Who is Emeka Obi? Liverpool’s new sensation dubbed the best 15-year-old centre back in the country

Untitled.png13.png

Liverpool have confirmed the signing of promising 6ft 5in defender Emeka Obi, from League One side Bury.

The starlet, who has Nigerian decent, became the youngest player to feature for David Flitcroft first team at 15 years and 86 days. Jürgen Klopp’s side beat Stoke to the signing of the highly rated teenager.

So who is he? Here’s a rundown of all you need know…

 

Factfile

Name: Emeka Obi

Age: 15

Place of birth: Bury, England

Position: Centre-back

Club: Liverpool

 

Background

The colossal ‘man mountain’, joined Bury two years ago and quickly emerged on to the scene, alerting Premier League scouts. Becoming Bury’s youngest player, he featured in The Shakers 4-1 win over Morecambe in the Checkatrade Trophy earlier this season.

Previously having a trial at Stoke City in the summer, Liverpool moved swiftly to secure the services of this prized asset. The Potters, whose development squad was, also in Bury’s group in the competition were running the rule over the starlet before Liverpool came calling.

 

What does he bring to the table?

Obi is confident, skillful, calm and composed at the back. One of his greatest strength’s is the fact he is 6ft 5ins. This means he is obviously commanding and has an imposing physical presence. Powerful in the air and also a threat at set-pieces, he has inevitably drawn comparisons with Eric Bailly of Manchester United.

His impressive reading of the game, combined with stature, means he can make crucial interceptions and his well-timed tackling means he produces relatively few fouls.

Confortable on the ball, there is no question he could go on to become a Liverpool great in years to come.

 

Where would he fit in at Liverpool?

Of course he is one for the future, but at 15, and what he has achieved so far, there is no question he is destined for big things.

Klopp could potentially turn the youngster into one of the best centre backs in the Premier League in a few years time. With the Kop Boss’ philosophy of “if you are good enough, you are old enough”, we could see him sooner rather than later.

His height and aerial presence should bode well with his ability to deal with the physical demands of the Premier League, in years to come. Klopp could potentially, pair him with Joe Gomez – Liverpool’s future centre back pairing?

Expected him to be fast tracked through the Reds development squad.

 

What they say…

“I think he’s the best talent right now at 15 years old in the entire country,” Bury manager David Flitcroft said back in August.

“He only came in the building two years ago and nothing fazes him. He’s been training with the first team and he’s going back to school next week.

“We’ve had him for five weeks, training with the first team, training with Ryan Kidd and he’s been playing with the under-18s.

“He’s just turned 15, he’s a man mountain, but we teach them how to play football and he’s going to be an unbelievable asset to the football club. He’s a kid that’s really switched on, I’ve watched him while he’s been on summer holidays and he’s been in every single day.”

Mastermind Monchi: The man behind Samir Nasri’s Sevilla success

Untitled.png16.png

Sevilla’s transfer guru, Ramón Rodríguez Verdejo know as “Monchi”, has revitalised Sami Nasri’s footballing career, writes Sam May.

He was appointed Los Rojiblancos sporting director in 2000 when the Andalusian side were in financial crisis and had been relegated.

Call him the “Spanish Steve Walsh”. The Everton director of football and former head of player identification at Leicester City, who skillfully identified N’Golo Kanté and Riyad Mahrez for the Foxes.

Like Walsh, Monchi has also brought in players with extraordinary balance sheet results. Some, which include: Dani Alves, Federico Fazio, Ivan Rakitić, Luis Fabiano and Carlos Bacca. The total group were recruited for just over £23 million.

Players who came through the ranks include: Jesús Navas, Sergio Ramos, Alberto Moreno, Luis Alberto and José Antonio Reyes – all of who realised exceptional profits for the club. The total sell on value of the group being £170 million.

A fine move was selling the UEFA Europa League winners to the unwanted 29-year-old Samir Nasri, who is spearheading Jorge Sampaoli’s underdogs this season. The first time is six years the Spanish side have maintained a 100% home record, thus far.

Many fans were questioning the departure of fan favourite Grzegorz Krychowiak who swapped Southern Spain for the French capital, following former coach Unai Emery to Paris St Germain.

Step up Nasri. The man-of-the moment recently played with pace along the left wing and destructed the Atletico Madrid defence, hitting the post, and helping his side to claim a 1-0 victory, lifting them to second in La Liga. The Frenchman is flourishing.

It was clear he wasn’t wanted by incoming Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, and there were no takers. The playmaker, who was once distinctive under Arsene Wenger, has featured nine times so far this season, scoring three goals and making one assist. He also has an impressive 90% pass success rate.

He will continue to succeed, perhaps the loan signing of the season?

Fluent in French he can clearly communicate well with Nasri. However Monchi, is expected to depart the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium and join former Sevilla manager Unai Emery at PSG at the end of the season.

Sevilla however, may have other thoughts.

Three players set to leave Anfield

Untitled.png111.png

As the mid-season transfer window is just over the horizon, Sam May takes a look at three player who could be set for the Anfield exit door.

