In their search for defensive reinforcements ahead of the upcoming Premier League season, Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool have reportedly turned their attention to Atletico Madrid youngster Javier Manquillo. The 20-year-old is supremely talented, but not the piece Rodgers should look to add ahead of this season.
The Guardian's Andy Hunter believes Liverpool are looking at a similar deal, a season-long loan with an option to make the move permanent depending on the success of the player.
Atletico have made it very clear they have no intention of letting the talented defender leave, however. Their message to Marca's Luis Aznar when asked about foreign interest for the player was short and simple: "Manquillo is not for sale."
It's an understandable sentiment. The full-back is barely out of his teens and hardly featured for the Atleti last season, but his talent and vast potential are undeniable.
As with many of Spain's top prospects at the position, Manquillo is a converted winger with the athleticism and trickery to contribute to the attack and the recovery speed and composure to lock down his flank defensively.
Despite his young age, the Spanish youth international is already an established defender. He needs work on his tackling and footwork, but his vision makes up for the occasional bad angle, and the potential to become an elite defender is clearly there.
He really shines on the offensive end, however, with crisp clean passing and the burst to beat his man to the back line routinely.
For all of his potential, Manquillo is incredibly raw. There's a reason he hardly featured for Atletico last season—he simply wasn't ready. Madrid were in the middle of a race for the La Liga title and a European campaign, and Diego Simeone couldn't afford to take chances with such an inexperienced player.
Liverpool's situation isn't that dissimilar. Starting the young Jon Flanagan on one side of the defence is one thing—pairing him with an equally inexperienced full-back on the opposite side of the pitch is asking for trouble.
Manquillo is a prospect, not an impact starter. Liverpool are trying to establish themselves as a top contender in the Premier League—they don't have the time to develop another club's players.
FourFourTwo's Paul Wilkes agrees the player needs minutes, first and foremost:
His 14 tackles in only three league appearances last season was an exceptionally high amount. He is adaptable and can play on the left if required, like fellow countryman Cesar Azpilicueta.
When David Villa surprisingly made the move to Los Rojiblancos for a small fee from Barcelona last summer, Manquillo was one of three players that the Catalans wanted first option on. There remains some doubt to the actual terms and conditions, but the fact they are paying attention shows his pedigree.
The player needs minutes on the pitch to aid his development, with the FA and League cups giving him the perfect opportunity to showcase his talent.
The option to make the deal permanent could bring solace, but Atletico aren't interested in selling. Arsenal were likely keen on such an option had being included, but the player ended up remaining in the Spanish capital for the time being.
Bringing in Manquillo would be a smart move, but Liverpool would need to invest in an established, more experienced starter to balance out their defensive line. Long term, the Spaniard could be the answer at the full-back position, but it's too risky to gamble on him being ready at this point.
And unless the Reds can secure that option to make the deal permanent, a loan move simply makes no sense. Rodgers needs to aim higher than that, and Liverpool need a player who can improve the squad immediately, not a project that could pay off in the future.