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For a number of years Saul Niguez was undoubtedly one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the world.
The Atletico Madrid man has been a hugely important cog in Diego Simeone's pressing machine, and the lucrative nine-year contract handed to him in 2017 (including a whopping £130m buy-out clause) was testament to just how highly-valued he was.
Then, all of a sudden, something went badly wrong.
Throughout the 2020-21 campaign he looked a shadow of his former self despite Atletico's La Liga win, regularly losing the ball in a highly uncharacteristic manner and struggling to fit into Simeone's new, more offensive system after being asked to play in a number of different roles.
Saul Niguez could be on the move this summer
(Image: Getty Images)
After a 13-year spell at the club, it seems as though a fresh start may be needed for both parties.
A swap deal with Barcelona's Antoine Griezmann has been touted but never really seemed to make sense given Saul's fierce loyalty to Atletico as well as Griezmann's unpopularity with supporters after his acrimonious exit in 2019.
That transfer now appears to have broken down, and it is hard to imagine Saul lining up for any other La Liga clubs, meaning a move abroad could be the most likely option.
Which is where Liverpool come in.
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The Reds could well be on the hunt for a new central midfielder if the rumours about Jordan Henderson's potential exit are to be believed.
And given his previous comments on Liverpool, the challenge of replacing the inspirational captain could be one which Saul would relish.
Ahead of the Champions League last-16 tie between the two clubs in 2020 – in which he scored in the first leg – Saul spoke of his huge admiration for the team in general, but particularly Henderson.
"They all run and press and they manage it so well because it’s not just running for the sake of running," he told the Daily Mail . "It’s very well organised. If [Mohamed] Salah goes wide, then Henderson comes inside, if someone else goes inside, someone else goes outside.
Jordan Henderson has been linked with a Liverpool exit
(Image: Pool via REUTERS)
"And maybe some people don’t rate Henderson as highly as [Georginio] Wijnaldum, (Naby) Keita or Fabinho but I think he is the one that brings that team together.
"Henderson does that so-called dirty work that Gabi [Fernandez] used to do for us, that I have to do, that Koke does. He is an example in so many facets of the game."
The fact that Saul spoke so glowingly about Jurgen Klopp's side would surely indicate that it is a team he would dearly love to be a part of.
And given his all-action style of play, the Premier League is a division which he could well flourish in.
Saul's contract at Atletico runs until 2026, meaning reaching an agreement on a fee may prove to be the biggest challenge.
But the Spaniards have already brought in another midfielder in Rodrigo de Paul from Udinese, meaning they will surely have to sell before they can continue to spend.
Saul could relish the opportunity at Liverpool
(Image: Getty Images)
Manchester United are another team who have been linked with Saul, and could well make a move if Paul Pogba departs before the end of the summer.
But for many reasons Liverpool appears to make the most sense.
Given his poor most recent campaign, the signing of Saul could be seen as a gamble.
However, it is a gamble which may well be worth taking.