Liverpool was right all along on Jude Bellingham transfer as FSG delivers with Moneyball move

Liverpool made a controversial call when it backed out of the transfer race for Jude Bellingham. With the latest deal, FSG will feel it has been vindicated.

In many ways, this entire Liverpool transfer window was shaped by Jude Bellingham. Arguably, the specter of the generational English talent has been influencing the goings-on at Anfield for more than a year.

Never overtly stated by FSG or even Jürgen Klopp, it was nonetheless widely accepted that Liverpool opted not to sign a midfielder in last summer’s transfer window because its ‘game-changers’ were not available. Bellingham was not yet attainable, having only spent a year in Dortmund, while Aurélien Tchouaméni chose Real Madrid.

Intriguingly, Melissa Reddy claims that the third name on Liverpool’s list was Ryan Gravenberch. But his move to Bayern Munich was agreed early on that summer — of the trio, then, Bellingham looked like the attainable one in 2023.

For a while, Liverpool appeared to be the front runner. But whispers turned to talking, and then talking turned to screams: the Reds had pulled out of the race, and Bellingham was bound for Real Madrid.

Only a handful of people will know exactly what chain of events led to this outcome. Perhaps Liverpool sensed it was no longer the favorite, and opted against what it felt would be an ultimately fruitless pursuit — somewhat ironic, given how the Moisés Caicedo and Roméo Lavia sagas played out. Perhaps the loss of Champions League football had a bearing.

Or perhaps the alarming on-pitch realities made it clear to FSG and Klopp that Liverpool needed far more than one midfielder, however generational he may be. Again, this stance was never made official, but it became something of a mantra: three very good midfielders instead of one incredible talent.

Now, as the transfer window shuts, FSG can rightly feel that it came good on this logic.

Predictably, Bellingham has been a revelation in Madrid, claiming La Liga’s Player of the Month award after his first three games for the Spanish giant. But for effectively the same price, Liverpool has — to paraphrase Moneyball — recreated him in the aggregate.

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Of course, there’s Gravenberch, considered a potential ‘game-changer’ in his own right by Liverpool. He certainly brings a similarly well-rounded game to Anfield, with Bellingham sitting in his top 10 most statistically similar players on .

But if there’s one facet of Bellingham’s game that Gravenberch most accurately replicates, it’s the defensive work rate. There’s even a possibility that Klopp could mold him into a number six, although some would consider that a waste of talent — regardless of where he plays, he makes Liverpool much better against the ball.

On the ball, it falls to Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai to make up the ‘Bellingham shortfall’. As it happens, both are also able defenders, reinforcing a Liverpool press that had been faltering. But their work in possession makes them truly special.

Mac Allister has spent much of his early time at Liverpool in the number six role, but his skill set is far more offensive by nature. Over the last year, he is in the 99th percentile of midfielders across Europe’s top five leagues for shots per 90 minutes, with a non-penalty expected goals tally in the 97th percentile. In both cases, he marginally surpasses Bellingham.

Szobozlai is the creative monster. He sits in the 99th percentile of midfielders for expected assists per 90 over the last year, with the caveat that he spent his time at RB Leipzig as a kind of narrow winger. He’s also a major asset when it comes to progressing the ball through take-ons and carries.

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