Renato Sanches: Liverpool’s Wijnaldum Replacement?

According to reports from Italy, Liverpool are believed to be interested in bringing the 2016 Golden Boy, Renato Sanches, to Anfield. Although the reigning Premier League champions have denied such speculation regarding a January move, it raises an interesting question as to whether the Portuguese international could one day end up on Merseyside. Moreover, the fact that Georginio Wijnaldum’s contract is set to expire come to the end of the 2020-21 Premier League season also adds fuel to the fire. But, would Sanches be a suitable replacement? 

The Dutchman Will be a Hard Act to Follow 

On July 22nd, 2016, Liverpool announced the signing of Wijnaldum from Newcastle for around $34 million. Since arriving at Anfield, the Dutchman has been a mainstay in Jurgen Klopp’s team. At the time of writing, Transfermarkt state that the 30-year-old has played just shy of 16,000 minutes under his German manager. During that time, he’s scored 20 goals and chipped in with 16 assists.   

Although his on-field return from a goalscoring standpoint hasn’t set the Premier League alight, Wijnaldum’s contributions over the past four years have seen him write his name into the club’s history books. According to Goal, the 30-year-old tops Liverpool’s list for the most wins in his first 200 competitive matches. Impressively, the Champions League-winning midfielder’s total of 133 victories sees him lead the likes of Alan Kennedy, Gary Gillespie, Ian Rush, and Steve McMahon.   

At the time of writing, Wijnaldum has yet to put pen to paper on a new deal. As such, speculation continues to mount over a potential move to Barcelona on a free transfer. Irrespective of the fact that he’s not the Reds’ most exciting midfielder, his role and importance to the system mustn’t be overlooked. Because of that, obtaining a suitable replacement that matches the Dutchman’s on-field discipline won’t be a straightforward task.   

How Does Sanches Compare? 

It would be unfair to Wijnaldum to compare offensive statistics with Sanches in analyzing whether or not the Portuguese international would be a suitable replacement. If the 23-year does make the move to Anfield, then it would likely be to replace an outgoing player, such as Wijnaldum.   

According to Squawka’s comparison matrix, throughout the 2019-20 season, Wijnaldum made 5.8 ball recoveries a game, while Sanches managed 7.8. However, to possession lost per 90, the Dutchman recorded an impressive total of 8.1. The Lille midfielder, on the other hand, lost possession 18.3 times on average each game. Moreover, regarding ground duals, Wijnaldum’s success percentage was 50.92, which was just over 2 percent higher than Sanches’. 

Given Liverpool’s current midfield options, a January move for Sanches seems both unlikely and unnecessary. Not only that, but Lille also won’t want to lose one of their most important players midway through the season. After the first 17 games of the French campaign, Lille are joint top with Lyon on 36 points and are +1600 to win the title at football betting come to the end of the 2020-21 season, as of December 24th. 

A Logical Option to Consider 

At 23, Sanches would be a sensible signing for Liverpool. Irrespective of whether he replaces Wijnaldum, purchasing a young midfielder will at some point be a must for the Reds, as the Dutchman, James Milner, and Jordan Henderson are all at least 30 years of age. Crucially, the Lille playmaker has the attributes to play under Klopp. Whether that ever happens, however, remains to be seen.