Despite running away with the Premier League title race, Manchester City and Liverpool look set for one hell of a transfer merry-go-round this summer.
The two North-West clubs have been a pair of ruthless juggernauts this season, sitting 22 and 21 points clear of third-placed Tottenham, respectively, losing just five league games between them.
However, as is the absolute necessity in football, they will be doing anything but resting on their laurels when the summer transfer window opens as they seek to further their dominance and get one over on each other.
Last summer, one of the biggest transfer sagas was Liverpool’s failed attempt to bring Lyon’s Nabil Fekir to Anfield, with the French midfielder agreeing on terms but having his move scuppered by a failed medical.
According to reports, Jurgen Klopp is looking to go back to Lyon in the next window, but not for Fekir.
This time, he has his sights set on Fekir’s 20-year-old teammate, Houssem Aouar.
Primarily a central midfielder, Aouar can also play in the deeper number six role, as well as wide left and has bagged seven goals and four assists in Ligue 1 during his breakthrough season. The youngster holds Juninho and Zinedine Zidane among his role models and is dangerously close to possessing their ability to split a defence from any point on the pitch – something Liverpool desperately lack among their midfield options.
More poignantly, though, his performances in the Champions League, in which he notched another three assists, have drawn some very admiring glances from none other than Pep Guardiola, who described him as “incredible” after a 2-2 draw between Lyon and City back in November.
“Houssem Aouar is a very good player, he is incredible.
“We talk a lot about [Tanguy] Ndombele, but Aouar is also excellent. He’s always very calm with the ball at his feet, with an excellent technical quality.”
His stats, ability and the praise he’s drawn all point toward a potentially world-class player and a bid from Liverpool shouldn’t need any further validating.
Where things do become a tad complicated is in the potential implications Aouar’s arrival could bring. Should the France Under-21 international indeed end up at Anfield, that would surely open the door on a move to Atletico Madrid for Kop outcast, Marko Grujic, whose fee is rumoured to be in the region of £35m – an incredible profit on the £5m they spent on him in 2016.
From there, the domino effect could continue as, with a replacement secured, Diego Simeone would theoretically be able to sanction the sale of Spanish midfield powerhouse, Rodri, to Manchester City.
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Rodri only arrived in Madrid at the start of the season but his mixture of robust defensive output and calmness on the ball has seen him become one of the most sought-after midfielders in La Liga and an ideal heir to Fernandinho’s throne at the base of the City midfield.
Could Klopp inadvertently strengthen his closest domestic rival in an attempt to bolster his own midfield? Should he even care about that as long as his own team moves to the next level? These are all questions for the German and his backroom staff to ponder in the coming months.
And all the while, spare a thought for Lyon, who face the daunting task of fighting off the likes of Liverpool and City, as well as Juventus, Man Utd and a whole host of other European titans in a bid to keep hold of at least one of Fekir, Aouar, Lucas Tousart and Tanguy Ndombele.
Regardless, we’re set for one of the most intriguing transfer windows in recent memory, with a multitude of transfers all dependent on each other.
Aouar could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, the final drop of water to open the floodgates holding back the immeasurable stacks of cash among Europe’s elite.