Malick Thiaw has made just one appearance for Schalke but he’s already being chased by some of the Premier League’s biggest clubs. According to reports, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool are all interested in the 18-year-old.
Thiaw's current deal runs until 2021 and he is stalling on a new contract. The teenager has a £7million release clause and the English trio are weighing up whether to activate it to nab themselves a potential bargain.
According to the Mirror, Liverpool have had scouts watching the centre-back this season and he’s been impressing for Schalke’s under-19 side. He must’ve caught David Wagner’s eye, too, with the Die Königsblauen manager giving the youngster his first appearance for the senior team earlier this month.
Thiaw was part of the Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach academies before arriving in Gelsenkirchen in 2015. Since then he’s progressed through the ranks and it looked a certainty he would be playing for the first-team on a regular basis in the near future. But not now.
The 18-year-old has been compared to Liverpool centre-back Joel Matip due to his size and composure on the ball. The Reds signed the 28-year-old on a free transfer from Schalke in 2016 and he played a pivotal part in the Reds lifting the Champions League for a sixth time last season.
Injuries have plagued his time on Merseyside but he isn’t the only. Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren are both prone to picking up knocks and reports have emerged to suggest the defence is an area the Premier League leaders are looking to bolster once the transfer window opens again.
But his relatively low price tag has alerted Man City and Arsenal. The latter parted with £27million to secure the services of highly-rated William Saliba last summer. They know the going rate for centre-backs and to snare a potentially brilliant one for south of £10million would be very shrewd business. City, on the other hand, usually go out and buy the best players available to them. But a project like Thiaw would no doubt intrigue manager Pep Guardiola. Furthermore, the reigning Premier League champions do need defensive reinforcements.
For once, the links do make a lot of sense. But what is it that makes the teenager such a prospect?
To succeed in the English top-flight, a centre-back needs to be comfortable on the ball and dominant in the air. Thiaw ticks both of those boxes. In the Bundesliga Under-19 league, the Schalke man has won 73 per cent of his aerial duels. For a bit of context, that puts him in the same sphere as Virgil van Dijk. The Dutch colossus wins 75 per cent of his aerial battles. Though, it is worth noting that the Liverpool centre-back competes for 6.5 per 90 compared to Thiaw’s 3.6.
He reads the game well, making 4.3 interceptions, but perhaps his biggest strength is just how confident he is on the ball. He’s attempting, on average, 58 passes per 90 and completing near 90 per cent of them. He’s frugal in possession but he isn’t afraid to take risks to help the team progress up the pitch.
There’s a lot for teams to work with and for £7million, Thiaw is an absolute no-brainer of a signing. Even if he doesn’t go on to fulfil the abundance of potential he has, he’d make a decent squad player.