Why Mario Lemina could be perfect for Liverpool

Lucas Leiva

If Lucas Leiva does leave Liverpool, Marseille's Mario Lemina could be the perfect replacement, but not until the summer.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported on Monday that Liverpool were monitoring the situation of young Olympique de Marseille midfielder Mario Lemina.

Any move for the France Under-21 international would not be possible until at least the summer, but with rumours from the Mirror suggesting that Brazilian Lucas Leiva may be leaving the club, Lemina could be the perfect replacement.

This season, under Marcelo Bielsa, Lemina has been used mostly off the bench as the third-choice central midfielder, or a utility man in the centre of defence or full-back. Without doubt his natural position is in the midfield and that’s where he would be ideal for Liverpool.

Lemina first broke through at FC Lorient at the end of the 2012-2013 season, playing 10 games in Christian Gourcuff’s 4-4-2. This helped him play on both sides of the midfield. He looked defensively excellent but also showed he could push forward and link the attack.

It was expected that Lemina would become Lorient’s standout performer the following season, but he was sold to Marseille on the transfer deadline day for €4 million, a move from President Loic Fery that upset Gourcuff and started the coach's departure from the club after 11 years.

Lucas has started 11 games for Liverpool this season and according to WhoScored, the midfielder is averaging four tackles and two interceptions per game on the defensive end and 0.6 key passes, 56.5 passes and a pass completion of 86.3% this season.

When you look at Lemina’s numbers this season on the same site it’s hard to see the comparison. 1.4 tackles, 0.8 interceptions, 0.5 key passes and 22.1 passes per game. However, that is at Marseille, with his numbers and role reduced under Bielsa.

If you go back to his first season at Lorient, three years ago, the numbers match up to Lucas: 3.3 tackles, 1.9 interceptions, 0.4 key passes, 30.9 passes and a pass completion of 86.7%.

Lemina is now a little older and a little wiser, and is better than the minutes he is receiving at Marseille. During pre-season, Bielsa started Lemina in every game. The 21-year-old then picked up an injury and couldn’t play until the fifth game; his first start didn’t come until Week 12.

In the midfield, Lemina brings the perfect energy and determination. He reads the game very well and gives the defence an extra level of protection, then he is able to push the game forward from deep.

He is only 20 minutes short of his total minutes from last season, so he is still learning and developing, but come the summer, he could be tempted into a move, especially if he is not starting regularly.

If Lucas does leave Brendan Rodgers' team, Lemina – part of the France Under-20 World Champions – would be the perfect replacement.

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