Murillo: Would the Nottingham Forest defender make sense for Liverpool?

Defensive reinforcements will likely be at the top of the agenda for incoming sporting director Richard Hughes.

Liverpool overhauled their midfield last summer and the attack has been retooled over the past couple of years, so now the focus is going to be on the defensive third.

Joel Matip is out of contract in the summer and expected to leave. The Reds aren’t necessarily spoilt for choice in that area of the pitch either. Joe Gomez has been moonlighting as a full-back for most of the season and this has left Jurgen Klopp with Jarell Quansah, Ibrahima Konate and Virgil van Dijk as centre-back options. With Konate partial to a stint on the sidelines, the defensive numbers needs to be bolstered.

READ MORE: Joel Matip among three players expected to leave Liverpool this summer

Liverpool have been linked with a number of names over recent months and a lot of these are recurring names. However, there’s now a new one to discuss with claims the Reds are just one of a handful of teams keeping tabs on Nottingham Forest centre-back Murillo.

The 21-year-old arrived in the summer from Brazilian side Corinthians in a deal believed to be worth around £15m. He’s caught the eye during his debut campaign in the Premier League and he’s now supposedly being courted by the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle United, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona.

Forest want to keep the left-footer at the City Ground but they are at risk of breaking financial rules again next season if they fail to make significant profit this summer. Murillo, along with Morgan Gibbs-White, is probably the club’s most sought-after asset, so if they do need to raise money, he’s the one they are going to have to sacrifice.

Should the 5ft 11in centre-back be on Liverpool’s radar though? Are the links to him legit or could they be planted by the agent in a bid to generate more interest in their client? After all, it helps with exposure if you’re being linked with a move to Anfield.

It gets people talking.

What type of defender are Liverpool looking for?

Obviously, we are yet to know who is going to replace Klopp as Liverpool manager. Without knowing his successor, it makes it difficult to put together a profile on the sort of centre-backs the Reds might be interested in going forward.

With the German tactician, he generally liked aerially dominant defenders with great recovery pace. It allowed him to play the ridiculously high defensive line without really being punished. There were some exceptions.  For example, Matip wasn’t blessed with explosive pace but he was a monster in the air. By comparison, Gomez wasn’t great in the air but he was deceptively quick and he paired well with Van Dijk.

France - Toulouse FC vs Liverpool FC - 09/11/2023 FRANCE, TOULOUSE, NOVEMBER 09. Joel Matip of Liverpool during the UEFA Europa League group E football match between Toulouse FC and Liverpool FC on November 09, 2023 at Stadium Municipal in Toulouse, France. Photo by Manuel Blondeau/ AOP.Press Toulouse Stadium Municipal Occitanie France Copyright: x ManuelxBlondeau/AOP.Pressx AOP20231109 096

Would it be naive to assume a similar defensive profile will be targeted in a post-Klopp world? I’d argue it would make a lot of sense to target someone who is dominant, with and without the ball, while also being fairly quick. After all, that sort of profile would suit most defensive set-ups.

So let’s assume this is the case. Are the key boxes being ticked with Murillo?

Murillo's strengths and weaknesses

We’ll start with the positives. He’s adept in possession and very comfortable when carrying the ball. Per FBref, he ranks well for successful take-ons and progressive carries which kind of paints him as a successor to Matip. He doesn’t see a lot of the ball but that is going to be tied to the fact he’s playing for a struggling Nottingham Forest side. He looks good enough with the ball to be able to scale his passing numbers.

Sport Bilder des Tages Liverpool v Nottingham Forest - Premier League - Anfield Nottingham Forest s Murillo top right reacts after fouling Liverpool s Mohamed Salah during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture date: Sunday October 29, 2023. Copyright: xPeterxByrnex 74367257

In possession, he probably does fit the profile. Without it, though, that is where the concerns come into it.

Murillo isn’t great in the air. That is the elephant in the room that needs to be addressed.

He competes in just 2.6 aerial duels per 90 - the Liverpool guys average over four - and wins just 43%.  That success rate would see him rank last if compared with the current crop of defenders at Anfield. Ideally, those coming in win close to 70% of their aerial duels, so he’s significantly down on where you would want him to be. Could he scale this in a better team? Possibly, but it is a big ask.

He does win 64% of his tackles, so that is another tick for him, but his 46% success rate in duels is another concern. Murillo isn’t dominant enough to really fit the Liverpool profile, but maybe he’s liked for his on-ball stuff and the belief is he could be protected if paired with a physically dominant partner like Van Dijk or Konate.

 However, there are more questions than answers when it comes to the 21-year-old right now and that is why I’d be surprised if he was a genuine target for the Reds this summer.

Share This Article