One player reportedly targeted by Jörg Schmadtke could be the ideal replacement for an overlooked Liverpool playmaker, and he ‘dreams’ of playing at Anfield.
Jörg Schmadtke has only signed an initial short-term deal as Liverpool’s sporting director, but it may not be long before he puts his imprint on the Reds.
According to a report from WAZ (via Sport Witness), Schmadtke ‘wants something’ from his old club Wolfsburg. The 59-year-old spent four and a half years at the Volkswagen Arena between the summer of 2018 and the winter of this year.
And now he’s said to want a reunion with 22-year-old defender Micky van de Ven on Merseyside, and the main thing that has Liverpool fans excited is the center-half’s remarkable speed.
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According to bundesliga.com, he’s clocked one of the 10 highest top speeds in the German top flight since records began, reaching a staggering 22.6mph/h (36.4km/h).
But another of his most intriguing attributes is his ball-carrying. As per FBRef, Van de Ven ranks in the 90th percentile among positional peers in Europe’s big five leagues over the last year for progressive carries per 90 minutes (1.3), and for carries into the final third (1.03).
In this season’s Bundesliga, only two central defenders — Stuttgart’s Waldemar Anton (56) and Bayer Leverkusen’s Piero Hincapié (46) — have notched more progressive carries than Van de Ven (43), and that data looks even better when placed in context.
The Wolfsburg man has played 85 per cent of his games in the heart of the defense, whereas Anton has operated as a right-back in around 35 per cent of his outings, and Hincapié has figured heavily as a left-back or left wing-back (43 per cent of his appearances).
Defenders typically have more license to get forward on the flanks, so it’s more notable to see a center-back pushing into advanced areas.
In this respect, Van de Ven could be a perfect replacement for Joël Matip, who may leave Liverpool during the summer transfer window as he enters the final year of his contract (according to Goal).
Matip, quietly, is among the most active ball-carrying center halves in Europe, placing in the very highest percentile for the two aforementioned categories. The Cameroonian was a relatively well-kept secret as multiple teams struggled to cope with his line-breaking dribbling ability, and neither Virgil van Dijk nor Ibrahima Konaté can replicate it.
Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool know how valuable this can be in terms of disrupting the opposition’s defensive structure (few teams prepare to be attacked by a central defender), and re-adding a ‘hidden’ playmaker if Matip is lost could be vital.
This is part of what could make Van de Ven so appealing to recruitment figures at Anfield, even beyond Schmadtke.
In addition to their sporting director’s connections, the Reds have another key advantage up their sleeve — Van de Ven’s deep admiration for the club.
“I once went to the Liverpool stadium with my dad,” he said in January (via ECHO). “That was over Christmas on Boxing Day. Liverpool vs Arsenal. That was madness.
“Then when ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ comes [on] — that’s a goosebump moment, that was very cool. It’s a dream to play there.”
It wouldn’t be a surprise if that ‘dream’ was realized in the next few months, with Van de Ven seeming to be an ideal stylistic fit.