Liverpool and Aston Villa are not hamstrung by Financial Fair Play but could make further headroom with a cunning swap deal..
Given the furore regarding Financial Fair Play or, in the Premier League’s case, profit and sustainability rules, top-flight clubs may be forced to trade players this month and beyond. English football’s big hitters could be reduced to that annoying busybody off the Facebook Marketplace, haggling for every penny as they look to wheel and deal.
Or, casting the mind back to the halcyon days, the Panini sticker book era might be making a comeback but, this time, with a real-life twist. Fancy swapping our left-back for your winger? What about our second-choice striker for your goalkeeper? Sure, take an academy product too, we can’t “afford” his wages despite being owned by a sovereign wealth fund!
Financial governance was introduced to prevent clubs from going under over a decade ago. While appearing altruistic to the eye, all that has done is maintain the Premier League status quo. Manchester City were the last straggler to gain entry into the VIP area before the drawbridge slammed shut.
As it stands, FFP/PSR has hamstrung clubs from lavish January spending. Tottenham Hotspur – bankrolled by Harry Kane’s departure last summer – are the only team showing signs of splashing the cash.
In total, Premier League clubs have spent a paltry £31.5million. – a fraction of the £345million spent a year ago. January is notoriously a tough time to do business but there appears no sign of the panic and imprudent nature of previous years.
Clubs are likely keeping their cards hidden until the summer window when the balance sheet resets and the purse strings loosen. The reality of breaching restrictions was laid bare on Monday when the Premier League charged Everton and Nottingham Forest.
For the Toffees, this was the second time they have been accused of not following the rule book. Everton were deducted the biggest penalty in the competition’s history eight weeks ago and face another punishment – one which could lead to relegation.
Across Stanley Park, Liverpool’s balance sheet looks promising. A £24million profit across a three-year period leaves plenty of wriggle room. But that does not mean Jurgen Klopp should forget about revisiting a potential swap deal.
Ask any Reds supporter where their problem lies and they may struggle for an answer. After all, Liverpool are closing in on a record-equalling 20th top-flight title – a feat that would crown them as England’s undisputed kings.
But a deeper digest and fans are only going to name one concern: defensive midfield. It is a testament to Klopp’s managerial prowess how Liverpool remain top despite replacing Fabinho last summer.
Wataru Endo arrived but he is hardly the Claude Makelele type to trigger a title charge. Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai have played deeper to negate the Reds’ weakness while Ryan Gravenberch, a more defensively astute player, has been unable to showcase his attacking skills.
Signing a midfield enforcer would transform Liverpool into firm favourites for the league. Douglas Luiz, the Manchester City reject now relishing his role as Aston Villa’s talisman.
Reports suggest Villa Park chiefs have slapped a £100million price tag on his head. But Liverpool do not need to stump up a Euromillions win as Darwin Nunez provides an ace up their sleeve.
The erratic striker has evoked every emotion possible for Reds fans since his arrival 18 months ago. From frustration to jubilation, the club-record signing would be a world-beater if his erraticism converted into goals.
In truth, he has never seemed like a Klopp player. Nunez was hardly going to be the stylish Roberto Firmino replacement he was brought in as. His arrival signalled a tactical shift – and it has not worked.
Stick him in an Aston Villa side, either on the left flank or through the middle with Ollie Watkins, and Nunez could flourish. Unai Emery likes a powerful striker leading the line – could the Uruguayan fit the bill?
Just 22 goals in 72 games hardly draws comparisons to Kop legends of the past but most fans accept there is a player there. But is that at Anfield? The jury remains out. A fresh start elsewhere may prove best for all parties.
The move could work for both clubs, although Villa may want cash as well given where Luiz’s and Nunez’s stock are at. Liverpool forked out a fortune on Nunez but he has become a headache, with Klopp struggling to morph him into a success.
Mohamed Salah, Cody Gakpo, Luiz Diaz and Diogo Jota are more plausible options and suit the Klopp-like fluidity of Liverpool’s front three better. Nunez, however, looks like a square peg in a round hole…
Swapping him for Luiz would cure the migraine, with the defensive midfield dilemma being fixed in the process. Two birds for one stone while doing little to affect the club’s FFP parameters – an absolute no-brainer if the deal is doable.
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