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Liverpool data wizards may have found cheaper Florian Wirtz but PSG and Spurs are there too

Florian Wirtz of Bayer 04 Leverkusen kisses the gold medal after the DFB Cup Final match between 1. FC Kaiserslautern and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Olympiastadion on May 25, 2024 in Berlin, Germany.
-Credit: (Image: Jörg Schüler/Bayer 04 Leverkusen via Getty Images)


Liverpool has hired Arne Slot. Whether it would have made the same decision if Xabi Alonso had been minded to move on from Bayer Leverkusen, we'll never know for sure.

But with Alonso's decision made, Liverpool can be pleased with its appointment of Slot, especially after watching other big clubs flounder in the manager market. And it could now find another astute alternative to a big talent from Leverkusen in Florian Wirtz, although it may have to beat PSG and Spurs to the punch.

Like Alonso, it seems as though the exciting playmaker will stay put this summer. But Slot could do with a liverwire who operates somewhere in between midfield and attack — and while there are internal candidates like Dominik Szoboszlai, Harvey Elliott or even Fabio Carvalho, none are quite as good a stylistic match for Wirtz as Rayan Cherki.

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The talk of the town not so long ago, Cherki is no longer the flavor of the month, and even saw his role at Lyon reduced over the second half of the campaign. He finished with just one goal and six assists across the Ligue 1 season.

But that's why the Liverpool recruitment department, recently revamped by the returning data wizard Michael Edwards, might have unearthed a gem. According to Sports Zone, the club has 'asked for information' about Cherki.

For his part, Cherki wants to leave, and there's now only a year left to run on his contract. Lyon certainly can't demand the kind of sum Bayer Leverkusen would be able to command for Wirtz.

Yet under the hood, there's not as much difference as you might expect. Cherki is way down in the third percentile among positional peers in the top five leagues for goals over the last year, but his expected tally places him in the 73rd percentile. Meanwhile, his assists per 90 remains in the 90th percentile (FBref).

So his relatively poor output is somewhat deceiving, affected by a bad run of luck in front of goal and a reduction in minutes that has harmed the raw assist figures. Meanwhile — and this is where the Wirtz comparisons come to the fore — he is a dribbling monster.

Cherki averages over four successful take-ons per 90 minutes, placing him above Wirtz and in fact in the very top percentile. He also makes nearly five progressive carries per game.

Yet his skill on the ball does not come at the expense of passing, and he ranks in the 97th percentile for progressive passes per 90 minutes. Wirtz is in the 99th.

Throw in some pretty reasonable defensive numbers for an attacking midfielder, and Liverpool's interest in what could be a cut-price deal makes a lot of sense. It would fit with a return to Edwards policies, right down to Cherki's young age.

But the Liverpool data department needs to work harder than ever to find an edge in the transfer market, and PSG and Spurs are both already on the scene when it comes to Cherki. The Reds may need to make a compelling offer in order to find an agreement, if indeed they decide to pursue the deal.