Often deployed at the base of a midfield, the Spaniard is always looking to pick a pass that will develop the phase of play going forward. In his breakthrough season at Real Sociedad, he made 624 forward passes as well as enjoying a pass completion rate of over 80%. Asier Illarramendi also has a good passing range, proving noticeably adept at long cross-field passes. Such a style of play seems somewhat reminiscent of a certain ex-Liverpool playmaker who he has endured comparison to most of his career, former Reds lynchpin Xabi Alonso. While he hasn’t had the chance to prove his ability in recent seasons a move to a side like Liverpool, a team that will play in a way that will accentuate his talents, may see Illarramendi recapturing the form he enjoyed at Sociedad.
The modern playmaker mustn’t shirk his defensive duties, especially when played just in front of the defence, and Liverpool will be glad to know that Illarramendi isn’t afraid to get stuck in. When he is off the ball, he displays an aptitude for tackling and intercepting. Similarly to the offensive side of his game, Illarramendi was arguably at his best defensively while at Sociedad, averaging nearly four successful tackles and 2.4 interceptions per 90 minutes during the 2012/13 season. While his development was stifled with the move to Madrid, mainly due to being behind the likes of Alonso, Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos in his favoured role, he still showed promise in his cameo appearances for Los Blancos.
At 25, Illarramendi is still a young player and as such he possesses a good engine which has only seen glimpses of its effectiveness for Madrid. His willingness to regain possession once lost is a dynamic that will play into Liverpool’s new midfield well, as he will be joining a unit that already has energy in spades. New club captain Jordan Henderson and James Milner are true box-to-box players, keen to move the ball up the field as well as closing down and harassing the opposition when in the defensive phase of play. With Illarramendi playing just behind the English duo, he will bring a similar tireless work ethic as well as a forward-thinking impetus, something Liverpool were lacking in their recent away win against Stoke.
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