Liverpool’s midfield rebuild is about to start taking shape with Brighton & Hove Albion’s Alexis Mac Allister set to be the first new signing of the summer.
Liverpool have agreed a fee of around £45million-£55m ($55.9m-$68.3m) with Brighton for the 24-year-old, who has been given permission to undergo a medical. Personal terms have already been agreed and he is expected to sign a five-year contract, with Liverpool able to trigger a clause in the contract renewal he signed with Brighton in October.
The rebuild has been a long time coming with supporters craving new midfielders all season, but completing deals is only the first step.
It needs to work on the pitch, and while Liverpool will aim to complement Mac Allister with at least one more new midfielder, they will be hoping the Argentina international is a key part of the solution to solve last season’s problems.
So first off, what type of midfielder are Liverpool getting?
Mac Allister should be about to enter his peak years, which is in keeping with Liverpool’s transfer policy under Fenway Sports Group.
In terms of what he offers, a big positive for Jurgen Klopp, who has driven the deal, is that Mac Allister is a versatile player who has operated as a No 6, No 8 and a No 10 during his time at Brighton.
He is technically excellent, possessing an assured touch and an ability to retain possession through predominantly short passes while also using his vision to progress the ball forward and find pockets of space to receive possession.
Mac Allister has the intelligence and tactical awareness to perform different roles which means he should seamlessly operate in Liverpool’s classic 4-3-3 midfield with one No 6 and two No 8s or the new 3-4-3 inverted full-back system with two No 6s and two No 10s in possession.
Irrespective of his position, Mac Allister takes on the role of a playmaker, consistently looking to build attacks and progress the play. He does this accurately as shown by his low turnover rate — which is the share of possessions lost among total touches.
He keeps things simple and is careful in possession, picking his moments of when to attempt passes between the lines and in behind. His passing range, combined with his ability to judge the weight of a pass, allows him to keep play ticking over and bring team-mates into play.
Mac Allister’s passing sonar below — which visualises the direction and distance of a player’s passes — illustrates that he is more likely to distribute the ball across the pitch and circulate the play rather than punch it forward.
Mac Allister will not burst away from players but he is difficult to dispossess and remains calm under pressure.
Liverpool never truly replaced Georginio Wijnaldum when he departed in 2021, but comparisons can be drawn between the Dutch international and Mac Allister.
Comparing the Argentine to Wijnaldum’s 2019-20 season, the two are similar in their volume of carries per 90 (12.2 to 12) and dribbles attempted (2.1 to 2.3), with Mac Allister having a better success rate (65.7 per cent to 53.2 per cent). He also competed in more duels per 90 (10.7 to 9.1) with greater success (57.3 per cent to 47.2 per cent)
If Liverpool revert to their 4-3-3 system, then Mac Allister ticks plenty of the boxes that Wijnaldum did.
While he may lack in strength, size and speed out of possession, he makes up for it through energy and pressing.
In the first 14 games of this season, Mac Allister recovered possession 124 times, closing in on his entire total from the previous season. That 8.9 recoveries per 90 did drop after the World Cup to a season average of 4.9 per 90. He registered 89 in the final 21 Premier League appearances, which is likely due to a change in roles under manager Roberto De Zerbi after his initial blistering start which began under Graham Potter.
Under Potter, he was predominantly deployed deeper on the right of a double-six pivot whereas under De Zerbi he operated in more advanced areas on the left allowing him to support the attack, with only Solly March involved in more attacking sequences for the club.
Much has been made about Liverpool’s lack of production from midfield. Curtis Jones was their highest-scoring midfielder in the Premier League with three, and he only established himself in the team towards the end of the campaign, making 18 appearances overall.
Philippe Coutinho was the last midfielder to reach double figures in the Premier League for Liverpool in 2016-17, although he often operated in the front three, something Mac Allister did achieve last season. Six of his 10 goals were from the penalty spot and he will face a fight to take the ball off current taker Mohamed Salah.
Manchester City and Arsenal both used a 3-box-3 system throughout the season, regularly moving a full-back or centre-back into a double pivot in attacking phases, allowing the two advanced central midfielders to push into half-spaces and create higher up the pitch.
Interestingly, both sides registered at least 10 goal contributions from their advanced central midfielders: Kevin De Bruyne (seven goals and 18 assists), Ilkay Gundogan (eight goals and five assists) and Bernardo Silva (four goals and six assists) for the former, and Martin Odegaard (15 goals and eight assists) and Granit Xhaka (seven goals and seven assists) for the latter.
That’s the type of production Liverpool will need from their midfielders in the 3-box-3 system, as they cannot rely on an Erling Haaland-type No 9 to score the majority of their goals. According to FBref, in comparison to similar players, Gundogan is second on the list to Mac Allister.
