Arthur Melo: Liverpool’s $5 Million Soccer Enigma

Barring a bountiful points tally in the Premier League run-in and a dramatic slip-up from Newcastle United or Manchester United, Liverpool’s tough season is effectively over with seven games to spare.

Yet, despite Champions League qualification seeming very improbable and some first-team stars struggling, Liverpool has an opportunity to let loose and show some positive signs before a critical transfer window this summer, in which U.S. owners Fenway Sports Group could fuel some heavy spending to reinvigorate the club and reignite its challenge for trophies.

So, in the meantime, what better excuse than to test out a fully fit Brazilian midfielder with an impressive resumé, including stints at European giants Barcelona and Juventus; a 26-year-old recruited to bulk up a shaky midfield, a problem area for Liverpool in recent months, and someone back in contention following a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Or maybe not. Liverpool’s number 29, Arthur Melo, with just over a dozen minutes for the Reds since arriving on loan from Juventus, is out in the cold and with no clear path back to the top. And when you stop to break it down, the entire narrative is pretty staggering, considering his high-profile career until now.

According to Football Insider, Arthur—seven months after swapping Turin for Merseyside—has been told to seek a new club, with Liverpool reportedly embarrassed about the last-gasp September purchase, costing around €4.5 million ($5 million), with a reported option to sign him permanently for a much bulkier €37.5 million ($41 million) this July.

In short, the experiment hasn’t worked. Available again, the preferred Thiago Alcântara is back in the reckoning, further reducing Arthur’s chances. And given his lack of minutes in Jürgen Klopp’s lineup, Juventus won’t see Arthur as a solution in Italy either. A smooth operator when on form, his next destination is anyone’s guess in what should be his prime years as a professional.

Arthur, whose career transfer fees have cost clubs just over €110 million ($119 million) combined—only exceeded by record signing Darwin Núñez at Liverpool—is a player lost in the modern-day soccer machine, where characters can be revered one day and afterthoughts the other, leaving a trail of fleeting memories and dollars in their wake.

Having played competitively for Brazil and with a hand in Barcelona’s 2018/19 La Liga triumph, Arthur has since dimmed at Juventus and then Liverpool, where his most recent game time has come in the youth ranks. Generally, he’s provided a defensive shield to keep play ticking—a valuable yet unspectacular role—making his subsequent fall harder to discern.

Of course, the considerable caveat here is injury. Had a long-term thigh problem not interfered, Arthur could have gained momentum and put his stamp on things. Yet, as sometimes happens with unavailable or lesser-picked players, there is a tendency to cast them off as letdowns. His agent, Federico Pastorello, says he’s been unlucky.

Arthur deserves some credit. For many aspiring Brazilian players, a route to any European club represents a golden ticket. In Arthur’s case—a talent who made his name at Grêmio—he hit the jackpot, arriving at Barcelona aged just 21. And since his layoff, he’s worked hard to rejoin the Liverpool camp.

If anything, the Liverpool switch has been slightly bizarre. Stylistically, he’s a little different from the prototypical, higher-octane player Liverpool typically favors, and—for an established name—his latest stint hasn’t set hearts racing from the outset amid a turbulent period for last year’s Champions League finalist. In truth, we will never know what might have been for a technically astute South American with nowhere to go after a transfer that made little sense.

First-team soccer must be a priority for Arthur, even if that means stepping down a level. To achieve that, he has to stay relevant and within reach before a comeback slips away.

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