Levi Colwill: Why Chelsea defender is a better fit for Liverpool than Josko Gvardiol

Liverpool’s midfield rebuild is well underway following the arrivals of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai.

A third midfielder could well join this summer with Romeo Lavia reportedly the top target for the Reds, but other areas of the team also need to be reinforced. 

According to multiple outlets, a centre-back is next on the agenda. Fabrizio Romano recently said the club favour a left-footed option and that does line up with the rumoured targets over recent weeks. 

Josko Gvardiol was someone on Liverpool’s radar but the price was prohibitive with RB Leipzig wanting £85m for the 21-year-old. He now looks set to join Manchester City. 

Gvardiol is already one of the best ball-playing centre-backs in Europe and he will improve the treble winners. His fit for Liverpool may not have been quite as seamless though. The Reds tend to favour aerially dominant defenders and this is an area in which the Croatia international struggles. He won just 55.8% of his aerial duels last season in the Bundesliga, per FBref.

© Proshots - Josko Gvardiol

If Jurgen Klopp intends to play with the 3-2-2-3 system he finished the 2022/23 campaign with then Gvardiol’s aerial struggles may not have been that much of an issue to begin with. He would’ve likely replaced Andrew Robertson as the left-back, who then played as a left-sided centre-back in a three-man defence in possession. 

The Scotland captain wasn’t necessarily the best in the air and with Virgil van Dijk in close proximity, there are ways the Reds can get around this. 

However, if the plan is for the new centre-back to eventually succeed the Dutchman, Gvardiol might be targeted in the air and Liverpool would be worse off as a team. 

Micky Van de Ven was also reportedly a target for the Merseyside club but he has now agreed terms on a move to Spurs. At the time of writing, a deal between the Premier League outfit and VfL Wolfsburg hasn’t been finalised and Tottenham are looking at other centre-backs, but they do appear to be leading the way to sign the Dutch 22-year-old. 

Despite being 6ft 4in, he’s not particularly strong in the air either. This may have been problematic down the line. Though at £30m, it did feel like a gamble worth taking. However, as good as he is, I’m not convinced he’s the man to succeed Van Dijk in the long term, so perhaps it was a wise decision to cool interest in him. 

Goncalo Inacio made all kinds of sense. He played in a back three for Sporting and was decent enough in the air. His use of the ball was really positive and his release clause — rumoured to be in the region of £40m - made it an easy deal. 

For a while, it appeared as though he was the leading candidate for the left-sided role this summer but recent reports have suggested the Reds have moved on. The 21-year-old is now being linked with Newcastle United, despite the Magpies already having Sven Botman as a ball-playing, left-footed centre-back option. 

It appears as though Liverpool’s options are fairly limited now.

There may be a plan though. No sooner had the Reds distanced themselves from Inacio and Van de Ven, tentative links to Levi Colwill started to emerge. 

Speaking on Redmen TV, David Lynch said if there was the slightest bit of encouragement from Chelsea that a deal could be done for the centre-back, Liverpool would make a big move for him. 

The 20-year-old has just two years left on his current deal at Stamford Bridge and reports do seem to suggest he’s reluctant to extend his stay there without knowing he’s part of Mauricio Pochettino’s plans. Talks between the new Chelsea boss and the left-footed centre-back are expected in the near future, once Colwill’s involvement at the Under-21 European Championships comes to an end. 

© Proshots - Levi Colwill

Earlier reports this summer had seemed to indicate the Blues are looking to cash in on players who refuse a new contract and are down to the final two years of their deals, so Colwill would fall into that category. 

Brighton had wanted to bring him back to the club on a permanent basis but have appeared to move on. The Seagulls are close to completing the signing of Calvin Bassey from Ajax. Newcastle was mooted as another potential destination for the youngster but their pursuit of Inacio suggests they’ve given up. Similarly, Manchester City were named as a potential suitor for the highly-rated centre-back but the impending arrival of Josko Gvardiol all but ends that.

So, Colwill’s options are now fairly limited, if he wants to move.

Pochettino may well want him to extend his stay at Stamford Bridge but he would be competing for minutes with 22-year-olds Wesley Fofana and Benoit Badiashille. The Blues paid a combined £105m for the pair last season and there are no guarantees Todd Boehly won’t go shopping for another centre-back before the summer transfer window comes to a close. It isn’t exactly the most stable environment at Stamford Bridge right now, is it? 

By comparison, there is a clear pathway to minutes at Liverpool. In the short-term, he rivals Robertson for the left-sided role. In the long-term, he replaces Van Dijk. 

It sounds like a big ask but he’s one of a handful of players in Europe who is a complete defender in the sense that he is brilliant in possession - ranking in the 99th percentile for passes attempted, in the 92nd percentile for progressive passes and in the 88th percentile for progressive carries, while also being solid defensively and a bully in the air - winning over 70% of his aerial duels for Brighton, per FBref.

Chelsea might not be keen sellers but a £70m bid could well be too good to turn down. It would be a steep fee, not far off what Liverpool paid for Van Dijk after they deemed him a transformative player. Colwill might not be at that level yet but he has the potential to hit those heights. He also has the potential to be part of the backline for the next decade, in which case he would be a bargain. After all, he does everything Gvardiol can do but he’s better in the air and the RB Leipzig man is going for £85m.

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