His soon-to-be former manager believes he has the ability to provide more goal contributions. “Yes (he should be scoring more goals). Not only goals but also the last pass, because he is the quality to score and to assist.” De Zerbi said in March
If Liverpool continue with their new approach, it is likely Mac Allister will be used in one of the two advanced midfield roles.
While plenty has been discussed regarding Trent Alexander-Arnold’s positional change, the two midfielders ahead of him and Fabinho have seen their roles change too; manager Jurgen Klopp referenced it himself when referring to them as No 10s.
When discussing the Nottingham Forest victory, Klopp said: “Nottingham tried to man-mark both No 6s and both No 10s, so that makes life slightly tricky.”
They are expected to be higher up the pitch; supporting the front three, retaining possession, finding pockets of space to receive the ball and with an increased emphasis on creativity.
In the recent run, Liverpool’s No 10s have ventured into wide areas more. Below, with Alexander-Arnold creating the double pivot centrally, we can see Jones drifting to the left touchline and Jordan Henderson over to the right — although that has been more common for the right-sided central midfielder in the 4-3-3 in the last two seasons.
Even still, according to FBref, seven of Henderson’s top eight games for touches in the attacking third came following the switch in system.
By contrast, earlier in the season against Newcastle United, there is a base in midfield of Fabinho and Henderson (playing left-sided central midfield) staying tighter while Harvey Elliott pulls wider from the right side and Roberto Firmino drops in to support midfield.
Pulling out to the touchline is not something Mac Allister has tended to do for Brighton, with a large portion of his touches coming between the width of the penalty area.
He can expect to be asked to do more of it whether it is in the new 3-box-3 shape or if he operates as the right or left central midfielder in the standard 4-3-3. Mac Allister is also not a prolific crosser and more is to be required in Liverpool’s system; his best crosses usually come from the half-spaces in the left channel.
The contrast with Jones as a supposed left-sided central midfielder — when looking at how much his touches are out wide — is significant, and the majority of his minutes came after the formation switch.
Following his World Cup heroics, De Zerbi was keen to discuss where Mac Allister felt his best position was.
“Alexis can play anywhere on the pitch,” he told The Athletic in December. “I don’t know if he’s better as a playmaker or 20 metres further forward. I like him a lot in the other position (deeper).”
Mac Allister’s father Carlos had already told De Zerbi that his son preferred operating in the role he plays for Argentina: further up the pitch on the left as a No 10. It’s a role that Liverpool would want him to play in their box formation.
Klopp will have pre-season to help mould Mac Allister into the player he wants him to be — but the soon-to-be Liverpool man is already at an advanced starting point.
(Additional contributor: Mark Carey)
(Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Tuesday’s news from planet Liverpool features confirmation of a medical ahead of the first signing of the summer, along with another update on pre-season.Mac Allister to undergo medical
Alexis Mac Allister is set to complete the final stages of his transfer to Liverpool after permission was given from Brighton for the midfielder’s medical to take place in the next 24 hours.
The signing looks likely to be confirmed and announced in the coming days, with the Argentine having already agreed personal terms for a five-year contract at the Reds.
The medical news comes after Paul Joyce indicated in the Times on Monday that the transfer was expected to be finalised this week.
The fee has caused some confusion among supporters, with various journalists previously reporting figures ranging up to £70 million.
It now appears that the final amount will be significantly less than that, with different reports explaining the disparity and indicating that the cost will be worth between £45 million and £55 million.Germany friendlies confirmed & Caicedo latest
All smiles from Virgil van Dijk and Cody Gakpo on international duty with the Netherlands squad, let’s hope they are both safely sent on their holidays after their Nations League campaign.
Gakpo and @VirgilvDijk reporting for @OnsOranje duty??? pic.twitter.com/dw8Elrrhwf
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) June 6, 2023
There has been confusion over the exact details of Alexis Mac Allister’s release clause at Brighton, but the fee Liverpool will pay is now clearer.
Mac Allister is set to undergo a medical with the Reds in the coming hours, before finalising his switch to Anfield as the club’s first signing of the summer.
The 24-year-old has agreed a five-year contract worth a reported £100,000 a week, and is expected to inherit the No. 10 shirt last worn by Sadio Mane.
Since the pursuit developed at the beginning of May there has been a lack of clarity over Mac Allister’s price tag – and it was not even immediately reported that a release clause was involved.
Initially, Liverpool were slated to pay £70 million for the World Cup winner, but that has since now reduced considerably.
