Liverpool "are in talks to sign" Queens Park Rangers' Sevilla loanee Stephane Mbia, per France Football (h/t a tweet via Get French Football) and talkSPORT, but is he good enough for Brendan Rodgers' team?
Here is a scouting report on Mbia, a 27-year-old Cameroonian international.
What Do Liverpool See in Mbia?
Barring an epic collapse, Liverpool will win the Premier League so it is beyond comprehension that Mbia, a passable top-flight footballer, would be "in talks" with the Reds.
Mbia is auditioning for his future.
"At the end of the season I will see where my future lies," Mbia said, per Dominic Fifield at the Guardian. "I hope I will have done enough to earn myself a place at a club in the [UEFA] Champions League, whether that is here in Sevilla or elsewhere."
Mbia has gone from tweeting about swapping places with Joey Barton, at the time playing for Marseille (Mbia's former club), to being a Liverpool transfer target.
To quote Get French Football in a tweet: "Stephane Mbia also in contact w/Inter [Milan]. Publication [France Football] claims that player is set on #LFC or #EFC [Everton]. Story remains questionable."
It is beneficial to Mbia's transfer stock that Everton, Inter and Liverpool are reportedly interested in signing him.
Just like QPR were sold a bill of goods when they bought Mbia for £4.5 million.
He was the fourth-choice centre-back (behind Nicolas N'Koulou, Souleymane Diawara, Rod Fanni) and started fewer games in midfield than Alou Diarra and Benoit Cheyrou.
Mbia was voted the third most disappointing/worst Ligue 1 player of 2012 via the derisive Ballon de plomb awards (think France's answer to Serie A's Bidone d'oro), per Les Cahiers du football (in French).
However, Mbia claims there was a ulterior motive in Marseille forcing him out.
"I didn't want to go but the owner of the club made me understand I had to leave," Mbia said, per RMC (h/t the London Evening Standard). "The wage bill had to be reduced and certain players had to go."
So what prompted QPR and Sevilla to take a chance on Mbia?
Mbia is a 6'3", 181-pound (in Spanish) central midfielder who can play at centre-back.
He has been a useful role player as his job—like Vicente Iborra, Daniel Carrico (has split his time at centre-back) and Sebastian Cristoforo—is to add grit in midfield and play the ball forward.
In particular, pass it to Ivan Rakitic, who has scored 12 times and created 10 goals in La Liga this season for Sevilla.
Mbia's box-to-box running allows him to get into dangerous positions.
He took the ball past Malaga centre-back Marcos Angeleri and sent in an accurate cross for Sevilla centre-forward Kevin Gameiro to score.
Mbia raced in behind Granada's defence to finish in front of goal after being played in by Gameiro.
When given space against Osasuna, Mbia played a Jordan Henderson-like ball to create a goal for Gameiro.
Mbia has chipped in with three goals and four assists in league play (his total goals output [seven] is just two behind Liverpool's Almeria loanee Suso [nine; two goals, seven assists]).
Mbia has struggled to stay on the field whether it is playing out the entirety of the game (has been subbed out in 50 percent of his league appearances) or avoiding injury.
He suffered a broken toe in October, per Tre Atkinson at Inside Spanish Football.
Then Mbia missed eight league games due to a knee injury, per Tom Conn at Inside Spanish Football.
On the field, there are glaring deficiencies in Mbia's game which should rule him out of being a legitimate Liverpool transfer target.
Stéphane Mbia: Of players to attempt 50+ passes in Europe's top 5 leagues this season, Mbia has had the greatest accuracy (96.8%)— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) September 16, 2013
In September, he had a 96.8 pass completion percentage, which has since dipped to 83.2.
You expect that unsteadiness in a prospect, not a veteran 27-year-old in Mbia, who has been a professional footballer since 2004.
The failed Marseille turn which led to Espanyol centre-forward Jhon Cordoba stealing the ball is a typical Mbia possession.
Defensively, Mbia has committed more fouls (44) than tackles (32) in league play.
His tackles per game (1.8) is below average since 104 players in La Liga average more tackles per game than him (1.9 plus).
Mbia's footballing IQ is questionable.
Mbia in L’Equipe: “I thought #QPR was in Scotland.” A merger between Queens Park and Rangers perhaps— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) October 27, 2012
Mbia is substantially stronger and taller than Real Madrid central midfielder Luka Modric, yet resorted to a swinging arm.
Mbia's reaction of "What happened to Modric?" was comical.
Mbia does not learn.
Another low football IQ decision was when Mbia jumped with his legs wide open enabling Espanyol left-attacking midfielder Simao to sneak a free-kick beneath the wall that hit the post.
Should Liverpool Sign Stephane Mbia?
Mbia's game is unrefined so the notion of Liverpool signing him is a dicey move.
He would be a high-risk, high-reward player on the field like Aly Cissokho, who will not be offered a contract at Liverpool, per Mike Whalley at ESPN FC.
Iago Aspas, who was one of the best players in La Liga last season for Celta Vigo, has been a major disappointment at Liverpool.
So Mbia, a La Liga-standard player, is unlikely to be a great midfielder for Liverpool.
Statistics via WhoScored.com