Moises Caicedo to Liverpool: Expensive panic buy or essential business?

With Liverpool thought to be on the verge of a British-record £110m deal for Brighton’s Moises Caicedo, Sports Mole looks at whether the deal would be good or bad business.

Rather than being the start of the new Premier League season, one would think that it was transfer deadline day given the twists and turns over the last 24 hours or so.

As if the continuing developments in the Harry Kane to Bayern Munich saga were not dramatic enough, news also emerged early on Friday that Liverpool had usurped Chelsea in the race for the highly-rated and highly-coveted Moises Caicedo.

True to Brighton & Hove Albion‘s insistence throughout the window, though, the in-demand 21-year-old will not come cheap.

Liverpool are expected to shell out a British-record transfer fee of an eye-watering £110m for the Ecuadorian, just two-and-a-half years after Brighton landed him from Independiente del Valle for a little over £4m.

While Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has confirmed the agreement between the two clubs, there are still hoops to jump through with reports suggesting that Caicedo is not entirely sold on a switch to Merseyside and that he would prefer to join Chelsea, who are expected to make a last-ditch attempt to hijack the deal back.

Regardless of whether the deal actually goes through or not, though, the statement of intent from Liverpool is an eye-catching and uncharacteristic one.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on July 30, 2023© Reuters

Klopp himself vowed never to spend more than £100m on a player in 2016 – although he has since acknowledged that the changing landscape of the transfer market made that statement somewhat short-sighted – while for Liverpool as a club it has the feel of a more hurried decision than we are used to seeing from them.

Romeo Lavia was thought to be the top defensive midfield target for much of the window, and certainly after Fabinho‘s departure to Saudi Arabia, but Liverpool dithered over Southampton’s £50m asking price for the youngster.

To suddenly offer more than double that for a player with a similar level of experience at the top level is certainly a risk, and an offer which suggests a hint of panic with the start of the new season just a couple of days away.

There is little doubt that Caicedo is an upgrade on Lavia – although whether he is worth £60m extra is more debatable – and in signing the midfielder Liverpool will hope that he can be the anchor of their midfield for a decade or even more, in which case £110m may not look like such an extravagant fee in hindsight.

While Liverpool usually operate with a shrewder transfer plan than some of their rivals, as proven by their net spend – Erik ten Hag already has a bigger net spend in one year at Manchester United than Klopp has in eight years at Liverpool – they are also not completely alien to splashing record sums on players.

Virgil van Dijk became the most expensive defender of all time when he joined, and Alisson Becker was briefly the most expensive goalkeeper ever when he made his move from Roma too. If Caicedo has a similar impact to those two, Liverpool will look back on it as money well spent.

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk reacts in May 2023© Reuters

However, that of course relies on the Ecuadorian being a big success, and helping to lift Liverpool back to the top of English and European football after a hugely underwhelming 2022-23 campaign.

Liverpool unequivocally need a new defensive midfielder, and on the evidence so far Caicedo fits the bill as well as anyone; he can fill in as an emergency right-back, which should marry perfectly with Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s hybrid role, while he was second in the entire league for both tackles and interceptions last season.

Caicedo is not just a destroyer either – he also sets counter-attacks in motion, with only Manchester City’s Rodri winning possession and then instigating an attack which ended in a shot more often in the Premier League last season.

According to Opta Stats, those attacks yielded 11 goals for Brighton last season with an expected goals value of 5.1 – once again behind only Rodri in that respect.

Rodri was also the only midfielder in the league to record a better pass accuracy rate, and that accuracy was third-best behind Rodri and Enzo Fernandez when under pressure from an opponent.

Caicedo was second – again, behind Rodri – amongst Premier League players for amount of involvements in team moves resulting in a shot last season, so he is also a key cog in build-up play, even if his attacking statistics of one goal and one assist are not immediately eye-catching.

Brighton & Hove Albion's Moises Caicedo in action for Ecuador on November 25, 2022© Reuters

All of those stats came mostly while playing alongside Alexis Mac Allister too – a duo who would reunite at Anfield if the Caicedo deal goes through – so there will be familiarity in the Liverpool midfield as well.

The reasons for an interest in Caicedo are clear, then, but there will still be many people questioning that record fee of £110m – one that would incredibly make him the fourth-most expensive player of all time, after only Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Joao Felix.

While the above stats are impressive, it is also worth stressing that Caicedo has only had one full season of Premier League football. In total, he has played 45 Premier League games, so Liverpool would be paying around £2.44m per game Caicedo has played in the top flight.

It raises question marks over Liverpool’s transfer strategy too – for so long the envy of many clubs in world football. The Reds walked away from a deal for the prodigious Jude Bellingham – a player younger, better and even more promising than Caicedo – at the start of the summer because he was too expensive.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Bellingham would have chosen Liverpool, without Champions League football, over Real Madrid anyway, but it is a change of tact within a window from Liverpool, and that is something we are not used to seeing.

Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham on July 23, 2023© Reuters

The counter-argument to that is that the situation has also significantly changed since pulling out of talks for Bellingham, namely with Saudi Arabian clubs coming in to sign Jordan Henderson and Fabinho.

While the loss of those two first-team regulars was not something Liverpool had planned for at the start of the window, it also bolstered their transfer kitty which will have made stretching to a £100m+ fee more feasible than it was when Bellingham was on the market.

Even so, Real Madrid and even Arsenal with their £105m purchase of Declan Rice will be feeling fairly pleased with themselves if Caicedo does fetch £110m.

As with any other player going for such a huge fee, only time will tell if it proves to be a success.

Liverpool have rarely made a bad signing when they have made signings in recent years, but this deal is far enough out of their usual strategy book to raise serious questions as to whether it is a transformative, essential piece of business a la Van Dijk and Alisson, or a late panic buy over the odds before the start of the new season.

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