Liverpool's Jude Bellingham alternative? Bayern Munich flop Ryan Gravenberch could be part of Jurgen Klopp's midfield solution

Ryan Gravenberch Liverpool GFX
The Netherlands international is one of a host of summer transfer targets for the Reds, and has the profile and skillset to thrive at Anfield

If you’re a midfielder, aged 26 or under and have played some kind of top-flight European football in the past two years, there’s a fair chance you’ll be linked to Liverpool in the coming weeks, if you haven't already.

The list of players being touted for a summer move to Anfield is getting longer by the day, it seems. You can cross Jude Bellingham off it, for now at least, but in Mason Mount, Matheus Nunes, Conor Gallagher, Alexis Mac Allister, Moises Caicedo, Teun Koopmeiners, Jesper Lindstrom, Youri Tielemans, Declan Rice, Jacob Ramsey, Nicolo Barella, Gavi, Ruben Neves and Gabri Veiga there are plenty of other names to look out for. And that’s just on Page One.

Ryan Gravenberch is the latest to emerge as a target, with the Reds exploring the possibility of a deal for the Bayern Munich man. A fee of just £25 million ($31m) has even been touted for the 20-year-old, who is understood to be receptive to the idea of a move to Merseyside.

A smart signing, potentially, for a club which needs a few of those at the moment. Liverpool’s need is great after a miserable season on the pitch, and with several members of Jurgen Klopp’s squad either leaving, declining or both, they need both quality and quantity in the summer window.

So could Gravenberch fit the bill? GOAL takes a look at the situation…

  1. On the radar
    Getty Images

    On the radar

    Liverpool’s interest in Gravenberch is long-standing, dating back to his days as an outstanding youth product with Ajax.

    There, he was compared with the likes of Frank Rijkaard, a mixture of physicality, drive and technical quality. His coach at Under-15 level, Brian Tevreden, has also likened him to Paul Pogba. In 2018, he became the youngest debutant in Ajax’s history, beating the record set by the great Clarence Seedorf.

    Liverpool came across Gravenberch regularly when playing in youth tournaments, and ran into him at senior level when they were drawn in the same Champions League group as Ajax in the 2020-21 season.

    The Reds won both meetings 1-0, but Gravenberch impressed, particularly in Amsterdam as he competed manfully with a Liverpool midfield containing James Milner, Curtis Jones and countryman Gini Wijnaldum.

    “One to watch,” was the verdict after that contest, and it looks as though the Reds have been true to their word.

  2. Misery in Munich
    (C)Getty Images

    Misery in Munich

    Gravenberch was one of a host of players to leave Ajax last summer, following the likes of Lisandro Martinez, Antony, Sebastian Haller, Noussair Mazraoui, Perr Schuurs and Niclolas Tagliafico, as well as manager Erik ten Hag, out of the door.

    A £20m ($25m) switch to Bayern looked, on the face of it, like it could be the perfect move, with Gravenberch expected to continue his development apace in Bavaria.

    “He is one of the biggest talents in Europe,” Bayern director of sport Hasan Salihamidzic said at the time. “We’re confident that we’ll enjoy lots of success with him.”

    That hasn’t happened, though. Gravenberch’s first season in Munich has been underwhelming, to say the least. He has started only one Bundesliga game, and only four in all competitions. His last start came on November 1 in a Champions League dead rubber against Inter, and his only goal came in August, in a 5-0 cup win against third-tier outfit Viktoria Koln.

    As far back as September, Gravenberch was talking about his lack of playing time, and his frustration has only grown as the season has gone on. Bayern have been far from vintage this term - their performances were enough to get Julian Nagelsmann the sack, remember - but there have still been few opportunities for Gravenberch, with Jamal Musiala, Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich all preferred.

    Nagelsmann’s replacement, Thomas Tuchel, has spoken well of the youngster. “He trains well,” the former Chelsea boss said recently. “He’s a candidate to start.”

    Despite this, though, it is understood that Gravenberch is leaning towards the idea of another fresh start this summer, and that the player’s agent, Rafaela Pimenta, has already begun liaising with potential buyers, of which there are a few.

  3. Not for sale?

    Not for sale?

    Despite this, the word from Bayern is that they are not looking to sell the player this summer, that Tuchel is a fan and that Gravenberch is very much part of the future. 

    They are, though, about to announce the signing of another midfielder, Konrad Laimer, from RB Leipzig, meaning opportunities for Gravenberch are likely to be even more limited next season. 

    Liverpool themselves looked at Laimer last summer, but were made aware early on that the Austrian was bound for Munich. Whether that can now help them land Gravenberch, however, remains to be seen. 

    Certainly, the reported £25m ($31m) price tag seems low, even allowing for the player’s low-key season. Bayern, after all, paid an initial £16m ($20m) only a year ago, with an extra £4.4m ($5.5m) in add-ons, so a mark-up of around £5m ($6.2m) for a player who only turns 21 in May feels a little on the skinny side, especially with Ajax having retained a sell-on clause believed to be worth around 7.5 percent of any future profit.

  4. Liverpool meetings
    (C)Getty Images

    Liverpool meetings

    Liverpool’s interest, though, is genuine. With Bellingham off the agenda, the Reds are looking to make at least three, and probably four, key signings this summer, with strengthening their midfield ranks very much top of the agenda.

    The club have not denied a recent report in the Sunday Times that a representative met with Gravenberch’s father, also called Ryan, in Amsterdam earlier this month to discuss a potential deal, although it is understood that the person in question was not sporting director Julian Ward.

    It has also not gone unnoticed that Jose Enrique, the former Liverpool defender turned pundit, described Gravenberch as “a done deal” recently, claiming inside knowledge courtesy of his agent.

    Arsenal are also said to be monitoring Gravenberch’s situation, with the Gunners expected to be in the market for at least one midfielder this summer, while Manchester United are another club who have previously been keen, and have the potential lure of his former Ajax boss Ten Hag too, of course.

    Liverpool, Klopp has already stated, are ready to spend money this summer, and it is expected that they will do so early in the window too. That is one of the reasons they have withdrawn from the Bellingham race, so as not to waste time fighting for a player who may or may not choose Anfield as his destination.

    Getting deals done early has always been important to Klopp, who likes to have a full pre-season to work with players and teach them his team's demands. That will be important again this summer, perhaps more than ever.

  5. Fitting the bill?
    Getty Images

    Fitting the bill?

    Certainly, Gravenberch looks like a player who would thrive under the right conditions. 

    He has played in various roles at Ajax, playing as a No.6, a No.8 and a No.10, as well as in two and three-man midfield combinations. His size, running power and calmness in possession, as well as his age, mark him out as a serious prospect, even if his growth appears to have been stunted somewhat since his move to Germany.

    Liverpool won’t care too much about that, though. They have had success before picking up players who have failed or underwhelmed elsewhere - Mohamed Salah is perhaps the best example, although Andy Robertson and Wijnaldum are others - and can already call upon two of Gravenberch’s international team-mates, Virgil van Dijk and Cody Gakpo, for references should they wish.

    Much, though, depends on Bayern, and whether they are willing to offer Gravenberch assurances that there will be more opportunities and more responsibility moving forward. If they are, then he will stay in Munich.

    But if not, expect Liverpool to be knocking on the door and selling another Dutchman the Anfield dream.