With every passing day and no news on Emre Can’s contract situation, it appears to be less and less likely that the German will be at Anfield beyond the end of this season.
His current contract expires in May, making him free to discuss a move abroad from January 1.
The stand-off between the club and his representatives has been rumbling on for months, and the impasse is no closer to a resolution now than it was this time last year.
Time and time again, Can has said it is “not about money”, but his advisers reportedly want a release clause as a get-out should a better offer come along.
Liverpool want that clause to be high – presumably too high for anyone to consider offering, hence the stalemate – and believe they are well within their rights to do so given the kind of wage the midfielder would demand.
Why Liverpool should deny a release clause
James Milner, among others, earns more than double what Can does despite a similar standing in the squad, and Liverpool are prepared to rectify that, but will not be held to ransom.
Give one player a low release clause, and the rest would demand the same. Had Philippe Coutinho had one last summer, he would now be in Barcelona. Liverpool want the power to remain on their side of the table, and rightly so.
If, as Can has repeatedly insisted, the lack of a resolution is not down to money, the only other reasonable explanation is playing time, or his role in the team.
But would Juventus, Bayern Munich, or any other team that might be interested in signing Can on a free be able to make any guarantees?
With no transfer fee, they would be able to offer an inflated wage packet, but assurances over playing time would be far less certain.
Competing against Arturo Vidal, Thiago Alcantara, Claudio Marchisio, Miralem Pjanic or Sami Khedira is no easy task. That competition, in fact, was why Can left Bayern in the first place.
Is Can a top player?
The truth is that Can is not at that top level; he is a good player, but not one that falls into the top bracket.
Losing Coutinho would be a huge blow to Liverpool's ambitions; losing Can would not even constitute a setback.
The German has good games, but he has just as many poor games. Many are lukewarm.
Whether he sits deep as a number six, or plays slightly further forward as more of an eight, Can takes too many touches on too many occasions, slowing down possession and momentum. The ball is moved on too slowly, and not always accurately.
He lacks the guile and delicacy to play as a forward-thinking midfielder, and does not have the control or discipline to play deep to the highest standard.
Mindless fouls and stupid decision-making, epitomised by his yellow card in the Champions League decider against Spartak Moscow, when he knew he would be suspended for the first leg of the last-16 tie with a booking, but dived in regardless, are all too frequent.
Liverpool were already 1-0 to the good at that stage, with the booking coming moments after Coutinho’s penalty sent them on their way, and it was a needless challenge to make.
That is far from the only ridiculous decision in recent times: in the 4-1 drubbing against Tottenham Hotspur, just when Mohamed Salah had pulled a lethargic Liverpool back into the game, it was Can’s foul that brought about the free-kick that Dele Alli eventually scored from to make it 3-1 just before the interval.
Jordan Henderson – Liverpool's only current alternative in the number six role (although Georginio Wijnaldum played there in pre-season) – is far from perfect, but just because he gets far more heavily critised, it does not mean he is far worse a player.
Can might well prove to be a top player one day, if he can sort out his concentration and make best use of the talents he possesses, but Liverpool need good players now.
The same people who moan about Fenway Sports Group wanting ‘project’ players to buy cheap and develop are those who are willing to persist with Can to see if he fulfills his potential. That could take some time.
There are other players who Liverpool have who do the same job equally as well or better, and with Naby Keita arriving, and perhaps other like Leon Goretzka who are potential targets, not to mention those coming through like Marko Grujic and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose long-term position is in the centre of midfield, Liverpool will not miss Can.
Aside from all that, the desire on his part to remain on Merseyside is partial at best. The deal would already have been done if that yearning was strong, no matter what his agent might want.
If he does stay, which is seemingly extremely unlikely, then he will remain a decent member of the squad, but Liverpool have better options.
The club are likely to lose better players than Can next summer, albeit not for free.