Liverpool are preparing to go into the transfer window armed with a list of targets, with Brendan Rodgers' potential summer signings including the name of Barcelona's Jonathan dos Santos, according to the latest rumours.
The Reds have seen several midfield players linked with moves to them this summer, though most have been playmakers of the attacking variety; now dos Santos presents an interesting, and likely available, alternative—but perhaps isn't quite one which will hugely benefit the team right now.
According to Metro.co.uk, dos Santos wants to leave Barcelona after being unable to nail down a regular place in the first-team squad, with Liverpool one of the prime candidates to sign him in the summer.
Dos Santos is relatively young, and is certainly talented, but is he right for Liverpool's needs?
At 22 years old, dos Santos isn't a promising youngster. He is a capable midfield player, definitely possessing the talent to be a starter for teams in the top flight, but he will be 23 years old by the time next season rolls around and yet has only made 25 appearances in major competitions for Barcelona.
He needs to be playing regularly, immediately, and this is no doubt what has forced his hand in deciding to move on from the Nou Camp.
Positionally, he is a creative central midfielder, but one who usually operates in deeper areas, not as a No. 10-type. His range of passing and calmness in possession are admirable traits, as is his physical capacity, and he has also made seven appearances at full international level for Mexico.
Liverpool's Midfield Requirements
Dos Santos is caught somewhere in the middle of what Liverpool seem to require.
They need a deep central midfielder, yes—but a defensive-minded, powerful, reliable challenger off the ball. The Reds are also apparently looking for a playmaking, creative midfielder—but a more attack-minded one, to play in behind the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez.
In short, dos Santos operates somewhere between the two, picking up the ball in deeper areas off the centre-backs or holding midfielder, and linking the midfield and transition phases of play.
He is always the type to be supporting play from a slightly deeper line, taking in the movement of those around him and distributing accordingly, but not really the one to advance into the final third regularly or to break up opposition attacks on the counter.
So Why Don't Liverpool Need Him?
The current occupant of that "second" central midfield role is club captain Steven Gerrard.
No matter who comes into the club, they are not going to be ousting Gerrard from that role. There is also the matter of squad depth to take care of, but the Reds also have Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson at the club, both of whom have come under fire for performances at various times but also both of whom have had to feature in different roles in the team, with Gerrard more or less occupying both of their natural positions.
There are at least four positions that Liverpool need to give serious attention with new signings to during the summer, even disregarding which first-team players may make exits during the transfer window. So it seems unlikely that, even at a low price and coming from a good club, the Reds will make dos Santos one of their priority targets.
Gerrard and Dos Santos Play In the Same Team
It could still happen, of course. In the event that Rodgers decides to bring in the Barcelona B midfielder, with a view to making him a first-team player, there are two feasible scenarios that take place.
Firstly, he would come in at the expense of playing with a true "attacking midfielder". This would see the Reds playing a 1-2 system in central midfield, with Lucas Leiva at the base (as the "1"), breaking up play and passing off quickly, and Gerrard and dos Santos ahead of him in a double-edged creative midfield.
It would have ability on the ball, true, and no shortage of ambition in making defence-splitting passes, but Liverpool's centre of the park would be devoid of regular thrusting runs from the second line of attack and would also be very noticeably lacking in pace and real energy.
Secondly, dos Santos could be utilised in place of Lucas himself, at the base of the midfield behind of alongside Gerrard—but this would almost certainly necessitate the signing, and regular playing, of a physical, powerful, box-to-box type of attacking, ball-winning midfielder.
While the Reds could certainly find someone of this type, they provide neither the creativity that Brendan Rodgers seems to crave in the final third, nor—without massive expenditure on a top player—the level of technical ability that the rest of the attack has been built on this season.
Dos Santos is a good player, and for his own career needs to move on from the Nou Camp this summer, but it doesn't at first glance appear as though a move to Liverpool would be the right path for him to tread, nor that the club should feel the need to pursue him ahead of other targets.