Premier League • England

Arthur Melo: 10 Serie A midfielders Liverpool should have tried to sign instead of questionable Juventus loanee

Arthur Melo, Everton v Liverpool September 2022

Arthur Melo is already facing an uncertain future at Liverpool less than a month after his arrival, so it begs the question: should the club have signed someone different?

It looked as if Liverpool’s business for the summer would be wrapped up early this year. Darwin Nunez, Fabio Carvalho and Calvin Ramsay all arrived by July; reports at the time predicted any further signings were unlikely.

However, a deepening injury crisis in midfield prompted a reaction from Liverpool late in the transfer window. On deadline day, they completed a surprise signing by bringing Arthur Melo in on loan from Juventus.

It was a signing that may have raised some eyebrows, not least because it seemingly came out of nowhere. Furthermore, Arthur had not exactly set Serie A alight since joining Juventus from Barcelona in 2020.

But he is now at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal until the end of the 2022/23 season – or so he should be. Indeed, there have been a few claims that Liverpool might cut his loan short if they can sign an upgrade in January.

Although Arthur Melo hasn’t really been given a chance to get going yet, there are some concerns as to whether he ever will in a Liverpool shirt.

In recent years, the club have rarely got their transfer strategy wrong. But for once, perhaps this was something of a panic buy. If they had focused their radar elsewhere, they could have found a better option, depending on who was available.

Even just by shifting their focus slightly elsewhere in the Italian market, they could have found better players to pursue. Here, TEAMtalk takes a look at some of the Serie A options Liverpool should have considered instead of Arthur Melo.

Nicolo Barella (Inter)

Nicolo Barella, Inter Milan, during Serie A match at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza

A name that would certainly have got Liverpool fans talking, Nicolo Barella has established himself as one of Serie A’s best midfielders in recent years.

The Cagliari academy product made the step up to Inter Milan in 2019. Consequently, he became part of a Scudetto-winning squad in his second season at the club. Now 25 years old, he has become more than a top prospect, but a senior standout.

Famously compared to Steven Gerrard in the past, Barella is a box-to-box midfielder whose qualities would have suited the Premier League – and specifically Liverpool – if he had made such a move.

There were links late in the window, but the Barella option was ultimately discarded. Under contract with Inter until 2026, he might remain on Liverpool’s radar.

Ismael Bennacer (AC Milan)

Another player who calls San Siro home to be linked with Liverpool throughout August was AC Milan midfielder, Ismael Bennacer.

His previous attempt at establishing himself in England did not go to plan; he left Arsenal in 2017 without ever making his Premier League debut. But over the past few years in Italy, the Algeria international has thrived.

Last season was the busiest of his career, as he played 40 times in all competitions. Thanks to the efforts of the 24-year-old and those around him, Milan won the league.

He would be much better equipped for success in the Premier League by now. Therefore, he was worth considering – especially since his contract only runs until 2024.

Piotr Zielinski (Napoli)

Links between Liverpool and Piotr Zielinski date as far back as 2016, but will he ever actually end up at Anfield?

Last season, the Poland international surpassed 250 appearances for Napoli, who finished in the Champions League places. Of course, they ended up in the same group as Liverpool and claimed a famous win in the first meeting in September.

Zielinski started that match and scored twice, showing his long-term admirers what they have been missing out on.

Also out of contract in 2024, although Napoli have the option to extend his deal for an extra year, it is unlikely we have seen the last of Zielinski being tipped for a transfer to Liverpool.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (Napoli)

Another player who managed to catch the eye for Napoli in that 4-1 win over the Reds was Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa.

He may not have made a major impression in the Premier League with Fulham, but they must have been onto something in identifying him as a talent. Since joining Napoli last summer, Zambo Anguissa has taken his game to a whole new level.

Even back in October 2021, former Roma sporting director Walter Sabatini – the man responsible for bringing a certain Alisson Becker to Europe – told CalcioNapoli24: “I don’t understand how (anyone in) the Premier League didn’t notice him. I am amazed that the two Manchester teams, Chelsea and Liverpool did not arrive on a Fulham player.”

Perhaps Liverpool should have been looking more closely in the time since then. With better players around him, the Cameroonian could have shone.

Marcelo Brozovic (Inter)

Like his Inter teammate Barella, Marcelo Brozovic has been the subject of links with Liverpool in the distant and more recent past.

Still in his prime at the age of 29, he has honed his skills as a defensive midfielder over the past few years, after originally making his name as an attack-minded option.

