Sam McGuire: Why Alexander-Arnold is facing AGONISING Liverpool transfer decision

Trent Alexander-Arnold has been a bit of an afterthought over recent months. 

The Liverpool right-back was sidelined with knee ligament damage. It wasn’t a case of out of sight, out of mind, but the emergence of Conor Bradley combined with injuries to other key players meant Alexander-Arnold's absence was somewhat downplayed. The entire situation hammered home the fact that the No.66 is taken for granted.

Former Liverpool defender Steve Nicol went as far to say he’d sell the right-back:  "I don't care who you support," he said on ESPN.

"Trent Alexander-Arnold isn't a good defender. If Madrid were to offer, I don't know, 60, 70, £80 million when you have a young kid in Conor Bradley, who is a miles better defender, great going forward, but in the same class as Trent.”

It is a tired narrative.

A lot of people have become accustomed to his genius. They might not necessarily be numb to it but it is easy to become desensitised to 70-yard pin-point passes when you’re seeing multiple ones every single week. I think that is what happened with the England international. Then Bradley burst onto the scene with something a little different and managed to capture the attention of the masses.

Yet against Atalanta, especially in the first half, Alexander-Arnold reminded everyone why he’s considered to be one of the best in the world. It was his first start in over two months and manager Jurgen Klopp heaped praise on the right-back, saying: "How he started the game was absolutely insane. They had no idea how to defend that."

Understandably, he tired as the game went on and his impact waned. But it was still a timely reminder of what he’s capable of and what exactly Liverpool have been without for almost the entirety of 2024.

Trent delivers timely reminder of his talents

It was Alexander-Arnold who won the early penalty for the Reds having followed play up after his initial raking pass to Luis Diaz. The 25-year-old played 14 passes into the final third before being replaced by Joe Gomez. He also racked up an Expected Assists total of 0.58, the second-highest of any player behind only Cody Gakpo.

His importance to this team has gone under the radar, as has his contract situation. At the end of the current campaign, the 23-cap international is into the final 12 months of his deal. The focus, at least in the media, has been on Mohamed Salah with the three-time Golden Boot winner also needing to sort out his future. Many believed it was a formality that Alexander-Arnold could extend his stay at Anfield, especially after being named as the new vice-captain.

Atalanta v Liverpool - UEFA Europa League - Quarter Final - Second Leg - Gewiss Stadium Liverpool s Trent Alexander-Arnold right and Atalanta s Sead Kolasinac battle for the ball during the UEFA Europa League, quarter-final second leg match at the Gewiss Stadium, Bergamo, Italy. Picture date: Thursday April 18, 2024. Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder. PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUKxIRL Copyright: xLucaxRossinix 75921097

But with Klopp leaving and Liverpool set for a transitional spell, this might not be the case. You shouldn’t underestimate the impact the German manager leaving might have on players. In a recent interview with Gary Neville, Alexander-Arnold credited the former Borussia Dortmund boss with essentially giving him his career, saying:  “I owe everything to him, really, as a player.

 “I was thinking about this recently. The only thing you can ever ask for as a young player is opportunity.

“All you can do is hope that when you get to 18, 19, you’ve got a manager that’s willing to give you a chance and I was fortunate enough to have that.

“Not only that, he put his arm round me and guided me through it, through the ups and downs, the winning of stuff, losing things.”

What is Alexander-Arnold's incentive to stay at Liverpool?

Alexander-Arnold doesn’t know a Liverpool first team without Klopp. Maybe finding out what it might look like doesn’t appeal to him. And could you really blame him? He’s won everything with the club. He’s redefined a role and he’s already one of the best right-backs in Premier League history.

Where is the incentive for him to stay while he enters his peak years when the club are rebuilding under a new manager? A manager who might respect his genius but might not be willing to do the things with the system to protect Alexander-Arnold in the same way Klopp did?

Trent Alexander-Arnold Jude Bellingham

Trent Alexander-Arnold Jude Bellingham

These are things to ponder.

Something else to consider right now are the links to Real Madrid. With Los Blancos focusing on Kylian Mbappe right now, they haven’t started a full-on media assault on Alexander-Arnold but it can’t be far away.

Real Madrid are soon going to be in the market for a right-back with Dani Carvajal not getting any younger. Reports last month claimed they were eyeing up Alexander-Arnold on a free transfer in 2025. It would see him paired up with one of his best friends in football.

Does Trent have a soft spot for Real Madrid?

During that interview on the Overlap, Alexander-Arnold revealed just how close he is with Jude Bellingham: “My best friend in football? Club wise, [Andy] Robertson. International wise, probably Jude [Bellingham].”

He then followed that up by saying his dream guests for a dinner party included two Real Madrid legends; Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo. So, safe to say the right-back might have a soft spot for the LaLiga giants. The opportunity to play with Bellingham, and potentially under Xabi Alonso one day, might be one he cannot pass up.

This is a pivotal stage of his career and these contract talks have come at the worst possible time for Liverpool. His future should take priority over others though, especially if he’s to be the future captain. Does he stick with the Reds or twist and take his talents abroad?

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