Will Hughes Reportedly Named Liverpool's Top January Transfer Target

Ben BlackmoreFeatured ColumnistOctober 11, 2013

DERBY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 05: Will Hughes (C) of Derby County celebrates scoring their third goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Derby County and Leeds United at Pride Park Stadium on October 05, 2013 in Derby, England. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)
Tom Dulat/Getty Images

Brendan Rodgers will move to bring one of the country’s brightest prospects, Will Hughes, to Liverpool during the January transfer window, according to John Edwards of the Daily Mail

Rodgers is rebuilding the future of the Anfield club and has instructed his scouts to scour the globe for the best young talent, already signing centre-back Tiago Ilori.

Hughes is next on the radar, according to Edwards, who writes:

Already linked with Hughes, along with several other Barclays Premier League clubs, Liverpool are now ready to grasp the initiative, with Rodgers poised to ask for the necessary funding to land Derby's England Under-21 midfielder when the market opens again. 

Derby may demand as much as £15 million for the 18-year old, and while Liverpool will try and negotiate that down towards single figures, Rodgers will urge his board to pull out all the stops to bring him to Anfield. 

Hughes is a dynamic central midfielder who is currently chalking up plenty of first-team experience in the Championship with Derby.

He has scored three goals in 13 appearances in all competitions this season—per ESPNFC—and is expected to become the subject of a major transfer war among England’s biggest clubs.

Likened to Steven Gerrard—per ESPNFC—the comparison doesn’t make for an exact fit given the differing frames of the two players.

Even as a youngster, Gerrard always had a domineering stride and deceptive physical presence that enabled him to mix it with the best the Premier League had to offer. Hughes, by contrast, boasts a slighter frame and is also predominantly left-footed.

16 May 2001:  Steven Gerrard (left) of Liverpool tussles with Oscar Tellez (right) of Alaves during the UEFA Cup Final played at the Westfalenstadion, in Dortmund, Germany. Liverpool won the match 5-4 after extra-time and on the golden goal. \ Mandatory C
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Nevertheless, there is a maturity and authority to his game that suggests he is destined for the top level of English football.

The mooted Liverpool move will very much be decided by price tag. Rodgers has to balance his desire to build for the future against his more pressing need to acquire a team capable of keeping him in the job.

Should Derby want £15 million, as reported by Edwards, Liverpool would be better served spending that money on a ready-made world-class talent capable of supporting the current team’s push for Champions League football.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 25:  Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers gestures during the Capital One Cup Third Round match betwen Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford on September 25, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Gett
Julian Finney/Getty Images

The formula is simple. By spending £15 million on a player who can fire Liverpool to Europe’s top table this season, the club would earn enough money to spend further next year. Alternatively, the capture of Hughes for the same price would be unlikely to influence the club’s immediate targets and therefore potentially leave them short of the Champions League jackpot.

Rodgers will attempt to lower the asking price, but he may not have much room for manoeuvre, with Alan Wilson of the Daily Mirror reporting that Manchester United are in pole position for his signature.

In truth, United appear to be in the stronger position for landing the player, not least because former United coach Steve McClaren is Derby manager.

McClaren recently stated, per Wilson's article: “Our job is to make sure he (Hughes) makes it. Eventually he will be too good. What we need behind that is players coming through to replace him."

Additionally, the champions have the basis of their squad already in place, albeit lacking the one or two names wanted by David Moyes to boost the first team.

United’s squad was strong enough to win the league last season, whereas Liverpool are still one injury away from severe exposure when it comes to talents like Philippe Coutinho, Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge.

Hughes makes sense for the future of either club, but Liverpool’s greater need to add genuine first-team quality—despite their current placing above United in the league—dictates that the Reds’ money would arguably be best spent elsewhere.