The demographic who watched the 2023 Copa Libertadores on BBC Three on Saturday consisted of: blokecore aficionados in Hackney Wick, South American expats, and Liverpool fans who were hoping to get a glimpse of Fluminense’s Andre.
The latter had tuned in thanks to rumours that have swirled for the last few months regarding Andre’s potential move to Anfield.
Fluminense president Mario Bittencourt previously confirmed that Liverpool had failed in a bid to sign the midfielder during the summer, with the player ultimately keeping his word that he’d “be there [Fluminense] until the end of the season.” 90min understands that, despite that summer setback and the decision to go out and sign four other midfielders instead (Alexis Mac Allister, Wataru Endo, Dominik Soboszlai and Ryan Gravenberch), the Reds have retained their interest in Andre throughout autumn.
And now, heading into winter, with the South American footballing season at an end, and with the midfielder all but set to leave his boyhood club, it’s hard to imagine that interest has waned – particularly after his colossal showing in the Copa Libertadores final at the Maracana.
Sitting at the heart of Fluminense’s midfield in the club’s second-ever appearance in the Copa Libertadores final – and first since 2008 – Andre provided his team with a much-needed cool head during what was a highly emotional 120 minutes of action.
In the midst of players headbutting one another (Nicolas Valentini on Ganso), players slapping one another (Frank Fabra on Nino), and literal wrestling in the middle of the pitch during a counterattack (German Cano and Jorge Figal), Andre went about his business calmly in the middle of the park – completing 95% of his passes and winning eight duels.
And while he wasn’t the man to score the headline-grabbing goal, that was netted in stunning fashion by the enigmatic John Kennedy (who we hope was actually named after JFK), Andre was the one seemingly involved in every other moment for Flu.
His efforts ultimately gave Fluminense the platform to go and win their first-ever Copa Libertadores – a stunning fact given that Flu are the oldest club in Rio de Janeiro, the de facto footballing capital of the continent – and Liverpool supporters will now be hoping he can provide a similar platform for success at Anfield during the second half of the 2023/24 season.
Reds fans who watched Andre play for two hours on Saturday evening, or even just caught a 15-second clip of him on X (Twitter) shouldering his way into possession of the ball before jinking past two Boca Juniors players and passing calmly to a teammate, will have explicitly seen what their team has quietly been missing throughout the current campaign: a natural number six.
Alexis Mac Allister has performed admirably in that role in his first few months, chipping in to fill the hole at the heart of Jurgen Klopp’s midfield, but it’s clear that the Argentine would be better utilised elsewhere in the lineup. The number ten jersey on his back and the ten goals he scored last season at Brighton and Hove Albion are proof of that.
The signing of Andre would free up Mac Allister to fulfil the role he was initially signed to play, and also provide a physical presence to the Liverpool midfield which they’ve been missing since Fabinho started to break down in his final season at the club.
That lack of physicality was preyed upon by Luton Town on Sunday, leading to the Hatters making the game a much, much more complicated one than it, on paper at least, should have been. It’s sure to be exploited by equally aggressive midfields throughout the rest of the 2023/24 campaign if a player like Andre isn’t acquired.
Liverpool have made huge strides towards getting back to where they were when they won the Premier League and Champions League under Klopp. Shrewd signings like Szoboszlai, Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota have helped the Reds become a genuine top-four team again.
To become genuine title contenders again, however, another shrewd signing to fill the hole at the heart of the midfield is undoubtedly needed.
After Saturday’s showing in the Copa Libertadores final, heading into the January window it’s hard to imagine that Liverpool fans will be displeased if that signing is Fluminense’s Andre.
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