Liverpool’s struggles this season have boiled down to a variety of factors, the end of a successful era, too many key players underperforming, and a variety of injury issues which have led to Jurgen Klopp constantly changing his starting XI.
Truth be told, the lack of investment in a world-class midfielder during the summer has arguably been Klopp’s biggest downfall, missing out on Aurelien Tchouameni, who signed for Real Madrid, could certainly have added some extra dynamism to the Anfield side and they have struggled ever since.
The pursuit of Borussia Dortmund starlet Jude Bellingham is still underway, with the Reds the favourites to land the player this summer and there is no doubt he could rejuvenate a stagnant midfield ahead of next season.
The purchase of Bellingham is something of a necessity considering their malaise this term, however, instead of splashing millions on another two or three midfielders, Klopp should take a look at his U21 side for some emerging talent who could be ready to make the step up.
Who is James Balagizi?
Balagizi is a versatile player who can play either in either central or attacking midfield and this could be of some worth to the manager heading into 2023/2024.
The 19-year-old has made 61 appearances while progressing through the age groups, having the greatest success at U18 level, scoring five goals and registering 12 assists in the U18 Premier League, proving he can be an effective attacking threat and create plenty of opportunities for his teammates.
This ability has seen him likened to former Manchester City midfield sensation Yaya Toure. The Secret Scout spoke to Blood Red (via the Liverpool Echo) regarding the youngster’s potential.
“James can operate in all three positions in midfield as a number six, eight or 10,” he said.
“He is a versatile player who can use his passing qualities to help build from the back. If used as an eight he can drive his team forward with powerful surging runs with the ball. As a 10, he can be a huge threat in the box.
“There are similarities in his play like Yaya Toure – even down to how his sleeves are covered over his hands while playing – and he has a languid, effortless running style. He is the kind of midfielder that we don’t often see coming through in England.”
Balagizi spent the first half of the season on loan at Crawley Town, playing 14 matches in League Two. He clearly embodied Toure’s style as he registered three goal contributions while averaging 44.4 touches and making 1.5 tackles per match while also completing 50% of his attempted dribbles.
These performances led Klopp to recall him last month and the next few months could maybe see Balagizi make his debut for the first team.
With his displays for the youth teams and Crawley recently, the Englishman could well go on to be a Toure-like figure for Klopp and this could save him a fortune in the transfer market.