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A closer look at the Aaron Long-Liverpool link, and why it makes plenty of sense

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Aaron Long has been on the radar of English Premier League clubs for two years, but a new team has emerged as a potential destination for the New York Red Bulls defender.

English Premier League champion Liverpool has been linked to a potential loan move for the U.S. Men’s National Team defender, according to multiple reports that emerged on Friday.

Sources tell SBI that three Premier League teams have expressed interested in trying to secure Long’s services on a loan for the rest of the English season, though it is far from a sure bet that a deal will be done in time to be finalized before the close of the current transfer window.

A long-time target of West Ham United, Long has been on the radar of English teams since his breakout 2018 MLS season, that saw him win MLS Defender of the Year. The price tag played on him by the Red Bulls has kept a transfer to England from taking place, but with a potential work stoppage looming that could delay the 2021 MLS season even more than the current scheduled start date in April, the Red Bulls could be tempted to send Long on loan in order to not only save on salary, but also potentially boost his transfer value.

Now 28, Long has established himself as a regular starter for the USMNT, and his defensive qualities could make him an ideal candidate for teams searching for defensive cover.

The Liverpool link came as a surprise when it emerged on Friday, but Long makes sense as an option for the English champions for a variety of reasons. Liverpool’s centerback stable has been beset by injuries, and finding suitable depth replacements at a discount isn’t exactly an easy proposition. Long is strong, athletic, experienced, qualifies for a UK work permit, and would not require a loan fee, making him a potential bargain addition who could actually be a capable fill-in when called upon.

Liverpool also has established connections with the Red Bull global network, having secured the acquisitions of Naby Keita and Takumi Minamino. In fact, Minamino impressed Liverpool when he played well against the Reds in UEFA Champions League while with Red Bull Salzburg, who was managed by American Jesse Marsch. It was Marsch who helped convert Long from a free agent midfielder to a USMNT centerback, and Marsch would surely give Jurgen Klopp a good recommendation of his former player.

Also working in Long’s favor for a loan move is the fact MLS teams are clearly looking for opportunities to send players on short-term loans this year. Jordan Morris and David Accam having secured loans already, and Paul Arriola another player linked to a potential move. Long won’t be short on options as the window winds to a close, and if reports are accurate, he just might find himself on one of the biggest teams in the world.

Comments

  1. I think Long’s level of play has stalled and taken a few steps backward in MLS mostly because (and I think the data & evidence plays this out as well) of his disappointment with the monetary overvalue that was slapped on him by MLS which prevented his move to West Ham. I think he’s been frustrated by this Liga MX imitation practice wherein which the MLS was demanding a fee that constituted too high of a risk for an (at the time) relegation-threatened club with finite transfer funds. This Liverpool link really has no downside for Long. They are a world-class club. If this is legitimate and he is loaned over there, the club hasn’t spent a lot to bring him in (no pressure for them) and if he doesn’t perform or get in the team, then he will return to MLS without having lost much at all (no pressure for the player). The upside here, and I have to say that it seems unlikely but still isn’t impossible, is that Long somehow makes a great impact during his spell there, which will then signal to other EPL clubs or top-tier league teams that he isn’t a risky buy and worth the money they’re going to be asked to spend. It may also present an opportunity for MLS to further monetize on any potential moves. I think Long is looking at Europe and watching other young players like Richards and McKenzie and Miazga start to climb past him in the USMNT depth chart as the potential second CB next to Brooks, who is the undisputed number one. He’s still young enough to make a move, take his game to the next level, shake his MLS plateau, and really challenge himself abroad if that’s what he wants to do. All in all, while this seems a bit like a wishful thought, I hope it happens for him. There’s not much to lose, but an awful lot to gain.

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    • Was about to ask the same question. His salary for 3.5 months is around $300k. Surely Liverpool should be able to pay a loan fee to RBNY on top of covering his salary

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    • They wouldn’t be wrong to ask for a fee, though I’m guessing Liverpool’s angle is simply to offer to take on Long’s off-season wages (given the current state of MLS teams’ finances, $300k savings for a few months would be nothing to sneeze at). Even if they can’t get a fee, I’d have to imagine NYRB would want to at least include compensation for potential injury. Beyond that, it would seem like a good deal for both player and club if it’s real.

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  2. No way, Long is going to Liverpool lol. April Fools is a little early. I can see him on a Championship team, but not an EPL team. He is too inconsistent. If he was consistent like a Carlos Bocanegra, sure I could see him there.

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  3. I think Liverpool’s style of play suits Long well. Whether he is good enough may be another question. Long does best when he is called upon to defend from a deeper position like is often the case for Liverpool which likes to play direct, let the attackeers attack and the defenders defend.

    As the NY Red Bulls have pushed their centerbacks ever more forward and allowed more space in behind, Long has not performed as well. Liverpool’s tactics do not seem to call for the CBs to push up too high and I think that will help Long show his strengths.

    This is sin contrast to Zimmerman who did OK at LAFC with its insistence on pushing everyone up and leaving lots of space in behind, but he was clearly a bit uncomfortable in that. His moves to teams with a deeper back line allowed Zimmerman to shine.

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    • Liverpool requires their CBs be able to distribute the ball to the attackers, which is not one of Long’s strengths. His passing accuracy just isn’t good enough.
      If Liverpool wants some additional CB coverage capable of defending space and making clearances…fine Long fits that requirement. Otherwise they’d do better to look at some other options, but they’d probably require a Loan Fee of some sort. Example would love to see Richards as it might get him more 1st team minutes as an actual CB

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      • Yes Liverpool wants its backs to complete passes, what team does not? My point is that Long is best when he has the field in front of him and struggles more when he is called upon to play higher up. That fits with Liverpool’s style of play much more than it would for Man City, or LAFC.

    • “That fits with Liverpool’s style of play much more than it would for Man City, or LAFC.”

      or as it turns out- our own national team. Same issue w/ Walker Zimmerman.

      I do support and hope Long gets the opportunity he has been wanting and grabs hold of it. Having his wishes thwarted had to be frustrating.

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