Liverpool should return for '$86m' transfer to help form ideal Mohamed Salah succession plan

Villarreal winger Yéremy Pino.
Villarreal winger Yéremy Pino. -Credit:Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

With Arne Slot looking set to arrive as Liverpool's new boss this summer, all eyes will be on what business he and Richard Hughes do during the transfer window. And according to reports in Spain, they could be looking to a somewhat out-of-the-ordinary source for one talent.

Way out into the Atlantic, around 1,900km from Madrid, lies Gran Canaria. Part of the Canary Islands, an autonomous community of Spain, it is far closer to the Sahara Desert than the Spanish mainland: not an obvious hotbed for footballing talent. Yet Las Palmas, the island’s principal team, has a storied history.

It is a firm part of the Spanish footballing pyramid: quite the away trip for other sides, but no less worthy of inclusion as a result. In its heyday, it finished as high as second in La Liga. It made its return to the top flight last season, and looks set to retain its spot among Spain's elite, lying 11 points above the relegation zone with just a few games remaining.

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For the emerging generation of football fans, Pedri has put the island and the club on the map. The Barcelona starlet was plucked from Las Palmas after an education in the academy and a full season in the first team. He has since gone on to establish himself as one of the most precocious talents in world football, admired by Liverpool and just about every other top side.

Yet Pedri is far from the only Canary Islander to make the voyage to the mainland. David Silva was snapped up by Valencia early, but spent his formative years on the islands. Vitolo, who made his name at Sevilla and Atlético Madrid, was forged in the Las Palmas academy. Sandro Ramírez, of Everton fame (or perhaps infamy), is cut from the same cloth. Roque Mesa, another one to have previously cropped up in the Premier League, was born in Gran Canaria too.

Many more will surely follow. Alberto Moleiro, an attacking midfielder, has been courted by Barcelona. Between the twin islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria, the somewhat unlikely talent production line continues to churn out exciting names.

Another teenager on a very similar trajectory came onto the radar of both Liverpool and Arsenal in 2022, according to a report from Sport at the time. Seeing how well the likes of Pedri have done, he is worth keeping tabs on.

The player in question is Yéremy Pino. Separated from Pedri by little over a month, the 21-year-old also came through the ranks at Las Palmas. But he left earlier on in his progression, wooed by the pathway presented to him at Villarreal — his ascent in La Liga has been more gradual, but he looks to be on a similarly impressive trajectory.

Indeed, Barcelona wanted both of the Canary Island natives. Long before Pedri joined, they sought to sign Pino, but he snubbed La Masia in favor of the Yellow Submarine. That in itself speaks to a very interesting player: the famous Catalan academy is a hard prospect to turn down, but he chose his own distinct path.

The decision has paid dividends, with Pino now firmly a part of the first-team setup at Villarreal. Last season was his major breakthrough: he appeared 31 times in La Liga, entrusted with a starting berth on 21 occasions.

A right-winger by trade, it is tempting to say that FSG might be eyeing Pino as a potential future heir to Mohamed Salah. But the winger is fairly heavily right-footed, and in any case, would be hitting his prime long after Salah and indeed Jürgen Klopp have left Liverpool. The system could have changed radically by then. It seems more likely that the club is keeping more generic tabs on him, simply because of his clear talent.

A tally of seven goals last season was helped by an incredible four-goal haul against Espanyol. But he also found the net in the Champions League, and laid on two assists against Atlético Madrid. As he establishes himself further, there looks to be a clear scope for his output to improve.

With a release clause of $86m (£69m/€80m), a transfer would not necessarily come cheap. But if Liverpool wants another winger this summer, Pino — a potential Salah heir who would not come in and demand minutes instantly — would be the right type to target. There is a good chance that he would be sold for considerably less than that, and even though he is recovering from a serious injury, his talent has already been proven.

Of course, it is perfectly possible that Pino could follow Pedri into the ‘virtually unattainable’ category. His fellow Las Palmas alum now has a release clause of £846m (one billion euros). But the pair have taken divergent paths thus far — they did not even link up for Spain at the under-17 World Cup in 2019, when a stray boot from Pedri sent Pino home with an eye injury, having been blinded for an hour.

But Pino’s unique path could yet take him to Liverpool. The Reds should be taking a look at the next great Canary Islands export with another attacker seemingly a priority heading into the summer.

An original version of this article was first published on August 10, 2022. It has since been updated.