His tactical evolution may be somewhat reminiscent of how Georginio Wijnaldum adapted and developed under Jurgen Klopp. The Dutchman’s exit in 2021 left a void in the Liverpool midfield that they are still working to fill.

Brozovic signed a contract extension with Inter back in March, so might not have been the most attainable target. But that didn’t stop Liverpool being linked and his functionality across the middle of the park would have been beneficial.

Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma)

Speaking of Wijnaldum, the ex-Red would be competing for a place in Roma’s midfield right now if it weren’t for a broken leg. Were he fit, he would be playing a key role for them along with someone like Lorenzo Pellegrini.

Coincidentally, Roma’s captain was of interest to Liverpool last year before committing his long-term future to his boyhood club.

Able to play as an attacking midfielder or in a deeper role, he would have brought creativity to his department if Liverpool had managed to convince him before.

Liverpool have maybe been lacking someone to unlock defences from the midfield territory, and Pellegrini – who also enjoyed his best ever goalscoring season in 2021-22, but also regularly contributes assists – would have been more suited to that than Arthur.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio)

Elsewhere in the Italian capital, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic continues to thrive for Lazio. The Serbia international seems to have been linked with Manchester United for an eternity, so it might have been sweet for Liverpool to suddenly beat their rivals to him.

Remember when it looked like United were the leading contenders for Fabinho, until Liverpool snuck in and made him a key player after his 2018 move? Perhaps they could have tried to orchestrate a repeat.

Another dynamic, box-to-box option, Milinkovic-Savic would have more presence than Arthur Melo due to his impressive physical attributes.

At 27, he is at his peak and there are no signs of him slowing down. Long since identified as someone whose skillset would be adaptable to the Premier League, perhaps he shouldn’t have been overlooked.

Jerdy Schouten (Bologna)

Another Manchester United target that was linked with Liverpool late in the transfer window was Frenkie de Jong.

Truth be told, it seemed a rather fanciful suggestion. However, there are alternatives that could have come into the equation. For example, Bologna’s own Dutch player Jerdy Schouten has been likened to De Jong by former Netherlands star Rafael van der Vaart.

Schouten, 25, could progress at some stage, and although Liverpool didn’t look at him in the summer, some other Premier League clubs – including Arsenal, a rival for the European places – supposedly did.

He might have been a shrewd investment due to his lower profile. Alas, he ended up extending his contract with Bologna in August; the Serie A side might just have ensured themselves a decent profit when the time comes to cash in.

Davide Frattesi (Sassuolo)

Alternatively, one of the other biggest prospects in Serie A outside their top seven clubs is Sassuolo midfielder, Davide Frattesi.

Back in December, Italian transfer expert Fabrizio Romano declared Frattesi as “the next Barella” in an interview with Empire of the Kop, so it is clear to see why he might have been someone of interest.

Ultimately, no genuine links followed for Liverpool. After becoming a full Italy international, though, the 22-year-old has started his second season in the Sassuolo first team well.

He may have a better chance of attracting big suitors in the years to come.

Denis Zakaria (Juventus)

Denis Zakaria Juventus August 2022

Liverpool could have even gone for someone else at Juventus specifically, let alone Serie A as a whole.

After Arthur’s arrival, there have been revelations that they actually asked Juventus for Denis Zakaria before the Brazilian. Their attempts were unsuccessful and the Swiss star ended up at Chelsea.

If Zakaria does well at Stamford Bridge, it could come back to haunt Liverpool. There may already be a sense of regret that they missed out on the former Borussia Monchengladbach man, whom Juventus had advantageously snapped up in January, six months before the end of his contract in Germany.

Zakaria was starting for Juventus on the opening day of the Serie A season, but now is plying his trade in the Premier League. Alas, it is not with Liverpool.

What next for Liverpool and Arthur Melo?

The Reds will now have to draft up other plans if they want to replace Arthur Melo in 2023. Of course, they don’t have to merely look at options from Serie A. But while they were working in that market, they could have done better.

After insisting on a mantra of only targeting the right player, it seems strange they ended up with Arthur. Still, the former Gremio star will be aiming to impress with the chances he gets. He has been bought by two big clubs before; although it didn’t work out at either, they must have seen a potential in him that is still waiting to be unleashed.

Unless he really impresses, though, Liverpool should be looking elsewhere for the future. The answer might come from the Bundesliga, where they have of course cast glances at Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham.

But there will no doubt be plenty of other options for them to keep in mind while navigating the 2022-23 season with Arthur and others.