The subject of Emre Can‘s future has been almost as long running as Philippe Coutinho’s and, like the Brazilian, it looks as though the Liverpool midfielder will be on his way out of Anfield.
That is because renowned Italian agent Federico Pastorello has claimed the German midfielder has agreed terms with Juventus.
“Emre Can is a huge coup, even more so because he’ll arrive on a free transfer. Marotta and Paratici have done very well,” he said.
“Juventus are a club that attract champions, and important signals are coming from the German.”
Last month Can denied he had even held talks with the Italian champions. “I haven’t signed anything (with Juventus) or anyone. I am talking with everyone,” he said.
“Of course I am talking with Liverpool. Why not? I still have a contract here. It is an amazing club. What can I say? My agent does the rest. I just concentrate on the scene, on my performance and the football. I will give everything for this team.”
The 24-year-old Frankfurt-born midfielder seemed like the ideal blank canvas for Reds boss Jürgen Klopp to mould into a future star, just as he did with Nuri Şahin and İlkay Gündoğan.
The former Dortmund manager replaced Brendan Rodgers at Anfield in October 2015 and in the first match under his watchful eye, away to Tottenham Hotspur in a 0-0 draw, Can was the on-field general in the middle third for his compatriot.
Liverpool parted with £10million to secure the services of the ex-Bayer Leverkusen midfielder in the summer of 2014, and he was signed to be a long-term project.
He’s yet to add consistency to his game but there are signs it’s a matter of when and not if he’s able to put in eye-catching performances on a regular basis.
Liverpool tried to tie him down to a long-term contract but they’ve been unable to come to an agreement with the German midfielder. Reports first hinted that he wasn’t being offered enough money, then there were suggestions that he wanted guarantees over playing time before it was revealed that he wanted a release clause added to his deal.
The club won’t bow to Can’s demands after rejecting Philippe Coutinho’s request to include a release clause in his deal. And this is why they find themselves in this situation and why the former Bayern Munich academy graduate could be joining a rival club in just five months.
What are Can’s main strengths and weaknesses?
The midfielder’s versatility is a weakness as well as a strength. He’s able to play a number of positions and managers in the past have utilised this, but it’s been at the expense of him developing in a certain role and making it his own.
If you ask 100 Liverpool fans what his best position is you would probably get three or four answers. Some like him as a No.6, others prefer him to be deployed as a box-to-box midfielder, while you will find a few who will argue that he’s better as a centre-back in a back three.
Can doesn’t have a position because he’s not been allowed to claim one for himself. Versatility will make him a better all-rounder, but there’s a real threat of him becoming a Jack of all trades but master of none.
He views himself as a No.6 and it’s understandable. He’s diligent defensively and wins aerial duels, often dropping deep when playing for Liverpool to help with long balls.
He’s expressive on the ball as well as being incisive. He’s press resistant, meaning he’s a key part of a team playing out from the back, and being a powerful runner means he’s able to really go through the gears when he’s gone beyond a member of the opposition. Also, if given the license to roam, he can chip in with a goal or two.
Can also has a lot of experience despite his young age. He’s played more than 150 times for Liverpool and was part of the Germany team to win the Confederations Cup.
Though Can is yet to win any silverware at Anfield, he did play a vital role during their run to the 2016 Europa League final, putting in a man-of-the-match performance against Villarreal in the semi-final.
He was also a key part of the team that finished fourth last season. Performances weren’t pretty towards the end of the 2016/17 season but Liverpool showed a grit and resilience to pip Arsenal to the final Champions League place, with Can one of the mainstays in midfield with captain Jordan Henderson ruled out from February onwards.
The mental strength is there and there are foundations for him to become a regular in a Champions League team.
His use of the ball isn’t always as crisp as it could be. This could be something that improves with age and experience but there are times he’s in possession and he takes one too many touches and slows things down. In matches against some of the best in Europe, releasing the ball just a split-second too late is the difference between a goalscoring chance and a turnover in possession.
Where might Can end up?
If Can had a long deal at Anfield then Liverpool would be looking at £40million in the current market if any club were to pry him away from Merseyside. The fact he’s available on a free is why so many clubs are courting him. There’s a chance to really upgrade your midfield options without breaking the bank, a rarity in today’s world.
There have been varied reports since last summer about where Can will end up if he leaves Anfield. Manchester City and Manchester United have been been linked while Bayern Munich have shown an interest in re-signing Can. Coach Jupp Heynckes praised Can as a “dynamic and powerful” player.
“There’s always certain criteria when you’re signing a player,” Heynckes said at a press conference ahead of the game against Dortmund. “I only had Emre Can for a few months. He is a good, young player who has developed well — he is dynamic and powerful.”
Bayern are in the midst of somewhat of a German recruitment drive and have brought former academy stars back to Bavaria in the past once they’ve proved themselves. But with Heynckes unlikely to remain in his post beyond the end of the season, it is unlikely to be his call.
Can is definitely worth the fuss, and one of the aforementioned clubs is going to get themselves one of the bargains of the summer.