Pitchside

Should Liverpool pay £20m+ for this man?

Pitchside

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Quality does not come cheap in modern football. While player wages continue to surge skywards, the transfer fees clubs part ways with for the cream of the crop is also constantly on the rise.

Perhaps it's unsurprising, given the money that continues to flood into football from all corners of the globe. However, signing on and agent fees aside, every time a player is bought or sold, discussions as to whether the deal was a good one for either party soon begin.

In the Premier League prices are often inflated more than elsewhere due to the astronomical revenue streams that have been opened to the top tier of England's elite. Yet even with all that cash, no-one likes to pay more than they should, but sometimes it is a necessity.

We have already seen at least two questionable transfers involving Southampton players this summer - Is Adam Lallana really worth £25 million? Maybe not. Did Manchester United really spend even more on a teenage full-back? Yes they did.

Given that they were the surprise package in the division last season it is not a shock that every man and his dog fancies a cheeky bid for the Saints' star men. Cruel as it may be, when the big boys come calling, it is difficult not to answer.

However, new manager Ronald Koeman has insisted he will not sell any more of his players this summer unless it is on his terms. As such, he has slapped a whopping price tag on Liverpool target Dejan Lovren with reports suggesting the Saints want more than £20 million for the Croatian. For such a substantial fee, whoever buys the 24-year-old should rightfully expect a leading performer in his respective position. But how does the South Coast star stack up against the very best in the division?

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Former Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino installed a high tempo game based on quick pressing of his opponents, which Lovren thrived on. Adept at stepping out of defence to win the ball he made 84 interceptions in total, marginally short of the highest performer in this field, Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny.

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The Frenchman managed an excellent total of 89 interceptions, but Lovren displayed that he can more than hold his own in regards to reading the game, suggesting his positional play is also worthy of praise as he also made just one defensive error over the course of the season, one which subsequently led to a goal.

Two of our combatants enjoyed an unblemished record in regards to errors, but given that they are part of stronger teams Lovren can be forgiven for such a minor infringement. He is solid and assured in possession and does not appear to be nervous or daunted in the face of adversity.

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Having formed part of Southampton's tight knit unit, he was required to spend plenty of time on the ball, which he would also encounter at a bigger side given their ability to control games and knock the ball about, probing for an opening.

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However, while comfortable on the ball, Lovren is also well suited to the physicality of the Premier League, having won more tackles than our quartet, just ahead of Vincent Kompany, who is widely regarded to be the finest defender in the division on his day. Lovren will encounter less trouble at a bigger team but he has proven himself capable when his services are called upon.

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Liverpool's Martin Skrtel leads the way in terms of aerial duels with the Slovakian appearing to be a magnet for the ball when it is in the air, while Lovren is only one of three men to come close to the century of headed victories. However, the tendency for Arsenal and Manchester City to keep the ball on the floor suggests they are not called upon in the air as frequently.

Such a comparison may be speculative given the variety of styles of play between the teams and calibre of players alongside them. However, Lovren is most certainly one of the most accomplished defenders outside of the top four. At 24 years of age, he will still improve with time, after all last season was his first in England.

But clubs are predictably cautious when it comes to buying a player after such a short stint in the Premier League. Flashes in the pan are as frequent as much the need for a period of transition. The crucial factor in regards to the current price Southampton have asked for is that it is difficult to envisage his immediate route into the starting line-up of any of the top sides.

Chelsea and Arsenal's partnerships are secure, while City and Liverpool could possibly have an opening, but plenty of highly coveted players are available in defence this summer. £20 million is a hefty fee for a player that is not guaranteed to play on a regular basis. He has the ability to play at a higher level, but he may become the unlucky recipient of a hard line stance by Southampton, who have already had the spine of their side ripped out.

Ironically, Manchester United are the side most in need of a defender of Lovren's ilk given their lack of both a presence and leader within their ranks, but they have shown little interest.

If the Premier League are spooked by the price, which would be a rarity, if Lovren is intent on being given an opportunity to play Champions League football, he could yet find potential suitors elsewhere.

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