By George Ankers
Liverpool's summer business continues apace as the club announced on Thursday that they have secured the signature of Emre Can from Bayer Leverkusen.
After the arrival of veteran Rickie Lambert, however, this move is a return to the youth-skewed transfer strategy that has paid dividends for Brendan Rodgers over recent years. The Reds are getting a very tidy 20-year-old who could go on to make his £10 million fee look like a bargain.
Turkish by descent but German by upbringing, Can is keen to make a splash in the Germany national team and, but for the sprawl of top midfield talent at Joachim Low’s disposal, might have already earned a chance to make his debut. If he were English, his opportunity would likely have come by now.
He comes to Liverpool with some fine pedigree. After four years in the youth setup at Bayern Munich, he joined Leverkusen only last summer as a result of the extreme competition for places at the Allianz Arena – the Bundesliga champions, however, still rated him highly enough to insert a buy-back clause in his contract.
Such a return was not considered out of the question when Can’s performances for Leverkusen started to attract attention, though Bayern preferred that he spent a second year elsewhere in the Bundesliga before being summoned back home.
The youngster played 39 games for his club last term, 32 of those starts, proving himself to be a versatile and capable talent. A burly defensive midfielder in his most natural role, Can - who played alongside new team-mate Samed Yesil for Germany at the Under-17s World Cup in 2011 - has also filled in across the back line at times and can push forward as well.
He is set to provide competition and cover for Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen and looks a natural fit for the style being cultivated by Rodgers at Anfield. One of the happier sides at the top of the Premier League to give up the ball, Liverpool showed real ruthlessness on the counterattack in 2013-14 and Can relishes such situations.
Strong and athletic, the Germany Under-21s international is good at winning the ball back and driving forward before releasing a searching, direct pass. His comfort on both feet is a useful bonus in building a quick move – allied to an agile change of direction, it helps to make up for a relative lack of pace.
Can has all the tools to become a very good deep-lying midfielder; he is already a useful one. He is not yet the finished product, though, with work still to do on his positioning and a tendency to let his discipline shake a little when things go against him that should, at least, diminish as he matures. There is room to improve in the air and when shooting from distance, as well.
In the short term, Can is likely to be a rotation option for Rodgers but could force his way into a bigger role sooner rather than later if his development continues at its current pace. Indeed, the role newly occupied by Gerrard as a deeper but attack-relevant midfielder looks like being the most natural fit for the youngster in the long term.
If that is the aim of the signing then Rodgers has planned for it very well but, either way, this is exciting business for Liverpool.
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