Liverpool are ready to battle with Chelsea and Atletico Madrid for the signing of Ezequiel Lavezzi, according to various reports.
Brendan Rodgers has entered a phase of major squad strengthening during the transfer window, adding five names to his selection in the wake of Luis Suarez's exit. Lavezzi is said to be surplus to requirements at Paris Saint-Germain and will need to be sold if the French champions confirm a deal for Real Madrid's Angel Di Maria.
Marca revealed Liverpool's interest, reported via Chisanga Malata of the Daily Star:
According to reports, the Reds are plotting an £18m bid for the 29-year-old winger. Spanish newspaper Marca claim that the Ligue 1 champions are willing to sell Lavezzi in order to fund their bid for Real Madrid midfielder Angel Di Maria.
PSG's recent failure to comply with UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules saw them receive a fine and Champions League squad limit. Despite this, owner Nasser al-Khelaifi remains undetered when trying to progress the side's quality, per Sky Sports:
"This changes nothing of the project, the motivation of the club and the players," said Al-Khelaifi. "We respect and accept this decision. But nothing and no one will stop us, we always dream bigger."
Such quotes appear to go against Marca's report, which indicates PSG must sell in fear of another punishment.
Liverpool will face fierce competition if Lavezzi becomes available. Jose Mourinho is said to be interested in bringing the player to Chelsea, a link which has persisted across the summer transfer window, but may need to offload a striker before seriously considering the Argentine's arrival.
AS also indicates Atletico are firmly in the running for Lavezzi's signature. Football writer Jonathan Johnson suggests these talks could be progressing well after PSG allegedly offered the player to Diego Simeone:
The Spanish champions recently captured Antoine Griezmann from Real Sociedad and are looking to continue building ahead of a difficult La Liga title defence, per the Press Association and via the Guardian.
Lavezzi scored nine goals in 32 Ligue 1 games last season, per WhoScored.com. He was quiet during the World Cup, where he made one assist in six appearances and suffered something of a disappointing individual tournament along the Albiceleste's route to the final.
He is exactly the type of individual Rodgers targets. Pacey, powerful and confident on the ball, Lavezzi can play on either wing or behind the striker. Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic, two of Rodgers' new signings, are likely to offer this kind of versatility throughout the new campaign, providing the Northern Irish boss with a plethora of exciting options.
Lavezzi could also aid Liverpool's quality while Rodgers' youngsters continue to develop. Both Markovic and Raheem Sterling can be expected to contribute next season, but like the former's output in 2013-14, Rodgers will want to protect his player from burnout (Sterling made 24 starts and nine substitute appearances), ensuring both will receive plenty of chances to impress.
The arrival of Lavezzi would also provide the Reds an alternative option when trying to move on from Suarez's departure. Granted, Lavezzi isn't going to hit 31 goals in a season—his most is nine, scored during Napoli's 2011-12 Serie A run and in last year's Ligue 1 campaign—but he provides a sense of steel down the flanks that is rare from many wingers in modern football.
Rodgers would undoubtedly force Lavezzi to up his work rate and put his physical attributes to good effect when he is without possession. The Argentinian could also expect the same evolution at Chelsea and Atletico, two clubs whose willingness to chase the ball down plays a huge role in defining their character and sense of spirit.
Undoubtedly a short-term investment at the age of 29, Lavezzi still has plenty to offer. Imagining a Liverpool front four of Daniel Sturridge, Lavezzi and Markovic with Sterling sitting just behind is an exciting prospect. Rodgers favours a cut-and-thrust style of play, something the aforementioned quartet would naturally provide.
Interest in Lavezzi's signature will certainly galvanise if Di Maria heads to the French capital. Rodgers may need to keep working quickly and without fuss if Lavezzi is to join the Merseyside squad, but with around £75 million in the bank after Suarez's exit, a move shouldn't be ruled out.