Liverpool Can do better
Name: Emre Can
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Position: Central midfield/left-back
Over the past few days, it would appear that Liverpool's proposed move for Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Emre Can has come grinding to a halt. Available for a buyout clause of just 12 million euros, it is understandable that the Reds should be looking to secure his future at the present time. However, per the Liverpool Echo's James Pearce, the club have failed to come to an agreement with the 20-year-old over his wage demands. But is signing Can the right move for Liverpool at the current time?
It is important to note that the Germany youth international is a fine player who, having moved to Leverkusen from Bayern Munich for 4.5 million euros last summer, has made himself an important member of his new side despite relative inexperience. He is a solid physical presence in the middle of the pitch, technically sound and also intelligent enough to play either as a central midfielder, defensive midfielder or left-back. All those qualities, combined with his proven ability to perform to a high level, mean the transfer fee is attractive to potential buyers.
Liverpool, though, must consider the extent to which he can make an impact in the first-team next season and it is that equation that will determine just how far they are willing to bend in terms of wages to recruit Can. At the moment, their respective valuations are not conducive to a deal being agreed.
Long-term, Can's future lies in midfield rather than full-back. He is a clever player and a strong tackler, but he lacks the mobility to play as a top-level left-back. He is not slow, but he can at times be cumbersome in his movement. Were he to make the move, he would likely play alongside captain and first choice defensive midfielder Steven Gerrard in a double pivot or on the left of a midfield three as he has at his current club, but there is a real question as to whether he currently would represent much of an upgrade on either Joe Allen or Lucas Leiva. In the long-term, he will likely prove better than both. Liverpool, though, have plenty of squad places to fill for next season, before considering the demands of the wider future.
Can's defensive contribution works out at 6.9 actions per 90 minutes (including tackles, interceptions, clearances and blocked shots, per Whoscored statistics) over the past Bundesliga season, placing him behind both Allen (7.4) and Lucas (9.9), albeit having played many more minutes. In terms of success of tackles and aerial battles, there is little difference between himself and the Brazilian, while the more diminutive Allen falls short in comparison aerially. To compare Can in entirely defensive terms, though, is an unfavourable means of relating his ability.
Defensive contributions in league fixtures 2013-14
|Joe Allen||Lucas Leiva|
|Actions per 90||
What Can offers is a player more likely to provide impetus when in possession. While his pass completion in the Bundesliga is low at 78 percent, he is also considerably more likely to look for a longer pass. At the same time, while Allen and Lucas took the ball past opponents on a combined 25 occasions, Can completed 73 dribbles over the course of the season. He may be not always appear nimble but he has power to his game that he can still look to utilise on a regular basis. Unlocking that potential may be key to his future progress as for the moment, he is not quite as adventurous as those statistics suggest. Can spent many games at left-back this season which would both boost his dribbling statistics and normally result in lower than expected pass completion. In midfield, it is clear he is not quite so vertical in his approach.
In attacking areas, all three players provided a similar number of opportunities to their side over the course of the campaign, yet neither Lucas or Joe Allen earned an assist for their efforts -- Can managed three. The German also found the back of the net three times over the course of the campaign, more than both Liverpool players combined. His ability to offer much more of a rounded midfield presence than either rival could entice Rodgers to up his offer, but the truth is he is only a little step up in overall quality at the present time. Or, at least, he is not a big enough increase in ability to warrant bending over backwards to meet his wage demands. Should Lucas depart, he could be a perfectly able replacement and possibly take Allen's starting berth on the left of the Reds' central midfield unit. However, there is little in his play to suggest he would greatly enhance the team.
Rodgers must weigh up just how far to pursue Can. At Leverkusen this season he has been a consistent performer but rarely a standout. As impressive as that is for a player so early in his career, the Reds require more from their signings this time around. Should the move fall through over Can's wage demands, there will be obvious disappointment at the inability to secure such a talent at a more than reasonable price. For Liverpool's Champions League hopes next season, though, it may not be a major issue. There are others available in the market who can offer what Can is at present.
Former side Bayern have an option to return him to the Allianz Arena and the Reds need to be quick to secure him at the current price. If it works, there can be no doubt that the investment will be rewarded in the long term. It is an opportunity, though, that is not essential to their plans for the season ahead. With that in mind, it is time to move on and look elsewhere if the German's demands do not alter. It is only through targeting those who can perform at the very highest level that Liverpool will take their next step and Can has yet to prove he is capable of doing so. For a couple of million more, there is proven quality available.
For further discussion on any of the players featured in The Scout's Notebook, Christopher can be found on Twitter @ChrisAtkins_. More of his work profiling rising talents can be found at TheElastico.com.