Liverpool keen on Manuel Ugarte: The Engine to Jurgen Klopp’s Ferrari?

Liverpool have been linked with a move for Sporting CP midfielder Manuel Ugarte, a target for Arsenal and Tottenham, in recent weeks.

Manuel Ugarte has made a name for himself with his performances in the Portuguese league this season. The 22-year-old has impressed against Premier League clubs Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in the European competitions this season. And Liverpool are reportedly hoping to snap him up at the end of the season.

The midfielder has a €60 million release clause in his contract, and he has been linked with clubs like Arsenal and Tottenham as well. The Reds are in desperate need of midfield reinforcements and Ugarte could be a signing that can galvanise the club’s engine room and transform Liverpool on the pitch next season.

The 22-year-old Sporting CP star is usually deployed in a defensive midfield role, and he is exceptional when it comes to winning the ball back and breaking up the play. However, Ugarte is more than just a destroyer and he has multiple facets to his game.

The Uruguayan midfielder boasts impressive physicality and stamina. These are attributes that make the Arsenal, Tottenham target an ideal fit for Jurgen Klopp’s system at Liverpool.

The Reds have struggled in the middle of the park this season. And one of the main reasons behind that is the absence of physicality and energy in the midfield. Klopp’s heavy-metal football demands substantial work rate from the midfielders. But players like Jordan Henderson and James Milner are simply not physically capable to work as hard as they used to.

Losing the legs in midfield has exposed players like Fabinho. The Brazilian is an exceptional defensive midfielder with an impressive reading of the game and exceptional tackling ability. However, he is not the most mobile of players and does not have the engine to press relentlessly either.

The drop in Henderson’s energy has left Trent Alexander-Arnold vulnerable as well. The Liverpool captain did a lot of Alexander-Arnold’s defensive work, allowing the 24-year-old to venture forward and create opportunities with his exceptional passing ability. Ugarte could take on that responsibility and free up the England international next season.

Apart from the regression of Henderson and Fabinho, the departure of Georginio Wijnaldum has hurt Liverpool massively as well. The Dutchman had a relentless work ethic. In addition, his ability to press opposition players high up the pitch and win the ball back to set up transitions was a key facet of Liverpool’s game.

Ugarte is someone who excels in these departments. The 22-year-old is very impressive when it comes to carrying the ball and pressing high up the pitch. He has the physicality to nudge players out of the way and drive forward with the ball. Although Ugarte is not the best passer going forward, his short and medium passing is extremely reliable and he would be very effective at sitting deep as the number six and recycling possession.

Ugarte is a very reliable short-medium passer
Ugarte is a very effective ball carrier who wins more than half of his take-ons

One of the key areas Liverpool have struggled in this season is defending against transitions. Liverpool have struggled to cope with opposition attackers on the counter. And Ugarte has proven himself quite capable of stopping transitions early on with his recovery pace, tackling and stamina. His recovery pace could prove to be invaluable for Liverpool, who prefer to operate with a high defensive line.

The above data shows that Ugarte is excellent when it comes to winning the ball high up in the midfield and his ability to stop transitions by taking out dribblers

Although he is not quite at that level yet, it would be fair to assert that Ugarte is a player in a similar mould to that of the Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante. He could be the ideal partner for someone like Fabinho or Thiago Alcantara.

The Spanish international is an exceptional progressive passer, and Ugarte has the strengths and skills to complement him perfectly. Similarly, depending on the opposition Ugarte could start alongside Fabinho and help Liverpool stay compact defensively and set up counter-attacking opportunities.

At 22, Ugarte has a number of top-class attributes for Klopp to work with. The Uruguayan is already regarded as a tremendous talent and working with someone like Klopp could accelerate his development.

The reported €60 million release clause in his contract could prove to be a stumbling block. But Ugarte would be an investment worth his weight in gold. Liverpool’s style of play demands players with very specific skill sets, and Ugarte seems tailor-made for them. There is no doubt that the Arsenal, Tottenham target could be the engine to Jurgen Klopp’s Ferrari in the coming years.

Stats and Data: FBref

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