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Sean Wallace: Aberdeen need to find a way to sign Leighton Clarkson for next season

No player aged 21 or under, since Patrick Roberts for Celtic in 2016-17, has pitched in with more assists in a Premiership season.

Aberdeen's Leighton Clarkson celebrates after making it 4-1 against Hibs in November. Image: SNS
Aberdeen's Leighton Clarkson celebrates after making it 4-1 against Hibs in November. Image: SNS

Aberdeen must find a way to sign Liverpool midfielder Leighton Clarkson for next season.

Ideally, it would be a permanent deal for the playmaker, who has a year remaining on his contract with the Premier League giants.

However, a loan deal would also work – if it ensures the 21-year-old will be at Pittodrie next season to pull the strings in midfield.

The creativity and game-changing vision Clarkson brings will be a massive miss if he is not at Aberdeen for the 2023/24 campaign.

And that level of skill and influence is hard to source for a replacement.

Aberdeen’s Leighton Clarkson at Hearts. Image: SNS

Aberdeen are keen to secure Clarkson on a permanent deal in the summer window, but, as he is contracted to Liverpool until June 2024, that would require a fee.

The former England U20 international would be worth the investment as he brings so much to the Dons and will only get better.

There are three options for Clarkson next season: Return to Liverpool to fight for a first team place, go out on loan or be sold.

Aberdeen must ensure they are in prime position to capitalise if he is to exit Anfield either on loan or permanently.

Clarkson is capable of a moment of magic, and an inspirational spark of genius to turn matches.

Those qualities turn draws into wins, potential defeats into draws.

If Aberdeen secure a third-placed finish, it could bring European group stage action until mid-December – if Celtic win the Scottish Cup.

Hearts’ Nathaniel Atkinson and Leighton Clarkson of Aberdeen in action. Image: SNS

Guaranteed European group stage football could be enough to convince Clarkson on a Pittodrie return if Liverpool are open to selling.

If Anfield boss Jurgen Klopp is instead looking to loan the midfielder out again, a guaranteed five months of European experience could make a Pittodrie return the more attractive option for Liverpool.

Anfield boss Klopp rates Clarkson highly and previously said he was “one of the biggest talents in our club”.

Klopp also compared Clarkson to legendary World Cup-winning defensive midfielder/full-back Philip Lahm.

High praise indeed, and, at Aberdeen, Clarkson has underlined why he is so highly regarded by Klopp.

Leighton Clarkson of Aberdeen celebrates after he scores a sensational free-kick at St Johnstone. Image: SNS

Clarkson can control games from the midfield with his vision, composure and range of passing.

The loan star’s tactical intelligence and game awareness mean he is very rarely caught in possession.

He can produce an audacious game-changing moment, but is just as willing to keep passes simple when required.

During his Pittodrie loan spell Clarkson has consistently shown he can orchestrate games.

He can play in a host of midfield positions – No. 10, No.6, No.8, holding and also as a deep lying play-maker.

Clarkson has pitched in with eight Premiership assists this season and five goals.

The last player aged 21 or under to deliver as many assists in a Premiership season was Patrick Roberts for Celtic in 2016-17.

Roberts served up 10 assists that season while on loan from Manchester City.

This campaign Clarkson has created 40 goalscoring chances in 32 Premiership games for Aberdeen – an average of 1.25 per game.

Premiership champions Celtic and Rangers are reportedly monitoring Clarkson with the view to potential summer swoops of their own.

However, Clarkson recently said he has loved his time at Aberdeen.

He also stated he is putting Aberdeen’s bid to finish third first, before any thoughts of his own future.

Clarkson has played three times for Liverpool, including starting in the Champions League against FC Midtjylland in December 2020.

Although a teenager at the time, he was hailed for his the way he controlled midfield in the 1-1 away draw with the Danish club.


He is an exciting talent rated by Klopp so he could get the opportunity to push for a first-team slot at Anfield next season.

If not, Aberdeen must ensure he is back at Pittodrie.

Euro rewards if Aberdeen hold nerve

Aberdeen face a real test of nerve tonight in the bid to finish third in the Premiership.

After a return of just one point from the last three games, the pressure is intense to deliver a win against St Mirren at Pittodrie.

The Dons remain in the driving seat to finish third, but it is getting very tense.

If Aberdeen beat St Mirren tonight, and Hearts drop points against Rangers, Barry Robson’s Reds will be confirmed in the best-of-the-rest position behind Celtic and Rangers.

However, if their winless run continues and Hearts win. the Tynecastle club will leapfrog into third spot.

Aberdeen manager Barry Robson during the 2-1 loss to Hearts at Tynecastle. Image: SNS

It will set up a nerve-jangling final-day shootout for third. And the Reds will be faced with having to secure a win or draw at Premiership champions Celtic in the final game of the season.

Aberdeen, for now, are masters of their own destiny – it is in their own hands.

They have earned the right to be in pole position and now must finish the job.

Beating St Mirren tonight could could open the gateway to glamour Euro ties against giants like Liverpool and AC Milan.

Finishing third will be rewarded with a spot in the Europa League play-offs, should Celtic win the Scottish Cup.

That is just one two-legged tie away from the lucrative Europa League group stages.

Six-time European Cup/Champions League winners Liverpool look set to qualify for the Europa League group stages via a projected fifth-placed Premier League finish.

Likewise, seven-time European champions AC Milan are in the mix with fellow Italian sides Atalanta and Roma for a Europa League group stage spot.

However, there are many hurdles which need to be jumped before that could become a reality for Aberdeen.

One hurdle outwith Aberdeen’s control with Celtic’s bid to win the Scottish Cup.

But beating St Mirren must be the first step for Aberdeen.

Lawrence Shankland scores to make it 2-1 Hearts against Aberdeen. Image: SNS

Devlin a positive start to rebuild

Securing Nicky Devlin is a positive start to what will inevitably be a significant summer transfer window rebuild by Aberdeen.

Livingston skipper Devlin is box-to-box right-back who has much experience of the Premiership.

He will be able to hit the ground running at the start of the campaign.

Livingston right-back Nicky Devlin and Duk of Aberdeen in action. Image: SNS

Devlin admitted the potential of European football was a factor in choosing Aberdeen.

If the Dons secure Europe, it will prove to be a lure for many more signing targets.