A week and a half into the January transfer window, Liverpool are still on the lookout for a potential new signing. The latest player to be linked with a move to Anfield is Rubin Kazan midfielder Yann M’Vila, according to the Liverpool Echo.
This news comes on the back of M’Vila’s agent announcing, via the Metro, that the French midfielder “dreams” of playing in the Premier League.
Perhaps it comes as no surprise either, given that he showed up at the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park in November to support his friend, Reds defender Mamadou Sakho, as reported by the Daily Mail.
A precocious midfield talent during his days at Rennes, M’Vila was embroiled in a series of controversial antics off the pitch, and in the beginning of 2013, he moved to Russia to continue his career.
Just as we’ve done with Konstantinos Mitroglou and Martin Montoya earlier, let’s take a look at the pros and cons to Yann M’Vila’s potential signing, assess his potential role at Anfield and evaluate whether he’d be a good pickup for Brendan Rodgers.
Those familiar with Ligue 1 a few seasons back will know of Yann M’Vila as one of the most highly rated midfield talents in French football in his generation during his three-and-a-half seasons at Rennes.
As this Squawka report suggests, M’Vila might not have lost much of his ability despite a fall in reputation with his move to Russia: His passing statistics as of November 2013 were stellar (88 percent accuracy and a total of 770 passes in 14 league games), and his comfort playing in a passing-dominant midfield would suit Liverpool to the ground.
Curiously, given his ball-playing technique and composure, M’Vila is most known as a strong defensive anchorman thanks to his physical strength, athleticism and incredible stamina. His distribution and positioning also makes him a perfect shield in front of the back four.
With his talent, it’s no surprise that former French international Marcel Desailly claimed that he had the potential to become better than Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira, according to the Daily Mail. His coach at Rennes, Frederic Antonetti, has afforded him further praise: “He reads the game like Claude Makelele, has the presence of Patrick Vieira and can pass the ball like Yaya Toure.” (c/o FIFA.com)
Given his abilities and reputation as a hot midfield prospect for France—he made 22 appearances for the national team, scoring one goal, in the space of just two years—it seems strange to see Yann M’Vila plying his trade in the Russian Premier League with Rubin Kazan.
But his career has been derailed by the aforementioned off-field troubles, the most noteworthy of which was an unauthorized night out while on international duty with the French under-21 team, as reported by BBC Sport, which saw him banned from the France national team in November 2012.
He had previously been given a warning following his snub of then-national team coach Laurent Blanc after his substitution in the quarterfinal against Spain in June 2012, according to BBC Sport.
And before his incidents with the French national setup, he also landed himself in hot water with the authorities in May 2012 after an altercation with a 17-year-old boy near his home, as reported by the Metro.
On the field, M’Vila isn’t the most prolific midfielder either: He has only scored two career league goals, both when he plied his trade for Rennes, for whom he played 126 times in Ligue 1.
Potential Role at Liverpool
Judging from his playing attributes, Yann M’Vila would bring a complete midfield package to Anfield and should walk straight into Brendan Rodgers’ starting XI.
Comfortable both in central midfield and in a deeper defensive midfield role, M’Vila would be an instant upgrade over the likes of Lucas Leiva at Anfield, and he would form a complete midfield triumvirate with the equally energetic Jordan Henderson and one of Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard.
M’Vila’s pace, strength and positional awareness would help the Reds greatly, given that their midfield has been exposed by dynamic and explosive oppositions, such as Chelsea, Arsenal and Southampton.
Rodgers’ ideal midfield system for Liverpool has all three midfielders relentlessly moving and applying pressure to their opponents, moving the ball at pace and comfortably with short passing to open up the opposition. M’Vila would slot in seamlessly to this blueprint.
At just 23 years of age, M’Vila has his best years ahead of him. If Rodgers’ track record with Daniel Sturridge and fellow January signing Philippe Coutinho reflects anything, it’s that the current Reds boss has the ability to motivate players whose careers have perhaps stagnated and unlock their full potential.
As such, not only would M’Vila be a quality signing for Liverpool, but they'd also represent the ideal destination for him to resurrect his career and establish himself as one of the best midfielders in his generation.
From our analysis of his strengths and potential role at Liverpool, it’s clear to see that we strongly recommend Yann M’Vila as a Liverpool signing.
In fact, given his attributes and potential ability, as well as what the Reds midfield currently lacks, we’d even go as far as to say that M’Vila should be a priority in the eyes of the Liverpool management.
That his development has been curtailed due to a series of off-field troubles is well-known, but that Rodgers has the man management techniques to bring the best out of a troubled young player is also highly regarded at Anfield. We only have to see Raheem Sterling’s recent improvement after almost a year of off-field distractions to recognize the work Rodgers is doing behind the scenes.
As such, we have every reason to believe that he would be able to do the same with M’Vila, who may well go on to realize his immense potential.
It’s a tantalizing possibility and a mouthwatering prospect: Liverpool should go all-out for Yann M’Vila, who might still have the world at his feet.