8%, and he boasts the highest shot-creating actions per 90 minutes, averaging 2.67.
It would be a dream for Klopp to have a player of this calibre at his disposal, but ultimately it is the unlikeliest scenario of the lot.