Liverpool is reportedly interested in signing a young defender who fits the FSG model, and has compared himself to Virgil van Dijk — not without reason.=Liverpool has had to change up its youth recruitment policy in the last few years. The advent of Brexit has thrown a spanner in the works in terms of where and who the club can recruit from Europe in particular. No longer can it sign players under the age of 18.
But that doesn’t mean the club’s scouts in Europe have stopped their work. Liverpool is still very much keeping an eye on the best prospects from abroad.
And it seems like one player who Liverpool could be targeting is a center-back, which would make sense considering two of the club’s senior defenders in Virgil van Dijk and Joël Matip are entering their twilight years. Meanwhile, the club’s fifth-choice, Nat Phillips, is likely going to be moving on to pastures new at the end of the season.
This would certainly free up a space for a talented young center-back to join the club, and according to FotbollTransfers in Sweden, Liverpool is looking at an ideal candidate for the role in Johan Bångsbo.
A tall and towering defender with excellent ability and composure on the ball who is also relatively quick, the Swedish U21 international has been catching the eye for his club side, IFK Göteborg, in Sweden’s top flight this season.
Bångsbo has won 70.1 per cent of his 3.88 defensive duels per 90 in his debut season for his club. He has also averaged 4.63 interceptions and 9.56 recoveries per 90 as per Wyscout. Solid numbers, and his distribution was even better, with an average of 7.6 long passes per 90, an 89.2 per cent pass completion rate, and 6.8 passes into the final third per 90. While Matip may be the first one to be phased out, it is Van Dijk whom this trait most resembles.
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In total, Bångsbo is a very accomplished center-back, and considering his playing style in terms of his composure on the ball it’s no surprise Liverpool is keeping an eye on the teenager, with the youngster demonstrating the quintessential traits of a typical Jürgen Klopp player.
This is something Bångsbo seems to recognize himself. When asked about where he would like to play and which player he resembles the most, he also picked out similarities to Van Dijk.
“The Premier League, like many others. But Barcelona is my favorite team. I watched Messi when I was younger. But if I look at a player’s way of playing, it’s probably Van Dijk,” he told Sportbladet.
He would definitely be an investment for the future rather than the now, but sometimes Liverpool has to make those kind of investments as well, rather than buying ‘ready-made’ players. Especially with FSG’s stringent budget.
Of course, Bångsbo would have to adapt and acclimate to England first before he could be used as a genuine first-team option, but he could provide depth in cup competitions, and there is precedent for young Scandinavian center-backs coming to Liverpool from inferior teams and thriving in the long-term.
Daniel Agger and Sami Hyypiä are testament to that, and perhaps Bångsbo could be next in line. That’s up to FSG, but the 19-year-old seems to fit with the long-term transfer plan.