Rayan Ait-Nouri, Anthony Gordon, Leny Yoro - Liverpool summer transfer strategy explained

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 03: Rayan Ait-Nouri unveils Wolverhampton Wanderers Season 2024/25 home kit at Molineux on July 03, 2024 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by Jack Thomas - WWFC/Wolves via Getty Images)
-Credit: (Image: Jack Thomas - WWFC/Wolves via Getty Images)


Liverpool are taking an "opportunistic" approach to this summer's transfer window as the early weeks of the Arne Slot era begin to take shape.

It was telling that the club put up new sporting director Richard Hughes alongside Slot in their unveiling, with the pair photographed by club media as they made their rounds across the £50m Kirkby base before speaking to journalists at 11am on Friday morning.

It represented a significant change in direction at the club that the sporting director was put up to speak to external news outlets and it was a refreshing deviation from what had been standard practice previously when Michael Edwards and Julian Ward were never heard from. Jorg Schmadtke's fleeting media dealings, meanwhile, involved him chatting to German publications who he had been familiar with during his own lengthy career back in his homeland.

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So the chance to hear some insight from Hughes, the club's first-ever external, permanent appointment for that specific role, was priceless for those looking to glean some further information into how Liverpool's new-look regime will look to put their best foot forward around issues like the transfer window and contract negotiations.

For many, it's an exciting time at Liverpool, but moving away from the tried-and-trusted methods of Jurgen Klopp and his backroom team is not coming without some understandable trepidation given the length of service and the success he enjoyed during his time as manager.

"It's been great to work with Arne," Hughes said. "We both had jobs to finish. Since then, we've been in communication daily. Preparing for the transfer window. We'll know more as we go. The squad we've inherited is very talented but we need to improve. We will be opportunistic if we can."

Hughes also spoke in more general terms of what he believes will be a "flurry" of deals being completed in August. An ideal world would see transfer targets at the club for the start of pre-season and while the Reds were able to do so last year with Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, the additions of Wataru Endo and Ryan Gravenberch were only concluded once the season had got underway.

Gravenberch had been a long-standing target, with the club speaking to his father and representatives as early as April last year, but an uncertain future at Bayern Munich proved to be the hold-up until it was accepted in Bavaria that the Netherlands international wanted to try and play more elsewhere, with the writing on the wall for him by late August.

Endo was a left-field pivot based on the strength of knowledge of Klopp and Schmadtke. The Japan captain was signed for around £16m from Stuttgart after moves for Romeo Lavia and then Moises Caicedo both fell through in August.

Clearly, then, there is a need to be flexible and, like Hughes says, "opportunistic" when it comes to the window. For every long-term target like Mac Allister and Gravenberch, there is a deal like Endo that is always possible.

The phrase used by Hughes is the perfect one to sum up Liverpool's interest in Anthony Gordon, for example. The Newcastle United winger has plenty of admirers inside the club, with his standing having risen significantly since kicking on at St James' Park following a £40m move from Everton in January of last year.

The Reds were more than willing to listen to Newcastle proposals around a potential deal last month as the Magpies fought aggressively to try and redress the balance as a breach of the Premier League's Profit and Sustainability Rules loomed on June 30.

Liverpool, though, felt they were ultimately well stocked in that area of the pitch and certainly had no intention of including Jarell Quansah in any deal going the other way. The willingness to at least hear what was being offered does tally with Hughes's confirmation of the opportunistic approach, however.

Gordon, as has been widely reported since, had designs on moving to the club he supported as a boy and had even begun speaking about a future with the Reds with England colleague Trent-Alexander Arnold during their down-time with the Three Lions at the European Championship.

Newcastle, with no PSR issues hanging over them, no longer need funds but with the player reportedly having his 'head turned' by Liverpool interest, it will be fascinating to see if the two clubs reopen talks later this summer. For now, the Reds are insistent they have ample coverage on the left side of the attack.

The same applies to Leny Yoro at Lille, whose contract situation, level of experience and potential at the age of 18, mark him out as a real star of the future at centre-back. Liverpool have an excellent relationship with figures within Yoro's Gestifute agency and they are poised to move if Real Madrid fail to make their own this summer.

Lille, knowing the player is inside the final year of his deal, are keen to receive a transfer fee this summer for a teenage defender who played over 30 times in Ligue 1 last term. It is accepted Yoro seeks a move to the Champions League holders but Liverpool are ready to offer a high-class alternative if that doesn't transpire.

Aside from Gordon and Yoro, however, genuine links have been thin on the ground this summer. With a totally new regime still finding their feet at the club, that is understandable. Slot denied he tried to make an 11th-hour attempt to hijack Brighton's move for Feyenoord midfielder Mats Wieffer this week, while speculation around Athletic Club's Nico Williams is understood to be inaccurate.

The 21-year-old winger has been one of the standout performers in the Euros for Spain but a reported salary of around £200,000 is on the high end for Liverpool, while the buyout clause of £50m seems relatively modest by modern standards, the Reds, like they have argued with Gordon, have more than enough players who can thrive on the left of the frontline.

Wolves' Rayan Ait-Nouri has been linked in recent days. With Andy Robertson now into his 30s, a more long-term view will need to be taken at some stage over the left-back role and Ait-Nouri has impressed during his time at Molineux.

Like Yoro, Ait-Nouri is a client of Gestifute, whose influence is so big at Wolves, in fact, that the Portuguese agency have their own executive box to watch games.

At the age of 23 and given his level of top-flight experience - Ait-Nouri has played close to 150 senior games - it is a link that ticks several boxes for how Liverpool typically like to recruit. The club are generally on good terms with Wolves too given how the terms of the deals for Diogo Jota and Ki-Jana Hoever were able to be unusually structured in 2020.

There is a school of thought that Slot wants to get a closer look at his key men before any major decisions are taken either way on the incomings front. That is a fair enough stance but with as many as nine of his senior stars unlikely to report for duty for another month, it may see Liverpool looking to wrap up deals well into mid and even late-August.

Before then, though, opportunity may just knock for Hughes and Slot and Liverpool are convinced they are entering the window from a position of real strength this summer.