Prior to the previous disappointing week in which Liverpool drew twice in frustrating circumstances and got hammered at the Etihad Stadium, Emre Can had made a very good start to the season.
Over the past seven days, he – along with most of his teammates – have been much less impressive, but generally, he has shown the quality no one doubted he had, but on a consistent basis, for full, consecutive games.
Most hoped, and anticipated, that he would come good at some point, and three years after he signed for £10 million from Bayer Leverkusen, he has seemingly found a role in the team and become a settled member of the first eleven.
Consistency was always the key with him, and he seems to have found some; he scored important goals against the likes of Burnley and Watford last season, and was a star man in the win over 1899 Hoffenheim, which was so, so vital to Liverpool’s season.
The increasing level of form that he has shown, though, has also coincided with Can entering the final year of his current contract, with his representatives having long been in discussions with Liverpool over extending his deal.
Juventus have a strong and real interest, and could come in with a pre-contract agreement offer in January with a view to signing him for free on July 1 next year, but Liverpool want to keep him – something has to give.
At first, the dispute was regarding Can demanding £100,000-a-week, with Liverpool unprepared to offer that, but with football inflation having risen significantly again since that was the sticking point, the club would now offer that without hesitation.
Dejan Lovren is now on £100,000-a-week, so there would be no qualms over offering at least that to Can, a man who most would view as a better long-term option in his position.
Now, according to Paul Joyce, the sticking point is a release clause in his deal, which is not something Liverpool will agree to with any of their players, as well as a guarantee of his role in the squad.
The situation should not really have been allowed to drag on this long, but a solution one way or another must be imminent.
Liverpool need depth and options, and Can is certainly a good player to have around the squad, but the longer the contract stand-off continues, the less likely it becomes that he will still be playing in a Red shirt next season.
With all of Liverpool’s other midfield options, and the arrival of Naby Keita to come, it is very hard to see how Can can possibly be guaranteed a place week in, week out. He would get games, but they might not be the biggest fixtures Liverpool will play, and he would have to accept being rotated in and out.
However good he is for the remainder of the season, he might not be in Liverpool’s best eleven next season, and he might want to move on just because of that. At his age, and as a peripheral member of the German national team squad, he requires regular game time, World Cup year or not.
The refusal to accept his demand of a release clause is understandable, but as it stands his release clause is effectively nothing next summer when his contract runs out.
Liverpool might as well give him a new deal with a release clause, because they will lose him for nothing as it is.
The reluctance is due to the fact that it could set a precedent, and they are wary that release clauses can be dangerous – had Philippe Coutinho had one this summer, he would almost certainly have gone to Barcelona.
Neymar moved the market value, and there is nothing to say it might be even more inflated in future.
When Coutinho signed his new deal, the clause could have been around £70 million, but the Neymar move drastically increased every player’s value.
Liverpool do not want to have a situation arise with players where they stand to lose out on huge sums of money with no control over the asking price, which is a sensible approach, although less so in this instance, where they will lose out on any sort of transfer fee if nothing changes.
Emre Can can be an important player for the club, and has real quality, but with so little movement on a new deal, and with both parties currently in a stand-off and unwilling to compromise, it might be that Liverpool ultimately lose him.
At the moment it feels like nothing is imminent, and the longer that feeling lingers, the closer we get to January, when Juventus can swoop in with a lucrative contract offer, knowing that they will not have to pay a transfer fee.
Right now, it feels inevitable that Can will move on at the end of the season, and that would be a crying shame. He is by no means Liverpool’s most important player, but has grown in influence and will continue to do so should he stick around for a few more years.
The very fact that a club of Juventus’ standing are showing an interest should tell you everything you need to know about Can’s quality – time will tell whether Liverpool can get the contract sealed.
Matt Addison writes a column each week for @AnfieldPress, covering all of the major talking points in the world of Liverpool FC throughout the season. Follow him on Twitter at @MattAddison97.