Premier League • England

Liverpool listed as surprise favourites for Prem deal despite ‘fight’ from Euro giant

Rayan Ait-Nouri battling with Johann Berg Gudmundsson

Liverpool are the favourites to sign Rayan Ait-Nouri from Wolves, according to a report that also puts Real Madrid into the frame for his transfer.

Ait-Nouri has been attracting some transfer interest recently thanks to his positive performances at Molineux. The left-back has cemented a starting spot in recent weeks for Bruno Lage’s side.

He has started eight games in the Premier League so far this season, mainly coming over the past two months. With two assists to his name – one each in the league and EFL Cup – he has been gaining momentum.

A report earlier this month suggested he was a target for Crystal Palace and Newcastle. Then, higher-ranked clubs began to circle; links emerged with Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.

Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain were also linked from the continent. Now, El Nacional have revealed that Real Madrid are also in the running.

Aware that Marcelo is in the final months of his glittering stint at the Bernabeu, they are looking for a long-term successor. Ferland Mendy has a future at the club, but they are looking for another option alongside him.

Ait-Nouri, at 20 years old, could reinforce them for years to come. But the report warns they look likely to miss out on his signature to Liverpool.

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Of all his suitors, Liverpool’s need for a new left-back seems the smallest. Andy Robertson is one of the best in the world and backup Kostas Tsimikas has been making more of an impression this season.

But El Nacional insist they want to bring in Ait-Nouri as Robertson’s new deputy. To do so, they would be willing to offer him a higher salary than any of his other admirers.

Real Madrid won’t give up for Ait-Nouri

Rayan Ait-Nouri playing for Wolves

Even so, the report says Madrid “will fight” for Ait-Nouri’s transfer until any other deal is done.

Man City’s interest is also backed up as the club look for a natural left-back. Joao Cancelo has been playing admirably on the opposite side of defence to his usual role, while Oleksandr Zinchenko’s days in midfield seem long gone.

It would help City to find a specialist for the role, though, and they may consider Ait-Nouri.

They may be playing catch up though, if title rivals Liverpool are as serious as it sounds about taking the former Angers man.

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Liverpool full-backs praised

If he was to join Liverpool, Ait-Nouri would have to prove he is capable of competing with the high standards Liverpool’s full-backs have set.

Indeed, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Robertson were both heavily involved in Liverpool’s 2-2 draw away at Tottenham on Sunday. The left-back assisted the first goal and scored the second, which in turn was provided by Alexander-Arnold.

Robertson did not finish the match on the pitch; he got a red card for a reckless foul on Emerson Royal. But his influence beforehand had been positive. The same went for his fellow full-back.

The pair have been instrumental in Liverpool’s success in recent years. They have earned praise for their attacking contributions.

Alexander-Arnold in particular has stood out for the quality of his delivery. There have been calls for him to play in midfield in the past, although it seems clear right-back is where he is best.

Even so, Gary Neville – a former full-back himself – compared Alexander-Arnold’s ability to three icons who have played further forward.

The Sky Sports pundit emphasised how good the partnership is after the Tottenham game. In doing so, he said Alexander-Arnold has surpassed what he would ever have expected to see from a player of his position.

“I don’t think I’ve seen two full-backs play in the Premier League that are as good as these two as a pair,” Neville said.

“The way in which they combine on the pitch, the way they play the game, they’re an absolute joy.

“Robertson with his consistency does everything well. Defends well, he’s competitive – slightly too much at the end – but he scored a goal and set up a goal.

“Alexander-Arnold is an absolute phenomenon when it comes to the quality of his passing, his delivery. It’s something I’ve never seen before from a full-back.

“It’s like De Bruyne, it’s Beckham, it’s Gerrard, and they’re attacking players. He’s playing at right-back, it’s the highest accolade I could pay him.

“The contribution these two make is unbelievable. It’s bizarre to me. I grew up saying let the full-back have it. You can’t let these two have it.”

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