How Konstantinos Tsimikas Will Fit in at Liverpool

10 August 2020 01:25

It was always going to be interesting to see how Liverpool approached the transfer market this summer.

As the Reds prepare to embark on their first-ever Premier League title defence, they have no plans to spend big - with the squad settled and the pandemic tightening purse strings - but there is some work to be done on improving the squad, and a small budget with which to do it.

Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana or Nathaniel Clyne's respective departures free up more than 10% of last season's wage bill, but it doesn't look as if any will be directly replaced with external recruits. Instead, Jurgen Klopp intends to redirect funds to fill a hole in the squad that has troubled him for a long time.

The Reds haven't had a natural understudy to Andy Robertson since Alberto Moreno left in 2018. James Milner, Joe Gomez and Neco Williams all covered left-back this season, but none are capable of exploding forward and whipping in a left-footed cross - which is, as we know, what Robertson does best.

This led Michael Edwards and co. to Greece, where interest in a long-term target has been accelerated over the weekend.

And it looks for all the world as if Konstantinos Tsimikas will sign a long-term deal this week.

Kostas, as he's generally known, may not have been 'Plan A'. Negotiations with Olympiacos were only stepped up after an approach for Jamal Lewis was torpedoed by Norwich's £20m asking price, but contingency plans have served Liverpool well in the past - both Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah were pursued only after other deals collapsed.

It may be a stretch to put Kostas on such a pedestal from the get-go - it will likely be months before he is given his first start - but in his own right, he will fill an important role in the squad.

The 24-year-old, arriving for an initial fee just short of £12m, carries a number of similarities to Robertson. He possesses impressive pace, an exemplary work-rate, and a natural creative potency which yielded seven assists in an eye-catching 2019/20 campaign for the Greek champions.

Greek journalist Giannis Chorianopoulos made the comparison to Robertson when speaking to the Liverpool Echo, and the assessment was a pretty glowing one.

When asked if he can challenge for the starting spot this season, he said: "Difficult question, but let's say yes. Robbo is a great full back, better and better every season with many assists, with a big impact in Liverpool’s game.

"He's improved under Klopp. But I think this is the point also: Tsimikas will be a better player under Klopp and his Liverpool staff. So, I can answer that - yes. He has also has, of course not in the same level, similarities with Robertson’s game."

The parallels are clear, but he is by no means a carbon copy of the Scotland captain. Where he lacks Robertson's power and athleticism, he has quicker feet, just as capable of bamboozling an opposing right-back with his trickery as he is of exploding past them on the outside.

He was described by Greece manager John van 't Schip as a 'defensive winger', yet is capable of playing on the left of a back three, which makes him a distinctly versatile tactical option for Klopp.

86 appearances for Olympiacos doesn't look like a huge amount of senior experience for a player of his age and standing, but he has previously impressed on loan in Denmark and the Netherlands (turning out for Willem II - the former club of Sami Hyypia and Virgil van Dijk no less), while also making a substantial impact in European competitions. He's made 25 appearances in the Champions League and Europa League, impressing against Milan, Bayern, Tottenham, Arsenal and Wolves.

He's also got three Greek titles and a domestic cup under his belt - the guy knows how to win, a potentially huge asset considering what is to come for Liverpool.

As with any Liverpool signing, personality profile is just as important as any footballing attributes, but it doesn't seem as if that will be a problem either. When Chorianopoulos describes his work ethic, Tsimikas sounds like a player hand-crafted for Klopp's humble, tireless squad.

"He is a hard worker, he loves training and he respects but is not the media guy," he said. "He has only one thing on his mind: football"

More circumstantial evidence hinting at his professional attitude came when he spoke to the Olympiacos website ahead of facing Bayern in November. His words could have come from the mouth of any current Liverpool player and would not have sounded out of place.

“When I started playing football, this was the dream of a lifetime. I am happy to have made it so far, yet this means nothing to me," he said. "I train hard to face such players and I wish this joy I feel be coupled with a win tomorrow."

Tsimikas may not be Kylian Mbappé, or any other fantasy dreamt up by fans over the past year, but he represents an astute addition to a team built on signings just like this. In a fearsome squad with precious few flaws, he quietly and functionally fills a gap, while ticking every box required from a modern Liverpool player.

However you spin it, it's a sensible, risk-free investment, and another step in the right direction from a recruitment team who so rarely get it wrong these days.

Source: 90min