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According to reports from The Mirror, Liverpool are close to completing the signing of defender Michael Keane from Burnley in the summer for £25million, after having agreed to personal terms.
The 24-year old has been in high demand among the top Premier League clubs this season owing to his stellar displays for the Clarets this season, with the likes of Everton, Chelsea and former club Manchester United all monitoring the recently capped England international. It was even reported earlier last month by The Express that Jose Mourinho and United were leading the race for the player’s signature.
However, according to recent developments, it seems like Liverpool have managed to get ahead of their rivals in their pursuit of Keane.
The former Manchester United man left Old Trafford in the summer of 2015 to join Burnley in search of regular football and has grown into one of the finest young centre-halves in the country. Having played a key role in the Clarets’ EFL Championship title win and promotion last season, Keane has been equally crucial for Sean Dyche’s side to maintain their Premier League status for next season as well. His performances earned him a nomination for the PFA Young Player of the Year award, which Dele Alli eventually won.
But now, a moment of reckoning awaits the youngster as he ponders over choosing his next destination, which could decide how his career shapes up. On one side there is a potential hero’s return waiting at Old Trafford, that will definitely appeal to him, but on the other hand, there is the promise of an exciting project under one of the most exciting managers, Jurgen Klopp. So which would be the ideal destination for Keane next summer? A return back home to Manchester? Or a new home in Merseyside? Let’s analyse.
Liverpool’s issues in the centre-back department this season is no hidden secret. In Jurgen Klopp’s first full season in charge, the Reds saw their bid for the Premier League title falter after a blistering start and one of the major factors for the swift end to the challenge was their deficiency at the back.
The German tactician was aware of his side’s defensive failings last season and did bring in reinforcements in the form of Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan at the start of the campaign. While Matip has come good in his debut season in England, a lack of a stable partner for the Cameroonian has been the weak link for the Merseysiders.
Dejan Lovren has once again been marred by inconsistency and injury problems over the course of the season, Klavan doesn’t seem to possess the quality to become a first team regular at the top level for the Reds and when neither of them are available to partner Matip, Klopp has had to rely on defensive midfielder Lucas Leiva to fill in, which hasn’t worked out well at all.
While they are 3rd in the Premier League table right now, Champions League qualification is far from confirmed for Liverpool at this point of time. They still face a threat from fellow challengers Manchester City, United and Arsenal.
But if Keane chooses to move to Anfield, he will walk into the starting XI straight away and will be a regular first team starter at the heart of the defence. However, he isn’t a natural ball-playing defender and this is something that may go against him, considering how Klopp likes his centre-halves to be able to start the attacks from the back. But this has possibly stemmed from the way Burnley play and can be addressed.
On the other hand, United have plenty of options at the back and have had an excellent defensive record this season – second best in the league to be precise, only behind Tottenham Hotspur. But manager Jose Mourinho is still keen on bolstering his options ahead of the next campaign.
Summer signing Eric Bailly has easily been the Red Devils’ best defender this term, whereas Marcos Rojo has come into his own under Jose and was playing some of his best football in United colours until his season was cut short by a major knee injury. Phil Jones looked solid for large phases as well, until another injury saw him spend two months on the sidelines.
If anything, it has been the performances of Chris Smalling that have been a little worrisome for United. After having established himself as the leader of the defence in the past two seasons under Louis Van Gaal, the former Fulham man has struggled to keep up to those levels of performances and hasn’t been helped by intermittent injuries as well.
Mourinho isn’t completely convinced about the abilities of Smalling and Jones and there are good chances that one of them could be shipped out in the summer. While it might open up a space for Keane in the squad in case he chooses to return to Old Trafford, he will still have to fight it out for a regular spot and will not be an automatic starter week in week out.
United’s Champions League qualification hopes are hanging in the air as well, after their 2-0 loss to Arsenal on Sunday in the Premier League. At this point of time, winning the Europa League remains their best bet of making it to the premiere event of European football next term.
Considering all the aspects, at this point in time, Keane needs regular football in order to fulfill his amazing potential and he will be able to do that at Liverpool and not Manchester United. He will be a regular fixture in the team at Anfield and will play week in week out, which will aid his development to a great extent and allow him to grow into one of the best centre-backs for England.