Liverpool: How would Nabil Fekir fit in?
With Nabil Fekir looking likely to leave Lyon in the summer, RealSport looks at how he would fit in at Liverpool.
It is common knowledge that Olympique Lyonnais’ academy is a conveyor belt of potentially world-class players.
In recent years, Samuel Umtiti, Corentin Tolisso and Alexandre Lacazette all made big moves to Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Arsenal respectively. These moves came from sustained excellent performances in Lyon.
Lyon are able to maximise profits from their stable of youthful stars, whether they hail from the academy or were purchased for a relative pittance previously.
With the money, Lyon are able to invest further into the first team, keeping them strong for a Champions League spot.
The squad has plenty of young attackers with a point to prove: Memphis Depay underwhelmed at Manchester United, while Bertrand Traore and Mariano Diaz were not afforded chances at Chelsea and Real Madrid (the latter’s case is understandable).
The birth of a star
The next player set to make his move after enthralling the Lyon faithful looks to be Nabil Fekir, current captain.
Fekir is undoubtedly the poster boy of the squad. While Mariano has 21 goals in all competitions, Fekir has 22. His rise to the top has not been smooth though.
Born in Lyon, he had joined their academy aged 12, but was released two years later on account of his lack of strength. He grafted till he was re-signed in 2011.
He made his debut in the 2013-14 season, and while he scored a solitary goal, the season was more an exercise in experience and developing his skills.
The following season was his true break-out, as he scored 15 goals and 12 assists in around 3,000 minutes.
It set him on the path towards a further rampaging season the following year. And he started well too, with a goal in the third game and following it up with a hat-trick and an assist in a 4-0 win over Caen.
Surviving the fall
Unfortunately, an ACL tear curtailed his season, seeing him play only in the following April. It was a cruel blow leaving Fekir watching the world go by.
This season, though, he’s come back with a bang. 14 goals and 12 assists last season are statistical examples of his talent but there’s a lot more to him than mere numbers.
Having been shifted from centre-forward, attacking midfield and right-wing through his career, Mariano’s purchase has seen Fekir take hold of the No 10 role.
He’s an excellent dribbler, dangerous in the final third while skilful too. His versatility is another major plus point.
Heavily linked to Liverpool in the past week, it seems as though Fekir is the replacement for Philippe Coutinho, who left in the winter, on paper.
While both attackers are stylistically different, the Brazilian’s role in the Liverpool attack could, in theory, be filled by Fekir.
The Frenchman could be the No 8 pulling strings from slightly deeper, or a roaming midfielder akin to Coutinho.
Fekir’s role would be to break down defensive teams, something Liverpool has struggled with this season.
His versatility could see Klopp field him in a variety of formations, allowing for better tactical changes in-game.
He’s strong in the penalty box, a good free-kick taker while he’s also adapted to the changes around him and the additional leadership seamlessly.
Fekir is at a stage where he needs a new challenge in a better team, in a strong league. Liverpool could be that challenge.
Before Liverpool fans go into overdrive though, there are caveats.
While his knee has not flared up majorly post-injury, it is still a possible weakness.
Fekir may also rather be the main man of his new club or at least part of the attack. It’s unfeasible that he would replace either of Salah, Mane or Firmino in the front three; while Fekir would be part of an attacking quartet of sorts, he may yearn for more limelight.
As things stand, Liverpool are armed with the Coutinho cash. However, the reported £62 million seems a bit too steep.
Lyon will not sell cheap but, for a player that is yet to hit his peak, the money could be used elsewhere.
Liverpool’s purchases of Salah, Mane and Firmino were all around a similar price range and, as Fekir is in a similar stage to the trio career-wise when they joined Liverpool, his value may be a bit too high.
Looking at other options, Chelsea and Arsenal have also been linked. But both clubs will be getting new managers in the summer, so it is a bigger risk for Fekir to move there.
Chelsea’s formation under the new manager is an unknown, while Arsenal have Fekir’s former teammate, Lacazette, as well as Aubameyang up front, with Ozil taking the No 10 role.
Chelsea should be having greater concerns, while Arsenal don’t have the finances. It leaves Liverpool as the front-runners.
Worth the risk
Fekir isn’t a perfect fit. He also isn’t a like-for-like Coutinho replacement but he doesn’t have to be.
If he arrives in Liverpool with Naby Keita, the club look set to be the main challengers to Manchester City next season.
The Lyon graduate looks set to leave home and it’s the right time.
It’s a risk but so was Salah. That turned out well, didn’t it?
Should Liverpool sign Nabil Fekir? Let us know by commenting below.