When Dejan Lovren arrived on the south coast for a fee around £8m in July last year, moving from Olympique Lyonnais to Southampton, it had been reported that Lovren was persuaded by Southampton and their aspirations for Europa League qualification, and eventually Champions League football. Not even a year later, their chairman Nicola Cortese resigned, their head coach has switched St Mary’s for White Hart Lane, and their three star players last season have headed up north to Liverpool and Manchester United respectively.
Some may argue that Southampton lack ambition, some may say that they were punching above their weight with such a talented squad; and some may say they have done well to get above £50m for Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert.
And now, Dejan Lovren has plunged the knife further into the back of Southampton Football Club, demanding a move to Anfield to join his former team-mate Adam Lallana.
Lovren, reportedly told Croatian website Sportske Novosti –
Liverpool sent a 20 million offer and they [Southampton] paid nine million for me, so they would’ve earned twice the amount.
At this point, I don’t know what I’ll do and I don’t like it. It was unbelievable that a few days ago I had an offer of 20 million pounds. It was in the morning and by the afternoon the club had said I was not for sale. Frankly, my head is already at Liverpool.
Not particularly professional from the Croatian and, for now, Southampton centre-back, but in economical terms, Lovren has a point – Southampton would have earned twice the amount that Southampton paid for Lovren back in the summer of 2013.
According to reports, Southampton want £25m for the former Olympique Lyonnais centre-back. Liverpool are used to spending an absurd amount of money in the Premier League [cc: Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson] although the latter is finally beginning to prove his worth on Merseyside.
The economical thing to do is to look for the next Dejan Lovren, or in general, a hot prospect who plays centre-back in Europe, for half the price that Lovren is worth.
Dejan Lovren compared to Joel Veltman and Fabian Schar
While £25m is a lot of money to pay for the Croatian centre-back, he had a stellar first season in the Premier League; as part of the Southampton back four, Lovren kept 12 clean sheets in 31 appearances for the Saints. His individual performances, however, were even more impressive; the Croatian defender is outstanding at reading the game and placing himself in the right positions, which resulted in the Croatian making 90 interceptions in 31 Premier League appearances, averaging just under three interceptions per game.
Lovren averaged a tackle success of 78% in 31 appearances, averaging a tackle every 46 minutes – while winning 65% of his ground duels and 61% of his aerial duels.
The Croatian centre-back scored in two of Southampton’s most important away results last season, in their 1-0 away win at Anfield, and in their 1-1 draw away at Old Trafford.
One potential problem in Liverpool signing Dejan Lovren is his relative inexperience at Champions League level, playing two seasons for Lyon in the 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 season, where he accumulated a WhoScored.com rating of 6.78 and 6.83 respectively – and even lower in their 2012/2013 Europa League campaign – a WhoScored.com average rating of 6.54.
Two centre-backs that took European football by storm last season, both in their domestic league and in the Champions League are Ajax’s Joel Veltman and Basel’s Fabian Schar.
Joel Veltman averaged under two tackles per game (total 48 tackles) in the Eredivisie for Ajax, and two interceptions per game (51 in total) – averaging a WhoScored.com rating of 7.67 in the Eredivisie, while playing 24 league games for Ajax.
Veltman has Champions League experience under his belt at the age of 22, playing in three games for Frank de Boer’s side in the 2013/2014 Champions League campaign – averaging a 7.17 rating; averaging 2.7 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per game.
The Dutch centre-back is currently worth around £5m – it could be a wise investment if Brendan Rodgers was to look for a centre-back in the Eredivisie.
Another young centre-back who has looked impressive in both his domestic league and in the Champions League is FC Basel’s Fabian Schar.
Schar is near perfect in all the attributes a centre-back needs; composure on the ball, immaculate positioning and dominant in the air.
At the end of his first season (2012/2013 campaign), Schar was voted Swiss rookie of the year, won the league title, qualified for the Europa League semi-finals and lost their domestic cup final. Schar won the Swiss Super League title for the second time in his career.
The Switzerland centre-back was excellent in the Champions League, especially in their win at Stamford Bridge in September, where Schar and his Basel back four were impenetrable.
In six Champions League games for FC Basel, Fabian Schar averaged a WhoScored.com rating of 7.64 – averaging 3.5 tackles and 3.8 interceptions per game, one of the best performing centre-backs during the Champions League group stage.
With both players three years younger than Dejan Lovren, it would be up to Brendan Rodgers to develop their talent – a characteristic he has already shown in the development of players such as Jordan Henderson, Jon Flanagan, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling.
Joel Veltman and Fabian Schar stats taken from WhoScored.com