Scouting Report: Is Liverpool Target Richairo Zivkovic the New Luis Suarez?

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentFebruary 24, 2014

Groningen's 17-year-old centre-forward Richairo Zivkovic is a transfer target for big-name European clubs such as Ajax and Liverpool, per Ed Malyon at the Mirror, so is Zivkovic the new Luis Suarez?


Zivkovic's Playing Style

Suarez is a complete forward, who can score, create, dribble past players and press opposing defenders.

Zivkovic averages 0.2 key passes per game (pass that leads to a shot) and 0.4 tackles per game, so at this present moment, he is a one-dimensional player. 

The only similarity between Suarez and Zivkovic is both have gotten their European break at Groningen.

Anyone who likens Zivkovic's playing style to former Groningen player Arjen Robben is wrong.

Robben is a left-footed inverted right winger, who runs at players. 

Whereas, Zivkovic is an opportunistic right-footed goalscorer, who has demonstrated positional awareness and poaching instincts.

In a 4-1 win over NEC Nijmegen, Zivkovic evaded the attention of NEC centre-backs Pavel Cmovs and Rens van Eijden to head home Andraz Kirm's cross.

This happened again in a 2-1 win over AZ, when centre-backs Jeffrey Gouweleeuw and Jan Wuytens failed to track Zivkovic, who scored a header from Nick van der Velden's cross.

During a 2-0 win over Utrecht, goalkeeper Robbin Ruiter palmed Van der Velden's shot into the path of Zivkovic, who scored.

It is becoming a pattern in Zivkovic's game: He not only is in the right place at the right time, but he has the composure to convert goalscoring chances.

In a 3-0 win over Heracles Almelo, centre-back Jens Jurn Streutker was out of position. His partner, Jeroen Veldmate, was playing the man and not the ball, and right-back Leon van Dijk was watching Veldmate.

Zivkovic sneakily took up the space in between Veldmate and van Dijk. Since Veldmate is not playing the ball, he has no idea Groningen central midfielder Maikel Kieftenbeld has crossed the ball into the box.

As a result, the ball deflects off an oblivious Veldmate, and Zivkovic pounced.

The way he readjusted his shot to get it over Heracles goalkeeper Remko Pasveer was shrewd.

Zivkovic showed calmness in a one-on-one situation against Vitesse goalkeeper Piet Velthuizen, which spurred Groningen from 2-0 down to 2-1—Zivkovic's teammate Tjaronn Chery scored three minutes later to make it 2-2.


Why Sign Zivkovic?

The idea behind Liverpool potentially signing Zivkovic, a rough diamond, right now is to avoid dealing with Ajax and PSV Eindhoven, when he is a cut diamond, as his transfer stock would be exponentially higher. 

This is why Ajax are already trying to coax Zivkovic to sign with them.

"Zivkovic is an interesting player that we are indeed following," Ajax director of football Marc Overmars, the former Arsenal and Barca player, said, per Voetbal International (h/t SBS the World Game). "During the Eredivisie you see a handful of players emerge and Zivkovic is one of them."

The latter quote is consistent with Ajax increasing their squad depth by signing emerging prospects from other Eredivisie clubs, with examples such as: 

  • Utrecht's Mike van der Hoorn (2013)
  • AZ's Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (2011)
  • NEC's Jasper Cillessen (2011)
  • Heerenveen's Miralem Sulejmani (2008)
  • Groningen's Suarez (2007)
  • Heerenveen's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (2006)

You can understand Liverpool management's thought process if they opted to make a move for Zivkovic.

Liverpool would be banking on Zivkovic upping his game like past Groningen players: Suarez, Robben and Ronald Koeman.

Ajax took Suarez and Koeman (also played for PSV) while PSV signed Robben. 

All three went on to play for major clubs post-Eredivisie: Suarez with Liverpool. Robben with Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Koeman with Barcelona.


Bottom Line

Suarez, Robben and Koeman aside, Groningen youngsters tipped for greatness have underperformed.

The amount of flops that have come out of Groningen should be a red flag for Liverpool management. 

Tim Matavz went the traditional route of upgrading to an Eredivisie powerhouse in PSV, while Hamburg circumvented the process and signed Marcus Berg straight from Groningen. 

Matavz has yet to surpass his 18-goal haul for Groningen during the 2010-11 Eredivisie season for PSV.

Berg, seemingly a can't-miss prospect, was a big-time failure at Hamburg, as the more he played, the worse he performed.

"It is my job to score goals, and I want to score many for HSV," Berg said, per ESPN FC. "I want my performances and goals to help us be as successful as possible."

Berg scored five league goals in three seasons at Hamburg. 

He is now playing in Greece for Panathinaikos

Remember Jordi Hoogstrate, the other Groningen prospect PSV signed along with Robben? 

Hoogstrate did not have the self-belief to succeed, per Henry Winter at the Telegraph: "Robben coped well with the pressure of joining such an illustrious club but Hoogstrate needed psychological help."

David Texeira, a two-footed and technically astute Uruguayan centre-forward, was expected to emulate his countryman, Suarez. 

Texeira scored a hat-trick against NEC and, at one point, had netted six goals in a six-game spell during the 2011-12 season. 

At 22 years of age, he will be playing for FC Dallas in the upcoming Major League Soccer season. 

Zivkovic has potential to be a prolific scorer in the Eredivisie, but he is nowhere near Liverpool quality yet. 

If the Reds were to sign him, it would be imperative to loan him back to Groningen and check back on him in two seasons' time.



Statistics via WhoScoredFFT Stats ZoneSquawka and Transfermarkt.


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