Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone has admitted that Saul Niguez struggled to deal with his dip in form last season.
Jurgen Klopp’s Reds are understood to have stolen a march on their fierce rivals by tabling an opening offer for the midfielder, who heads into pre-season on the back of a tough campaign.
The Spanish playmaker only started 22 games in the La Liga during Athleti’s 2020/21 title-winning campaign, a significant drop compared to preview years when Saul was rarely dropped.
Speaking to Marca, Simeone said: “You know better than anyone what Saul has asked and looked for. We have known him for eight years. He has shared a lot of time with us.
“What empowered him to be what he was is his ability to play in different places, and when his level dropped, the same thing was used against him.
“But this is not the case, this does not go against him. They are (just) moments. After so much time, players need air and after so many years, the last season was more difficult for him.”
With Atletico struggling financially and Saul reportedly unhappy, letting the Spanish international leave would suit both parties.
The box-to-box midfielder is on the radar of many top clubs around Europe, and rumours have circulated that the 26-year-old may be Premier League-bound.
According to Spanish outlet Diario Sport, Liverpool has opened the bidding for Saul with an offer of £34.5m plus Xherdan Shaqiri or club captain Jordan Henderson.
Who will Saul Niguez decide to join? Comment below
The latter would be a big loss for the Merseyside club, however earlier this week the England international was apparently left unhappy when contract renewal talks broke down.
The other player said to have been offered, Shaqiri, will not be as significant a departure as he has struggled for minutes since joining Liverpool from Stoke City in July 2018.
The Switzerland international has made just 45 league appearances in three seasons at Anfield, with most of them coming off of the bench, scoring seven.
If Atletico opts to take Shaqiri over Henderson in the deal then Jurgen Klopp’s men will still be in the market for a central midfielder after Georginio Wijnaldum signed for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer last month.
Signing Saul won’t be simple for Liverpool though as Manchester United are keen to bring the Atletico academy product to Old Trafford.
The midfielder has been scouted by the Red Devils since 2013 when then-manager David Moyes was recommended to go after Saul by a Spanish scout but his team were unconvinced.
Now-United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is keen to right the wrongs of those who came before him and bring Saul to Manchester.
His side isn’t short of depth in midfield, but many do not believe that the double pivot of Scott McTominay and Fred is capable of operating in a team wanting to challenge for silverware.
Earlier in the transfer window, it was reported that Saul was going to be used in a swap deal with Barcelona to bring Antoine Griezmann back to the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. However, that deal appears to have fallen through.
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