Meaningless agent talk shouldn't hide real Liverpool transfer need for Arne Slot

Alan Varela midfielder of Porto in action during the UEFA Champions League group H match between FC Porto and Royal Antwerp FC on November 7, 2023 in Porto, Portugal, 07/11/2023.
-Credit: (Image: Peter De Voecht / Photonews via Getty Images)

We're officially into the Arne Slot era at Liverpool, after he took up his post at the beginning of the month. There's no official start date for 'silly season', but we must be approaching that too.

The Premier League transfer market opens from June 14, and rumors have ramped up in advance of that date. Already, there has been some agent-fueled chatter around Liverpool — but while there has been a lack of links possessing much substance, Slot has a very real need to address.

The midfield, of course, was the subject of much attention last summer. Liverpool ended up making four signings, all in that position, with Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai, Wataru Endo and Ryan Gravenberch added to the ranks.

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With that in mind, perhaps it should be no surprise that links to Alan Varela have already been shot down. The emerging Porto star also plies his trade in midfield, and the ECHO has been told by senior sources that his agent is the source of the talk.

A quick look into his profile backs up the notion that these links are meaningless agent chatter. An accomplished and reasonably progressive passer, Varela otherwise does not stand out in the data, showing up as something of a jack of all trades. That was very much the theme of Liverpool's previous recruitment drive — with the possible exception of the more defensive-minded Endo, all of last summer's signings do a bit of everything as well, and probably at a higher level than the Porto midfielder.

Lacking a permanent sporting director and amid a period of major upheaval, with unexpected departures in the engine room, Liverpool probably hit the right kind of note with its last tranche of additions. Mac Allister's flexibility has certainly come in handy, as he played as the deepest midfielder for much of his debut campaign.

However, with Slot now on board, Michael Edwards back in the FSG setup and Richard Hughes starting as sporting director, Liverpool will want to fill that role on a more permanent basis. The problem with Varela is not that he is a midfielder, but that he is the wrong kind of midfielder.

Not only is Mac Allister better when he is further forward, but the team as a whole looks more stable with a specialist in holding midfield. Clearly, Fabinho is the ultimate example of that at Liverpool, but Endo also lifted the overall levels last season when on form in that role.

Even Liverpool's temporary recruitment structure last summer recognized this need, making a late and extravagant play for Moises Caicedo and then pivoting to Endo. But the club is now in a better position to make a more studied approach for an elite-level target.

It's not an easy position to fill. While Varela certainly isn't the answer, it's harder to find the player who is. But Slot has the luxury of being backed by a recruitment team that has been reshaped into a world-class operation over the past few months — Liverpool will certainly be able to cut through the agent talk and find the final piece for a puzzle that still needs to be finished.