Burnley’s Michael Keane is one of the hottest prospects in the transfer markets currently. The Burnley defender is being chased by almost all the elite Premier League clubs, owing to his excellent showings for the Clarets this season.
Chief among the interested parties though are Premier League leaders Chelsea and third-placed Liverpool.
Antonio Conte has earmarked Keane as the player he wants to bolster his options at the back and according to reports they had targeted him in the January transfer window as well. Jurgen Klopp also believes that the former Manchester United man will help to plug the holes in his team’s porous backline in the upcoming season and has made him the first priority in the summer transfer window.
The amount of interest that Keane has managed to generate is well-deserved and truly merited considering the level of performance that he has been able to put in for Burnley this season. The 24-year old hasn’t missed a single league game this season and has managed to chip in with two goals from his 31 appearances along with an assist.
Keane has been an absolute wall at the back for the Clarets this term. In his 31 games, the Englishman has made a whopping 329 defensive actions – that comprise of 62 interceptions, 38 blocks and 229 clearances. It is the third highest in the league, just behind his teammate Ben Mee (393) and Bournemouth’s Steve Cook (389). The 24-year old has won the most aerial duels among all the defenders in the league this season, coming out on top on 117 occasions from 186 attempts at a success rate of 63%.
Keane has attempted a total of 34 tackles this term, winning 20 of those, at a success rate of 59%. While the number of tackles may not be large, it just goes on to emphasize the fact that he is someone who relies more on his situation awareness and game-reading abilities instead of diving into tackles to keep the attackers at bay. The 24-year old possesses a decent turn of pace as well and is good in possession and can pick a pass from the deep areas, making him a balanced central defender who can improve any team he goes to.
But with Chelsea and Liverpool both vying for his signature, where should Keane decide to move?
The obvious answer is Liverpool.
The Reds have been hit hard by a central defence that hasn’t performed to the level necessary for a team wants to challenge for the title. They have conceded the most number of goals among the top-six teams in the league this season and that has been a serious drawback for the team’s ambitions.
Joel Matip has been a shrewd addition to the backline. Having arrived for free in the summer, the Cameroonian has gone to become a mainstay at the back for Liverpool, but it is the position alongside him that has left Liverpool liable on quite a few occasions.
Dejan Lovren, no doubt, is a good defender, but his lack of consistency and the constant injury problems haven’t allowed Liverpool and Klopp to play with an established centre-half partnership. Another summer arrival, Ragnar Klavan, is clearly not up to the level of being a first-choice defender. The Estonian doesn’t have the pace to keep up with the attackers and has on many occasions has been caught out. This conundrum has forced Klopp to use midfielder Lucas Leiva at the back, but once again, the move hasn’t been a success.
So, making a move for Keane makes total sense for Liverpool and considering that he will straight away walk into the playing XI should be enough motivation for the 24-year old to think about a move as well.
On the other hand, Chelsea have one of the best and the most well-settled defensive units in the English top-division. In Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Gary Cahill, Conte has at his disposal, three first-choice defenders who are playing at the prime of their abilities.
And they have some more than able back-ups in Kurt Zouma and Nathan Ake who have proved their abilities in the league and can step up easily when needed. Add to that the fact that Andreas Christensen – one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga over the past two years, will be returning to the Stamford Bridge at the end of the season, after completing his two-year loan spell with German side Borussia Monchengladbach, there is no real room for an extra defender in the squad at Chelsea.
Keane, if he decides to move to Bridge, will have to compete with six other defenders, who are equally deserving of a place in the starting line-up and as a result, first-team football may not come as regularly as he may like, unless someone leaves the Blues in the summer window.
Taking everything into perspective, it does seem that Liverpool will be the ideal destination for Keane to move to in the summer given that he will definitely be a regular first-team member and with him in their squad, Liverpool, along with a few more key additions in other areas, could turn into genuine title contenders.
**Stats Taken From Squawka.com