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Ryan Gravenberch warned after Ronald Koeman explains 'bad situation' at Liverpool

Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman.
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Marcel van Dorst/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


Ryan Gravenberch has been urged to transform himself into a defensive midfielder as he aims for more regular game time with Liverpool and Holland.

Gravenberch experienced a mixed debut season with the Reds having arrived form Bayern Munich on transfer deadline day last summer in a £35million deal.

The 22-year-old made 38 appearances under Jurgen Klopp but started only 12 Premier League games of which only three came after sustaining an ankle injury early on during the League Cup win over Chelsea at Wembley.

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And former Holland international Rafael van der Vaart believes compatriot Gravenberch, who has thus far operated as a box-to-box and attacking midfielder, should consider becoming a number six.

“I advise Ryan to opt for a role as a defensive midfielder,” said Van der Vaart, speaking to Dutch media outlet Voetbal International. “That will not be an easy choice for him, because he can do much more. You can compare it with Nigel de Jong in the past.

“Nigel could do much more than the subservient controller he eventually became. But in that specific role he reached an absolute top level. Nigel decided he was going to be a pit bull and that’s it. Ryan is also very versatile and I recommend him to make a similar choice. In a role like Patrick Vieira once played at Arsenal and France.”

Liverpool, under incoming new head coach Arne Slot, are assessing whether to sign a defensive midfielder this summer with 31-year-old Wataru Endo the only senior recognised number six in the squad. Alexis Mac Allister and Joe Gomez also played in the role this season, with teenager Stefan Bajcetic absent for almost the entirety through injury.

Gravenberch is presently with the Holland squad preparing for next month's European Championships. He has been named in the final 26-man squad, and is expected to feature in some part in forthcoming friendlies against Canada and Iceland.

And Dutch national team boss Ronald Koeman admits Gravenberch's struggles at Liverpool have meant he is still behind several players for a starting role at the competition.

“Gravenberch has fallen into a bit of a bad situation,” said Koeman. “The choice was made based on the talent I see in him. But he hasn’t played much. If players drop out who are not fit, you get closer and closer.”