Football Features

Julian Brandt: Liverpool’s bid to match Man City could begin with the Bundesliga’s midfield assist-king

By Chris Smith

Published: 14:04, 18 April 2019

Liverpool are reportedly interested in triggering Julian Brandt’s release clause this summer, as Jurgen Klopp looks to add depth to his squad.

Brandt’s name will certainly be familiar with the Kop faithful, with the Reds among a cluster of clubs rumoured to have been keeping tabs on the Germany international since January 2017. Any interested parties have been issued clear hands-off warnings by Bayer Leverkusen ever since, however.

And so, while Leverkusen have floundered in mid-table in the Bundesliga, despite a raft of goals and assists from Brandt, the 22-year-old has watched on as Liverpool have transformed into Premier League and Champions League contenders, becoming a real juggernaut.

Of course, Brandt himself stressed that the time was not right for him to move either, with uncertainty over how much playing time he would be given by the likes of Bayern Munich or Liverpool creating concern over his place in Germany’s World Cup squad.

“My gut feeling and my head are telling me the time to move has not arrived yet. I have to straighten things out in Leverkusen,” Brandt said at the time.

“Of course there are players who say a year without European football before the World Cup is a good reason to move.

“But if you move to a bigger club a year before the World Cup, you risk taking time at first to settle which possibly means playing fewer games.”

Given how Germany’s campaign in Russia panned out, you can’t help but wonder if he regrets that stance now.

All ifs and buts aside, though, the timing for Brandt to make his move seems perfect. The player himself has notched seven goals and 11 assists in 38 games across all competitions for Leverkusen this season, while only Max Kruse (79) has created more chances in the Bundesliga this season than his 74.

In fact, no Bundesliga midfielder has more assists than Brandt (10) this season. Across all positions, only Joshua Kimmich (11) and Jadon Sancho (13) have more.

Meanwhile, as incredibly consistent as they’ve been in the Premier League, Liverpool were quite fortunate to make it past the Champions League group stages after three away defeats. Early exits from the League Cup and FA Cup also point to a lack of squad depth.

Only this stands in the way of them challenging Manchester City for absolute across-the-board dominance.

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Xherdan Shaqiri, Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi have all had their moments from the bench this season, but they have been all too fleeting, with just 10 Premier League goals between, them and that trio are nowhere near as impactful or consistent as the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez – who have a combined 22 Premier League goals – when introduced by Pep Guardiola.

I think Liverpool are more likely to falter against mid-table sides. They also have fewer star players on the bench whereas City have such strength in depth.

Tony Cascarino on how Liverpool’s lack of depth could cost them the Premier League title.

According to Sport Bild, for a reported £21.5m – said to be the price of Brandt’s release clause – Klopp can bring in a 24-time Germany international with electrifying pace and creativity akin to Sadio Mane and the ice-cool finishing such as that of Mohamed Salah, suggesting the Liverpool boss would have the perfect back-up or rotation options for both.

Furthermore, 14 of his starts this season have come in central midfield, which would give Klopp greater depth in other key areas. And in today’s market, that price is an absolute snip.

It is explained that Brandt’s release clause only becomes active should Leverkusen fail to qualify for the Champions League this season, but with Die Werkself seven points adrift of fourth-placed Frankfurt, that doesn’t seem like something that should worry Liverpool fans.

But while the fee might not amount to much of an obstacle, competition for his signature from rival clubs across Europe could. It is claimed by the aforementioned German news outlet that Real Madrid and Juventus are interested also.

Brandt turns 23 next month and as much as the Bundesliga has some fantastic talent within its ranks, Leverkusen are off the pace. They’re not currently among the German elite, let alone European royalty.

A move to Liverpool would provide regular tests against the likes of Man City, Spurs, Chelsea and the rest, while he would also be joining last season’s Champions League runners-up. Who knows, he may even be joining this season’s double winners, should things go Liverpool’s way.

Liverpool’s need for squad depth, coupled with Brandt’s release clause and assumed desire to test himself at the highest level, seem like a perfect storm as far as concerns this transfer rumour.