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REPORTS: Liverpool already know where to find their ideal Thiago Alcantara replacement

 

Portugal and alumni of its Primeira Liga are set to be well represented at the top level of English football once again next season. As things stand, Liverpool’s purchase of Darwin Nunez from Benfica is the costliest transfer (on fee, if not whole financial package) made by a Premier League club this summer.

The Uruguayan will join Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz, two former Porto players, in the Reds’ attack for 2022/23. Arsenal’s biggest signing of this window so far ( Fabio Vieira ) came from the same club, while multiple Portuguese internationals should play key roles for both Manchester teams too.

There is no indication that Liverpool are going to make any further signings from the west of the Iberian Peninsula this summer, but players from Portugal are certainly in fashion at present. In the case of one midfielder, it’s easy to see why rumours connecting him with a move to Anfield persist, and why he could be a replacement for one of the Reds’ existing stars in the future.

Still, Vitinha has statistics in his favour which could easily swing the connection from mere rumour into reality. On FBRef, their comparison matrix automatically pairs him with Aurelien Tchouameni, a player whom Liverpool were interested in acquiring, prior to his move to Real Madrid. Another familiar name linked by statistics is the Reds’ current number six, Thiago Alcantara, and the connection between him and Vitinha is even stronger.

 

 

Statsbomb have revealed that the Porto man was the player who was most similar to Thiago last season. As the analysts at Liverpool use their data, this fact is unlikely to have escaped their attention.

While no two players will ever match perfectly, there are certainly strong similarities in their statistics for 2021/22. Alcantara and Vitinha look to have near identical records for xGBuildup (which is effectively a measure of the expected goals generated by the possession sequences in which a player is involved), pressure regains – a big part of how the Reds both defend and attack – and possession adjusted interceptions.

Of the remaining eight categories in Statsbomb’s comparison, the Liverpool man held the edge in six of them, though not by a particularly wide margin. It’s little surprise that a vastly more experienced player in a stronger team would be posting stronger numbers in any case. The two metrics where Vitinha came out on top were xG assisted and successful dribbles, attributes which would certainly add to the Reds’ midfield.

And while a radar of match statistics obviously won’t account for their contract situations, both players have deals which currently run until the summer of 2024. Two and two can easily equal five in transfer land, but the younger man replacing the veteran could be timed to perfection.

 

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