In case you missed it, Liverpool are set to complete a Deadline Day move for Bayern Munich midfielder Ryan Gravenberch.
The 21-year-old Dutchman will become Jurgen Klopp’s fourth midfield addition this summer, in a deal worth around £34m.
Able to play in a variety of positions, Gravenberch comes very highly rated, having shone in his home country after graduating from the famous Ajax academy.
He was named as both Ajax and Eredivisie Talent of the Year in 2021, as well as winning the Johan Cruyff Trophy – awarded to the best Dutch player still playing in the country.
In 2022 – the year he earned his move to Bayern Munich – Gravenberch was named on the shortlist for the Kopa Trophy, the Ballon d’Or equivalent for players under the age of 21.
READ MORE: What will Ryan Gravenberch bring to Liverpool’s midfield?
When he burst onto the scene, Gravenberch’s physique and playing style earned comparisons with the likes of Paul Pogba and Frank Rijkaard, while Melissa Reddy reported that Klopp and the Reds’ hierarchy had previously identified the rising star on a shortlist of three midfielders that could develop into ‘game-changers’ alongside Jude Bellingham and Aurelien Tchouameni. High praise indeed.
Sky reporter Florian Plettenberg has been among those to stress just how crucial Klopp has been in getting this deal done, working hard to convince the Netherlands international of the Liverpool project, amid interest from Manchester United.
So, with that much obvious talent, accolades and high-profile admirers, why are Bayern Munich letting Gravenberch go after just one season?
Is the (relatively) low £34m price tag a steal for Liverpool, or indicative of a player who has gone off the boil?
What went wrong for Ryan Gravenberch?
© Proshots – Ryan Gravenberch
Though the German champions will make a healthy profit on a player who has not been a regular starter – they paid just €18m (£15m) for him last summer – the fact that a deal has been sanctioned at all suggests something has gone wrong somewhere down the line.
Bundesliga expert Ronan Murphy claims Gravenberch struggled to take his limited chances when they came along, while he suffered with Bayern’s changing management.
“It was always going to be difficult for Gravenberch to displace Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich in the Bayern Munich midfield,” he told Anfield Watch. “Both Julian Nagelsmann and then Thomas Tuchel used the pair as the preferred midfield partnership, leaving Gravenberch and Marcel Sabitzer as squad players who got limited chance to impress.
“Gravenberch was a frustrated figure at Bayern, having been one of Ajax’s key players before his move to Munich, and this often showed in his performances when he was handed a chance. Often, he would do too much to impress Nagelsmann, whose tactical approach is very methodical and sometimes does not allow players freedom to express themselves.
“Tuchel’s arrival during a chaotic season in Munich was never going to afford Gravenberch opportunities to impress, as the ex-Chelsea boss found himself battling to prove that Bayern’s unexpected coaching change was the right decision.
“After Bayern were knocked out of the German Cup and the Champions League, they found themselves fighting for the title with Borussia Dortmund, and Tuchel was never likely to insert a new player into his midfield with the Bundesliga race going down to the wire.”
Bayer reporter for Munich newspaper TZ Florian Schimak agrees, adding that Gravenberch’s appearance didn’t do him any favours on the pitch – with the Dutchman, who started just three Bundesliga games in 2022/23, often looking out of sorts in Bavaria.
“He’s very talented, but in Bayern there were already too big names for him to compete with. So it was hard for Gravenberch,” he said. “Nagelsmann was a big fan of his, but he also couldn’t leave Kimmich and Goretzka on the bench. It was a kind of a political thing, I think.
“He’s not an emotional player, not an aggressive leader. Sometime his style looks like a little bit slow and lazy, but at the end of the day he didn’t really believe in himself.”
© Proshots – Ryan Gravenberch
Will things get back on track for Gravenberch under Jurgen Klopp then?
Schimak thinks so, adding: “He could be become a typical Klopp player. I think this will be a perfect solution for all three parties.”
Murphy also claims that the Klopp factor may help the 11-cap Netherlands international re-find his feet as one of the continent’s top prospects.
He said: “Perhaps Klopp can provide Gravenberch with the trust he needs, showing that the Dutchman may eventually become a defensive midfielder. In the meantime, Liverpool’s midfield three setup should provide a much more hospitable environment for Gravenberch to thrive, and return to the form which showed why he was touted as one of the best young midfielders in Europe just a year ago.
“This season, it always seemed as if Gravenberch would be allowed to leave the club. Tuchel repeatedly told the media he wanted a “new six”, and with Konrad Laimer now at the Allianz Arena, he had enough No. 8s to go around. Gravenberch was not trusted to do the defensive work, although he regularly showed his all-round qualities at Ajax, with Bayern preferring to use him further up the field, even stepping in at No. 10 on occasion to replace Jamal Musiala.”
The new Wijnaldum?
© Proshots – Gini Wijnaldum
Speaking earlier on Deadline Day, Bayern boss Tuchel outlined the situation to reporters, explaining why things just never worked out for Gravenberch – despite being a ‘very nice, hard-working’ player.
Tuchel said: “The main problem for him is that we don’t really play with a No. 8 in our 4-2-3-1 system. And we’re spoilt for choice up front, with really experienced players.
“Ryan is a very nice, hard-working, committed player. He wasn’t happy with his situation. He sees the chance in Liverpool to fight for a place at No.8 in a 4-3-3. He’s wanted to go for a while. An offer came in and we discussed it. It’s not done yet, but the outcome is clear.”
At Anfield, Gravenberch will join international teammates Virgil van Dijk and Cody Gakpo, in what could be a regular Dutch spine for Klopp.
However, it’s an ex-Liverpool Dutch star that he could end up emulating.
READ MORE: Why Ryan Gravenberch signing makes more sense than traditional ‘number six’
Anfield Watch features writer Sam McGuire sees shades of Gini Wijnaldum in the Amsterdam-born midfielder, writing: “The more I watch him, the more convinced I am that he’s a double-pivot player.
“He uses his body to retain possession, even in tight situations, in a way that is not too dissimilar to Gini Wijnaldum. Like a taller version of his compatriot.
“He’s a great press reliever. He absorbs pressure and either beats a man or wins a foul. I kind of want to see him in the role adopted by Fabinho in this new system. Granted, he’d need some training to familiarise himself with that role given it is a lot more defensive than what he’s perhaps used to but he has the profile for it – good under pressure, composed, tidy in possession, tall (6ft 2in), athletic and deceptively quick.”