 

1. Mamadou Sakho

The 26-year-old has fell out of favour under Jürgen Klopp who told the defender to find a new club after falling out spectacularly with him on the club’s pre-season trip to the USA.

He challenged France international Sakho to prove himself at another club to show he deserved to have a future at Anfield. However, the player rejected an approach from Turkey’s Besiktas having also snubbed Stoke and West Brom, as he did not find any of their offers acceptable.

West Brom were keen to offer £20 million for Sakho in the summer, but the defender stated his intention to remain with the Merseyside giants, despite Klopp being deeply frustrated by his refusal to leave.

He has no future on Merseyside, and now faces spending the rest of the campaign sat in Liverpool’s new main stand.

Verdict – Loan with option of permanent move

Interested clubs: Stoke, West Brom, Besiktas and Roma (all remain interested)

 

2. Joe Gomez

Gomez, 19, has endured a tough start to his Anfield career having suffered a cruciate knee ligament damage and Achilles injury. After a year out, the central defender has recently returned to first-team training.

Liverpool will allow the former Charlton player, who signed for the club in 2015, to leave on-loan to gain regular first team football and help him improve his fitness. The Reds will however monitor the youngster before they make a final decision.

The former Addicks defender has been linked with both Bournemouth and Huddersfield in recent days. A move to the Terriers would see Gomez link up with Klopp’s good friend David Wagner at high-flying Huddersfield.

Verdict – Loan Move

Interested clubs: Bournemouth and Huddersfield

 

3. Tiago Llori

Liverpool will allow the 23-year-old to seek pastures on a permanent basis in January. LIori signed for the Reds from Sporting Lisbon for £7 million and has had loan spells with Granada, Bordeaux and Aston Villa.

Having fell down the pecking order, he will look to find a new club when the window re-opens. Both Granada, where he spent on-loan and Valencia are keen on the centre backs services.

The Reds have made it clear the aren’t prepared to let the defender leave on the cheap, despite him playing for the under-23s. Portuguese under-21 international Ilori has made just three appearances since joining the Reds in 2013.

He is contracted to Liverpool until the summer of 2018, this could be a ploy from the Anfield club to get a good price for the defender. It is unlikely that he will want to run his contract down and is the most likely to move on.

Verdict – Permanent Move

Interested clubs: Granada, Valencia, Olympiakos, Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt

Why Fabian Schär is the defender the Reds must sign in January

Untitled.png112.png

The highly rated centre-back would fit the mould perfectly at Anfield, writes Sam May.

Schär, 24, has been in impressive form for the unbeaten Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga. He would be prefect replacement for the out of favour Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Llori, who have both yet to make an appearance under Jürgen Klopp this season.

The Swiss defender is available for a cut price £9million and would give the Reds an extra option at the back. Liverpool currently have 30-year-old Ragnar Klavan, who was signed for £4.2 million from Augsburg in the summer as back up.

Klopp needs a quick and aggressive defender, and Schär, certainly fits the bill. Splashing out on big name players isn’t always the answer these days, and to get the right player the scouts need to scour the globe and look for the quality and right attributes to compliment the team, rather than reputation.

The established Schär, who spent three years playing for FC Basel, made the move to Hoffenheim in 2015 but has a lot of experience, having featured in the Europa League, Champions League and World Cup. He has previously demonstrated his qualities against the Reds back in 2014 in Basel’s 1-1 draw at Anfield, helping them to the last 16 of the Champions League.

A potential to become one of the best in the Premier League if given the opportunity, there is no doubt, he would certainly benefit under the guidance of Klopp.

Hoffenheim are unwilling to sell the defender in January, so the Reds might have to wait until the summer to land the talented player. However, if a large sum is put on the table then the German side may wish to accept. Liverpool scouts were also in attendance to watch him in Switzerland’s recent World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Hungary.

A replacement for Sakho and Llori is needed and the Reds should make a move for the experienced Schär, a defender who is playing at the highest level of his game.

Why Borussia Dortmund should sign Lukas Klostermann

Untitled.png

Thomas Tuchel’s side should swoop for the 20-year-old Red Bull Leipzig right back, writes Sam May.

Klostermann joined Leipzig from Bochum in the summer of 2014 and was a key player as the club won promotion to the Bundesliga last season.

The 6ft 2ins, versatile defender can also play his trade as a centre back and may be the perfect replacement for Neven Subotić who continues to fall out of favour under the Dortmund manager.

Klostermann, who has been linked with a move to Premier League giants Arsenal previously, could also provide competition for 31-year-old right back Łukasz Piszczek. Like the Poland international, Klostermann has great physical strength, speed and awareness, something that you wont find in many right backs these days.

Dortmund however, would have to wait until the summer to secure the services of one of Germany’s highly rated young players, and offer a fee in the region of £25 million for the defender, who is tipped for a big future in the game.

