Premier League • England

Liverpool line up ‘extremely aggressive’ midfielder who humbled Arsenal; Fabrizio Romano confirms huge transfer cost

FC Porto midfielder Alan Varela

Liverpool are considering activating a release clause to sign a midfielder drawing comparisons with a Reds favourite from the Rafa Benitez years, though stiff competition could come from Manchester City, according to reports.

Liverpool invested heavily in central areas last summer when signing four new midfielders. Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai, Ryan Gravenberch and Wataru Endo all arrived. The quartet took the places vacated by Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita.

Only Gravenberch of the new foursome is yet to truly make his mark at Anfield. At just £16m, Endo has arguably been the surprise package of the lot and produced another selfless and heroic display in the League Cup final.

Jurgen Klopp has already hinted the feisty Japan international could be in line for a new and improved deal at Anfield.

However, already aged 31, is seems unlikely Liverpool will be able to count solely on Endo for the taxing holding midfield role for the long haul.

The Reds were willing to spend big in that position last summer when tabling huge offers for Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia.

Now, according to Portuguese outlet O Jogo, the Reds are weighing up whether to open the chequebook once again.

They state Liverpool – along with Manchester City – are sizing up FC Porto destroyer, Alan Varela.

Liverpool must trigger release clause to sign new Mascherano

The Argentine is a no-nonsense and tough tackling central midfield player who has already been compared to ex-Liverpool favourite, Javier Mascherano.

Varela, 22, only signed with Porto last summer when arriving in an €11m (including add-ons) deal from Boca Juniors.

However, Varela has already made a huge impression in Europe that culminated in helping to frustrate Arsenal in the first leg of Porto’s Round of 16 clash in the Champions League. The Gunners suffered a 1-0 defeat in Porto and failed to register a single shot on target.

Varela may wind up spending just a single season in Portugal, though any buying club will have to pay up.

Detailing the player’s hefty release clause which Porto seemingly intend to stick to, Fabrizio Romano told Caught Offside: “Many clubs are sending scouts to follow the 22-year-old midfielder as he’s been excellent for Porto in the recent months.

“I’m also told he has €70m release clause into his contract, and we know how difficult is to negotiate with Portuguese clubs, so this could be a difficult deal if any suitors come forward in the summer.”

According to O Jogo (as cited by the Mirror), Liverpool are keen on bringing Varela to Anfield and would be willing to activate the release clause.

Of course, any such move would have to be verified by the club’s new sporting director and manager – neither of which are currently in place.

Nonetheless, plans for the summer window are already being formulated and moving for Varela could quickly take shape if the pieces of the puzzle are already in place by the time successors are found for Jorg Schmadtke and Jurgen Klopp.

Varela more than just a disruptor

One might expect a player compared with Mascherano to be adept at the dark arts and little else.

However, according to former Porto and Wolves star, Ruben Neves, Varela is actually a “complete” player, along with being “extremely aggressive,” of course.

Neves rose through Porto’s academy as a youngster and was asked for his take on the club’s latest midfield star by O Jogo.

“He is an excellent player,” began Neves. “It was an excellent signing for Porto, perhaps the team’s most regular reinforcement in terms of time and quality of play.

“He is extremely aggressive, is always very well positioned in defensive balances and, lately, he has been getting a little further forward, making his passing and finishing ability count.

“He’s already scored two goals. He is very complete and has been one of the most important elements of the team.”

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