Ryan Gravenberch was on Liverpool’s shortlist of midfielders last summer but ultimately joined Bayern Munich from Ajax for £20m; watch Leeds vs Liverpool live on Sky Sports Premier League from 7pm on Monday Night Football; kick-off 8pm
By Melissa Reddy, Senior Reporter
Ryan Gravenberch is enthusiastic over the opportunity to steer his development back on track at Anfield, with Liverpool having made a strong pitch to the player’s camp to sign him from Bayern Munich.
As revealed by Sky Sports last summer, the Netherlands international was on a shortlist of options that also featured Aurelien Tchouameni, Enzo Fernandez, Nicolo Barella and the then-unavailable Jude Bellingham for the Premier League club to strengthen their midfield ahead of this season.
Bayern rapidly tied up a deal for Gravenberch from Ajax to beat out Liverpool and other European rivals but he has been afforded just 711 minutes of playing time since that transfer, with Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka preferred.
The 20-year-old’s representative, Rafaela Pimenta, explored loan options in January but the Bundesliga club were unwilling to permit a winter exit.
Pimenta met with Liverpool at the turn of the year and last week the club engaged Gravenberch’s father, Ryan senior, who still guides his career.
Erik ten Hag, who promoted the multi-functional midfielder to the first team and extracted the best from him at Ajax, made a check on his availability for Manchester United before loaning Marcel Sabitzer from Bayern instead in January.
Bayern, who are set to add RB Leipzig midfielder Konrad Laimer to their ranks this summer, are open to selling Gravenberch and want to recoup the £20m fee – including add-ons – they agreed for him, as well as a small profit.
Ajax are also understood to have a seven-and-a-half per cent sell-on clause.
Liverpool are not the only club to enquire over Gravenberch but, conscious of the competition they will face for targets this summer and the scale of the rebuild that awaits, the club have made a head start on their recruitment objectives.
Gravenberch is one of several midfield options the club are exploring, with at least one defensive signing also expected.
Analysis: ‘He’s a better version of Pogba’
“He has a lot of capabilities, especially in an attacking sense, but he understands hard work,” Ten Hag previously analysed of Gravenberch, and it is a succinct description.
Physically imposing, he is agile, as well as an elite ball carrier and receiver. Having largely operated on the left side of a double pivot, Gravenberch can play across midfield and is very active at link-up in the final third.
A progressive passer that instigates in the build-up phase, he uses his body cleverly to either disguise where he wants to supply the ball or to protect possession.
Gravenberch’s ability to shield, roll his marker and drive into space has been noted by new Bayern boss Thomas Tuchel who highlighted the youngster can “turn and dribble very well”.
Brian Tevreden, who promoted a 12-year-old Gravenberch to the Ajax U15s, believes he has shades of Paul Pogba to his game.
“Physically, I see Frank Rijkaard because he’s tall and very strong. But technically, I would say he’s a better version of Pogba in his best days at Juventus, in terms of his technique and his presence on the pitch,” Tevreden said. “He’s very dominant like Pogba was, and that’s what I see in Ryan.”
With major tournament experience at international level, impressive Champions League performances, natural leadership qualities and close to a century of senior appearances at his age, it is no surprise that Gravenberch is desperate to return to playing regularly.
Speaking to Ajax Showtime, the Amsterdam native – who became the Eredevisie’s youngest debutant when Ten Hag gave him his breakthrough at 16 – said: “In my career I never really had a setback until this season. I was always a big talent and joined Ajax’s first team at a young age. For me, this season is only the first season in which I’m having a hard time and little game time.
“As a player you also get better from such experiences. I am still very young and I’m glad I’m experiencing something like this now instead of experiencing it for the first time later in my career.
“I’m mentally strong and I’m making even better steps in this situation. This is how I try to convert this experience into something positive. I’m staying strong.
“I’d rather succeed at Bayern. But if that doesn’t work out and I don’t get opportunities, then maybe I should look elsewhere.
“At the moment, however, I’m not so concerned with that and I hope that I can change my situation at Bayern. I’m still convinced in my choice and don’t regret it at all.
“I had certainly hoped and also expected I would play more at Bayern. So far it has not gone as expected. For me that’s a pity, but I’m dealing with it well.”