The move would be great for the player, with Thomas Tuchel keen to sign and promote youth. Last summer the Dortmund manager moved swiftly to secure the services of highly rated Stade Rennais winger Ousmane Dembélé for €8 million, 18-year old striker Emre Mor from FC Nordsjælland for £9.5 million, and midfielder Mikel Morino for €3.75 million from Osasuna.

It seems Dortmund are building for the future and signing Klostermann would add extra quality to an already strong defence.

One of the rising stars in the Bundesliga, he was named as a potential candidate for the Germany squad by coach Joachim Low after impressing at the 2016 Olympic Games, it will be interesting to see what happens next summer.

Tottenham, Ajax and Juventus are also keen on the defenders services.

How Jürgen Klopp has transferred Jordan Henderson from a doubter to a believer

Untitled.png

The 26-year-old midfielder looks fitter, confident and more assured. He is now living up to the potential Liverpool saw, when he arrived from Sunderland in 2011, writes Sam May.

Many fans raised eyebrows when the Reds forked out a staggering £20 million for the now Liverpool captain, a substantial fee at the time. He failed to show fans that he was top of the game, a game changer, a leader and a trophy clincher, however this has all changed.

The Reds were left with a void when club legend and captain fantastic, left for the USA. Henderson at vice-captain was the natural choice but not one the fans could believe would fill his boots. A natural leader they wanted. A match winner and somebody who could change games they wanted, and replacing skipper Gerrard was always going to be a tough ask. Henderson wasn’t ready.

When Klopp first arrived at Anfield, he sung the praises of captain Henderson and since then, the midfielder has been a different player, and is now thriving in the No.6 role.

Improving on his fitness after England exited the Euros early on, he now looks calmer, more assured and the right man to lead the club going forward. Klopp would have preferred to have fellow German Emre Can in that position, but the fact Henderson has been a revolution has meant Can has had to settle for a place on the bench.

His 30-yard world-class finish against Chelsea capped off what he is capable of doing. He is more mature and authoritive and the captaincy has proved to have had a positive effect on him. There is no question now he is the new leader and helping to take Liverpool to the next level. With Liverpool flying high, second in the table and clearly having the advantage of no European sideshow to distract there Premier League push, who knows, he could well be lifting the one trophy that eluded captain fantastic.

If the miracle happened, it would propel Henderson to superstar captain status.

Who is Alexander Isak? The teen sensation dubbed the ‘next Ibrahimović’

Untitled.png

A number of Europe’s top clubs have been linked with a move for Alexander Isak – but who is the Allmänna Idrottsklubben striker?

The 17-year-old has been in impressive form for AIK, netting nine goals in 22 games. Isak has been linked with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Roma, Liverpool and Southampton. So here is all you need to know about him…

 

Background

Born in Solna, Stockholm, he started in the youth set-up at AIK aged six progressing through the youth ranks and made his team debut on February 28 2016 against Tenhults IF aged 16, and scored in the 6-0 victory.

He later became the youngest scorer for AIK in a competitive game and also the youngest scorer in Allsvenskan history, at the age of 16 years and 199 days on April 7 2016, netting the second in a 2-0 victory over Östersunds FK.

On his 17th birthday he was dubbed Sweden’s ‘new Zlatan Ibrahimovic’ by teammate Chinedu Obasi after Isak scored a crucial brace to hand his side a victory of DIK in the Stockholm derby.

Isak impressed Leicester scouts in Sweden’s UEFA Under 17 Championship qualifiers against Wales, Portugal and Croatia earlier this year. The fact the Foxes are playing Champions League football, could be a major factor in attracting some of Europe’s top young talent to the King Power stadium this January.

 

Style of play

Just like Ibrahimović, the young attacker is pacy and very strong. He is an example of a modern striker and has a physical prowess, which means he would withstand rigours of Premier League football. For a 17-year-old, he reads the game well and is good at hitting the back of the net from various distances.

Only years ahead will help the youngster to develop his game, despite him already showing signs of a star in the making.

 

What he says

“It feels great. I feel I’m constantly improving. It’s always good to test yourself against talented and more experienced players,” says Isak.

 

What they say

Henok Goitom (striker, San Jose Earthquakes): “If you educate Alexander Isak, in a good way, he can have a big future. He already has a good understanding of the game.”

Tobias Ackerman (AIK scouting director): “Even when he was 10, he had an extremely developed game. He had nice feet and fine qualities in this way. Properties that you look at and that can help you to become a good player as a senior.

“You put a 14 year old talent to train with the U17 team and he is performing above expectations there. Then he goes on to the U19 team. No one believes he will succeed there, but he just continues to fly. Same thing with the U21, and with the first team.”

Patrick Mork (agent): “He is an exceptional and extraordinary talent. Name five of Europe’s biggest clubs and there are four who want him. There was a huge interest in the summer for him. If he actively wanted to leave AIK, he would already have been sold.”

Ricard Norling (AIK head coach): “He has a terrific talent, but you can’t compare him to Zlatan … He’s not there yet, but the important thing for him is to make sure that he’s doing something to bring out the talent that he has been gifted with. And I can tell you he works hard every day.”