Now the majority of journalists around Merseyside and beyond are reporting that the transfer will be worth between £45 million and £55 million.
The Athletic‘s James Pearce originally wrote that “the fee is likely to be undisclosed but is understood to be in excess of £45m,” but later added that “sources on the south coast [are] suggesting [the] fee could rise to £55m.”
David Lynch of Football Insider has claimed that the fee was “expected to be lower than the £50m amount previously reported.”
The Press Association and Sky Sports both report that it will be “between £45m and £55m,” while BBC Sport appear to have erred on the side of caution in citing a £55 million fee.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph‘s Mike McGrath has added that the transfer would be “upwards of £40 million.”
The Mail‘s Dominic King seems to be the only journalist still of the understanding that the fee paid to Brighton would be “north of £60 million.”
It is almost certainly the case that King’s information is outdated, with sources from both clubs suggesting a fee in the region of £45 million to £55 million.
In all likelihood, Pearce’s report may prove the most accurate, likely with an up-front fee of £45 million rising to the final £55 million.
Either way, it represents considerably better value than the £70 million first reported in Mac Allister’s native Argentina.
Alexis Mac Allister has been given permission to undergo a medical with Liverpool ahead of a proposed move from Brighton.
Liverpool are hopeful of signing Mac Allister this week with the two Premier League clubs having been in contact regarding the Argentina World Cup winner, who has a release clause of between £45m and £55m in his contract.
Mac Allister signed a new contract with Brighton last October, extending a deal that was due to expire this summer but now runs until the summer of 2025, with an option for an extra 12 months.
Once the release clause has been met, it is expected personal terms will be quickly agreed between Liverpool and Mac Allister.
The 24-year-old's arrival is likely to begin what looks set to be a busy summer at Anfield, with Jurgen Klopp looking to freshen up a side that missed out on Champions League qualification this season.
Midfield is a particular area of need for Liverpool, with Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner all leaving the club with their contracts expiring, while Arthur Melo will return to Juventus at the end of his loan deal.
Milner is set to move to Brighton, with his switch to the Amex close to completion.
Brighton finished just one place behind Liverpool in the Premier League and will play in Europe for the first time next season.
Mac Allister joined Brighton from Argentinos Juniors in January 2019 but spent the rest of that season with the Argentinian club, before spending the first half of the 2019/20 campaign on loan at Boca Juniors.
Mac Allister finally moved to the Amex in January 2020 and went on to play 112 times for Brighton, scoring 20 goals and claiming nine assists.
He enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2022/23, scoring 12 goals in all competitions as he became a key part of Roberto De Zerbi's impressive team.
Mac Allister also established himself in Argentina's midfield during the World Cup in November and December, starting six games - including the final - as Lionel Scaloni's team won the tournament in Qatar.How Mac Allister could help Liverpool rebuild midfield
Liverpool's midfield has been scrutinised for some time, seen as the root cause of their decline. Overhauling it offers a route out of their problems. The acquisition of Mac Allister could prove to be a significant moment for Jurgen Klopp.
The Argentina international has pedigree. Already a World Cup winner, the 24-year-old midfielder has proven himself in the Premier League at Brighton and has the breadth of skills that make him an ideal fit for the demands at Liverpool.
It is why Jude Bellingham was long seen as the solution. At its best, a Klopp midfield includes players who can defend and attack, tackle, pass and shoot. Mac Allister can do all of that. Speaking to him in January, he was acutely aware of his own positional flexibility.
"I always say that I like to be in contact with the ball," he told Sky Sports. "The closer I am to the ball, the better I feel. I like to play as a midfielder. It does not matter if it is as a 6, an 8 or a 10. I grew up as a 10. But then I understood that I could play in more positions.
"I think it is important for the modern player to be able to play in different positions to give the team and the manager different options. If you ask me I would say that today I feel more comfortable as an 8 but I know I can play as a 6 or a 10."The Mirror's John Cross and the Mail on Sunday's Rob Draper agree that Alexis Mac Allister's imminent move to Liverpool is a big coup for the Anfield side Merson: Mac Allister would be great for Liverpool
Sky Sports' Paul Merson:
"If Liverpool are going to challenge for the league as well as just the top four, for them to get Mac Allister would be a great signing. He's a top player, a World Cup winner and was a massive influence in that tournament.
"He's a very good player, a very calming influence on the pitch. He keeps the ball and ticks it along, and reminds me a bit of an Ilkay Gundogan without the goals.
"He's a different kind of player to Jude Bellingham who they wanted before, Bellingham would get forward a bit more, but Mac Allister does the simple stuff very, very well.
"People might say, 'Oh, the simple stuff?' but there's not a lot of players who can do that."