Report: Liverpool Reach Agreement With £53m Portuguese Starlet

According to British newspaper Metro, Liverpool have agreed personal terms with Sporting Lisbon winger Gelson Martins for a winter transfer, although they are still negotiating the transfer fee.

Martins is likely to be the direct replacement for Philippe Coutinho, who left the club earlier this month for a £142 million move to Barcelona.

It is understood that the Portuguese will be paid £4.4m a year, or £80,000 a week, which is about five times more than his current salary at Sporting.

Martins, born and raised in an African nation of Cape Verde, moved to Portugal 10 years ago to pursue a professional career in football.

He initially joined the academy of Benfica before switching to Sporting two years later, and broke through the first team back in 2015.

The 22-year-old has since made 100 appearances in all competitions for the club, scoring 20 goals in the process. He is also a Portuguese international, receiving his first call up in September, 2016.

He was a part of the squad that competed in the Confederations Cup last summer in Russia, where Portugal finished third after losing to Chile in the semi-final.

Martins is expected to be a key player in the World Cup this summer, and has a release clause of £53m with Sporting.

The club will reportedly not sell him unless Liverpool can meet the release clause, as they believe he will be worth a lot more after the World Cup.

So far, Liverpool have just offered half the amount, which is stalling the negotiations.

Apart from Martins, the club is also linked with Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez and Monaco’s Thomas Lemar.

Mahrez, who won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2016 for his performances with Leicester during their title winning season, came extremely close to joining the Serie A giants Roma last summer.

However, the move eventually collapsed after Leicester repeatedly rejected Roma’s bids.

The club, though, could be finally thinking of offloading the Algerian this month if they receive an offer in the region of £40m.

Meanwhile, Lemar also came close to a move in the summer, with Arsenal chasing after his signature for months.

The player ended up rejecting Arsenal in the transfer deadline day, which also stopped the transfer of Alexis Sanchez to Manchester City as Arsene Wenger refused to sell the Chilean without a proper replacement.

“The player has chosen to stay at Monaco,” Wenger said when asked about the failed transfer attempt on Lemar.

“I know we live in an era of transparency but at some stage, to respect everybody, you have to not talk too much about that.

 “You have to respect what happens on the negotiation side.”

Liverpool, though, is not in a hurry to replace Coutinho, as they are performing well even with his departure.

They managed to end the league leaders City’s 22-match unbeaten run by defeating them 4-3 on Sunday, with goals coming from Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admitted after the game that it is an “important statement” from the club to be in top form without Coutinho.

“It’s not that I said in a meeting, ‘Boys, it would help a lot if you could win tonight so nobody speaks about Phil Coutinho anymore.’ We like speaking about him,” Klopp said.

“He’ll still be jumping in his new living room in Barcelona, happy about the win tonight.

“But it was important to show we can play without him and we did that. That’s a very important statement.”

So far, Liverpool have only signed one player during the winter transfer window, which was the £75m signing of Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton.

The club also attempted to speed up the purchase of Naby Keita, who they agreed to sign for a fee of £66.4m in August from RB Leipzig but the deal meant Keita will play one final season with the German side.

However, Leipzig refused to move forward the sale, as the club is fighting for a top four finish in the Bundesliga.

“We do not have a reason to sell Keita any time before the end of the season. That’s it,” said Leipzig manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.

“I think that Naby wants to finish the season in a good way in Leipzig. He wants to leave a good impression.

“He made many good games for the club – in my opinion, I think that he will put everything into the rest of the season.”