Liverpool are reportedly close to making their first summer signing since securing a top-four finish in the Premier League. The Reds have been heavily linked with Virgil van Dijk, Ryan Sessegnon and Naby Keïta but it’s Porto goalkeeper Iker Casillas who could be the first through the door.
It won’t be the last shock summer transfer but this potential coup for Jürgen Klopp’s men is definitely the first.
According to Spanish newspaper AS, Casillas has received offers from the Premier League, Turkey and China, but Liverpool could be the most appetising option available.
The 36-year-old keeper considers the offer from the Anfield club to be “one of the most solid” and has a pre-contract on the table already.
There has been a bit of confusion surrounding his current contract status. Some reports suggest he’s signed to the Portuguese giants until 2018, whereas others claim the former Real Madrid legend signed a two-year deal with Porto in July 2015 with an option of a further 12-months, but has now decided to move on.
The reports linking the Spanish star with a move to Merseyside have come out of the blue. Liverpool have had issues with goalkeepers over recent years but Simon Mingolet’s resurgence in the second half of the season played a major part in the Reds securing a top-four finish.
Klopp praised the Belgian for his role in the 2-1 win over Stoke City in April.
“Simon Mignolet, what a save. The second was spectacular but both are good,” the jubilant German told BBC Sport.
“I have no idea how. That was genius and I am really happy for him. He saved our life.”
Loris Karius, signed from Mainz in the summer, had a difficult start to life at Anfield and was dropped in December following a series of disappointing performances. However, he’s expected to challenge Mignolet next season and was signed with the long term in mind.
With Danny Ward expected to return this summer after an impressive loan-spell with Huddersfield Town, the Reds look set in the goalkeeping department for the time being.
Is there a need for Casillas at Liverpool?
Mignolet’s dramatic turnaround in form was welcomed and necessary with it looking likely the defence would cost the Reds a place in the top four. He started to control his area, dominate the air and just seemed to be an imposing presence between the sticks.
However, the former Sunderland man isn’t the most reliable or the most consistent. In the four seasons he’s been at Liverpool he’s conceded, on average, 48 goals per campaign. His time at the club is littered with a series of errors and he always appears to be one crisis of confidence away from imploding.
Can Klopp’s men rely on such a brittle player in such an important position in the team? Would Casillas’ experience not be a welcomed addition to the Liverpool squad? The three-times Champions League winner has enjoyed his time in Portugal and, despite his age, shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Casillas conceded just the 16 league goals this season and kept 14 clean sheets in 33 appearances as Porto finished six points behind champions Benfica. The Dragões lost just twice in the Primeira Liga and lost to Champions League finalists Juventus in the round of 16.
When judging a goalkeeper it’s ill-advised to read too much into their stats — a lot of the time they don’t tell a whole story. Casillas leads the way in terms of saves per goal but there’s no way of knowing the quality of these chances. You also have to take into account the league he’s playing in and the ‘inferior’ opponents he’ll be facing on a regular basis.
That’s meant as no disrespect to the league or the player but that no doubt skews the stats. It is worth noting, though, that in two of Porto’s biggest matches this season, against Sporting Lisbon and Benfica, he pulled off a couple of stunning saves.
Casillas kept more clean sheets than Karius and Mignolet combined but he was playing in one of the best teams in the league. Porto dominate possession, space and have quality throughout the team.
Liverpool, on the other hand, are sometimes exposed in central areas, can’t defend set pieces and are among a group of six competitive teams in the Premier League. They’re put under pressure a lot more than Porto are, and as a keeper you’re only as good as the defence ahead of you.
Does a deal make sense?
Liverpool’s third choice goalkeeper, Alex Manninger, is set to move into a coaching role next season meaning the Reds are in need of a third-choice shot-stopper. It’s unlikely that Casillas would accept a deal similar to Manninger’s, with the Austrian apparently pocketing close to £5,000 per week.
If reports are true and Casillas has interest from Chinese clubs then he could move there for one final pay day while he still has something to offer.
However, if he still feels he can compete at a high level and he accepts he’s not going to be first-choice, then Casillas’ experience of winning could play a part in Karius and Mignolet developing, thus having a positive impact on the Liverpool team.