Cheick Doucoure: Who is the Liverpool transfer target?

Liverpool's carefully planned midfield rebuild now looks like a chaotic hunt for available bodies following the Saudi advance towards Jordan Henderson and Fabinho.

Should both players leave, as expected in the coming days, the Reds will have lost six (Henderson, Fabinho, Naby Keita, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Arthur) midfield options this summer and have only signed two to replace them.

While having a smaller pool of players with greater availability is more important than a tonne of options who are never fit, it is clear that the Reds will need to bring in at least one more midfielder — with the 'number six' role looking particularly weak ahead of Fabinho's exit.

Besides the Brazilian, Liverpool's only specialist defensive midfield options are Tyler Morton (20 years old and with two Premier League appearances) and Stefan Bajcetic (18 and 11).

A whole host of names have been linked, from Romeo Lavia to Ryan Gravenberch — though each comes with question marks and caveats — while Melissa Reddy suggested the Reds could yet pull a rabbit out of the hat and surprise everyone.

READ MORE: Do any of the linked defensive midfielders actually make sense for Liverpool?

One such signing who would certainly fit the bill as something of a shock target is Crystal Palace's Cheick Doucoure.

The 23-year-old was named as someone Jurgen Klopp and his team are "exploring" by Football Insider on Monday, and could be a wildcard option to fill a Fabinho-shaped hole in Liverpool's engine room.

But just who is the latest defensive midfielder to be linked with a move to Anfield?

Crystal Palace Player of the Season

The Malian may not be a household name in the U.K. outside of South London, but he enjoyed a quietly impressive first season in the Premier League following a £22m transfer to Palace last summer.

Doucoure played 35 times in all competitions and won the Eagles' Player of the Season 2022/23 award ahead of the likes of Michael Olise, Ebere Eze and Marc Guehi, garnering over 25% of the public vote.

Speaking of his star midfielder manager Roy Hodgson said, via londonnewsonline: “He has been very influential. He’s one of those players that plays in a position which is a bit of a fulcrum of the attacking midfield play and defending midfield play.

“His positional sense, his ability to read the game, his technical ability, and the fact that he gets around the field so well [makes him influential]. I noticed he’s up there amongst people who’ve made the most interceptions, which is nice to see.”

Defensive credentials

Known as something of a destroyer during his time in France, The 5ft 11in former Lens man topped Palace's tackles and interceptions charts, while ranking fourth in the Premier League overall for the latter (per game).

His interception stats over the las year put him in the 97th percentile for midfielders, according to fbref, while he ranks in the 74th for tackles (up to the 87th for tackles in the defensive third and the 86th for dribblers tackled).

Less impressively, his 'aerials won' ranks him in the 58th percentile and he is in the 56th percentile for pass completion.

In addition to his creativity stopping qualities, he contributed three assists at Palace in 2022/23.

Career history

As a youngster in Mali, Doucoure spent time in the JMG Academy Bamako – whose former players also include the likes of Amadou Haidara and Yves Bissouma.

He moved to France as a teenager in 2018, joining Lens — a club known as something of a hot bed for young talent, as well as one of the country's most aggressive pressing teams.

Doucoure established himself in the first team during the 2018/19 season, before helping the club win promotion to Ligue 1 the following year. Once in the top flight, he formed a fine partnership alongside the more creative Seko Fofana.

In addition to featuring as more traditional defensive midfielder, Doucoure has also been used in a more advanced role, as well as in defence.

While Palace eventually won his signature last summer, the 12-cap Mali international had also been linked with Arsenal.

Contract length & transfer value

Doucoure signed a five-year deal with the Eagles in 2022, after the South London club reportedly forked out around £22m for his signing.

Football Transfers puts his current xTV (expected transfer value) at €24.6m (£21m), though it's hard to imagine Palace selling their Player of the Season for anything less than a significant mark-up, especially when he still has four years to run on his contract.

With Southampton holding out for £50m for Romeo Lavia and Fulham (supposedly) demanding £90m for Joao Palhinha, Doucoure's real price tag could be at least double what Crystal Palace paid one year ago.

His reported wages of around £45,000 a week are unlikely to be an issue for Liverpool.

Injury & suspension record

His availability is pretty impressive — as recorded by Transfermarkt, Doucoure has missed just four games in his senior career due to fitness issues (all at Lens), though he has been suspended for nine matches.

Does a transfer make sense for Liverpool?

Anfield Watch's Sam McGuire says: "Doucoure did well within the Crystal Palace system and that year of Premier League football would, in theory, make it much easier for him to adapt to the Liverpool team.

"But his real value to the Reds would be if he was able to replicate the form from his time at Lens. He was a controller and a destroyer for the Ligue 1 side and was one of the key reasons as to why Fofana was able to impress in the way he did.

"He's a facilitator and Liverpool have a soft spot for those sort of players."

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