Emre Can Bolsters Liverpool Midfield but 'New Steven Gerrard' Tag Is Premature

Mark JonesFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2014

PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 12: Emre Can of Leverkusen in action during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between Paris Saint-Germain FC and Bayer Leverkusen at Parc des Princes on March 12, 2014 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Liverpool headlines might still be centering on a certain Uruguayan who seems to be attracted to making the news, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that the Reds have spent around £33 million to improve the team this week.

Fernando Vergara/Associated Press

Following the arrival of the Southampton captain Adam Lallana—one of the standout midfielders in the Premier League last season and a nominee for PFA Player of the Year—comes the long-expected signing of the German Under-21 international Emre Can. Liverpool’s striking department might be shrouded in uncertainty at the moment, but in midfield, it’s all looking good.

Can comes to Merseyside with a big reputation and a lot of footballing experience for a player who is just 20 years old.

He’s already managed to play and score for Bayern Munich, was given an important role in a Bayer Leverkusen team playing in the Champions League and has captained Germany at various youth levels. It’s an impressive start to a CV that still has plenty of space for more achievements.

NETANYA, ISRAEL - JUNE 09:  Emre Can of Germany controles the ball during the UEFA European U21 Championship Group B match between Germany and Spain at Netanya Stadium on June 9, 2013 in Netanya, Israel.  (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Because they’ve signed in the same week, it is tempting to compare Can to Lallana, but even the briefest look at the games of both should tell you that these are completely different players. Indeed, if you are hell-bent on finding a player with whom you can compare Liverpool’s newest recruit, then you end up arriving at one man.

Can is athletic, has the ability to hare around a football pitch, is a recognised leader, can play in a deep-lying midfield role and has seen the early years of his career feature several appearances in one of the full-back positions. All of which leads you to Steven Gerrard.

Now, of course, immediately comparing a young, new recruit to arguably the greatest player in Liverpool’s history as soon as he’s set foot in the door at the club’s Melwood training ground isn’t going to do anyone any favours, and patience should be afforded to Can as he adjusts to English football and the way of life.

11 Sep 1999:  Steven Gerrard of Liverpool on the ball against Manchester United during the FA Carling Premiership match at Anfield in Liverpool, England. United won 3-2. \ Mandatory Credit: Ben Radford /Allsport
Ben Radford/Getty Images

The Gerrard skill set is undoubtedly there though, with the modern focus on improving the physical side of a player, ensuring that the 6'1" midfielder has a strong build as opposed to Gerrard’s skinny teenager look when he was breaking through as a young right-back in the late 1990s.

Can would have been far too young to have known it at the time, but Gerrard’s career will eventually have an influence on his. The Liverpool captain is 34 now, and as a season of Champions League football approaches, he is unlikely to be able to feature each and every week as he did in the last campaign.

The addition of Can increases the options in a midfield that looks well equipped to deal with these increasing demands. Sometimes he’ll play with Gerrard, and other times he’ll perform alongside or in place of Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen or Lucas Leiva. There are others, too, and might soon be even more.

You are likely to see a lot of Gerrard comparisons over the season, while Can’s background ensures that the likes of Michael Ballack and Bastian Schweinsteiger could also be mentioned in the conversation.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 24:  Bruno Cheyrou of Liverpool celebrates scoring during the FA Cup Fourth Round match between Liverpool and Newcastle United at Anfield on January 24, 2004 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Gary M. Prior/Getty Images)
Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

It is up to the mentality of the player and how he handles this, though. Some could be intimidated by it while others could rise to the challenge. Everyone connected with Liverpool remembers Bruno "the new Zidane" Cheyrou.

Crucially, Gerrard will be around to help Can and guide him through his first campaign at Anfield, while it mustn’t be forgotten that he is a young player who also has experience of playing with the many stars in the Bayern squad.

As he becomes the newest star in Liverpool’s squad, much is on Can’s side in his bid to be a success, even though the hard work hasn’t even begun yet.

He’s not Gerrard, and he maybe never be, but it looks like it’s going to be fun watching Can try.