Despite persistent rumours to the contrary, at no point this summer or last did Liverpool seriously consider signing Ivan Perisic.
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Jurgen Klopp was in the market for a versatile attacker but he instead opted to acquire Mohamed Salah. Why? Because the Egyptian was a younger, cheaper and better option.
Perisic is expected to join Salah in English football in the next week having, like the ex-Chelsea man, enjoyed a successful second full season in Serie A.
However, looking at their respective stats for the 2016-17 campaign, Salah comes out on top in terms of goals (15 to 11), shooting accuracy (53.13% to 48.75%), conversion rate (23.44% to 13.75%), assists (11 to 8), pass accuracy (80.35% to 71.38%), chances created (71 to 63), crossing accuracy (20.25% to 18.72%) and dribble success (51.43% to 46.59%).
Granted, one could argue that Perisic was playing in a poor team, but it’s also worth noting that Salah actually played in five fewer games (31 to 36).
Perisic is undoubtedly a player of fantastic ability and an incredible athlete (he is also famous for his impressive basketball and tennis skills).
Nobody knows this better than Klopp, who worked with the Croatia international during his time in charge of Borussia Dortmund.
However, the German coach is also acutely aware of the fact that Perisic can be an immensely frustrating player.
His natural talents were obvious at Dortmund. On his first Champions League outing for BVB, against Arsenal, he earned his side a draw with a spectacular volley. During that first season at Signal Iduna Park, there were flashes of the player that Croatia legend Davor Suker compared to Arjen Robben.
“Ivan’s incredible,” Suker said. “He has strength, talent and a knack of scoring. In modern football, players who can make the difference are extremely valuable.
“He confronts the opponent one-on-one, then beats him. He’s got technical quality that gives a tremendous advantage to his team. Perisic can dribble past three players in one motion.
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“He’s decisive like Robben. He loves starting from the wide areas, and then finishing the move in the central areas.
However, for all Perisic’s potential, Klopp still felt that the youngster was too inconsistent for a regular starting berth. Perisic disagreed.
“I don’t get a lot of time on the pitch, very much like last year,” he lamented.
“The stats prove it: When I play I score. But when I don’t score in a game, I am not an option for the next two or three games.”
Unsurprisingly, Klopp did not take this show of insubordination well.
“Public whining belongs to kindergarten, not to the world of adults,” the BVB boss fumed.
“If he doesn’t play, a professional footballer should shut his mouth, work hard and make the coach select him — not complain about it to the reporters.”
Perisic was sold to Wolfsburg just two months later, during the January 2013 transfer window.
The winger flourished at the Volkswagen Arena, with his fine form for club and country — he was particularly impressive at the 2014 World Cup — earning him a €20 million move to Inter in the summer of 2015.
He is now expected to move to Manchester United, one of the biggest clubs in the world, for more than twice that fee.
However, Perisic remains a frustrating figure. During his two seasons at San Siro, he was as likely to disappoint as deliver. He was maddeningly inconsistent at the side in which he was playing, undeniably talented yet utterly unreliable. One week he could perform even better than Salah, the next week he would be an imposter for Ashley Young.
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Inter fans couldn’t help but notice that he never seemed to underwhelm when representing his country, with Perisic proving one of the stars of the group stage at Euro 2016 last summer.
But it is worth noting that during his younger days his compatriots felt he did not work hard enough and was defensively ill-disciplined.
All of that has changed, and Perisic has developed into one of Croatia’s most beloved players, adored as much for his patriotism (as evidenced by some of his more colourful hairstyles) as his consistently excellent displays.
Consequently, Jose Mourinho will be confident that he will be able to get the very best out of the 28-year-old if he is playing for a team which he deems worthy of his considerable talent.
The real challenge will come, though, when he’s not in the team.
Only then will we see if Perisic is no longer the same player that so infuriated Klopp that he put him off ever signing him again.