Michael Edwards’ latest transfer trick puts Liverpool’s summer window into focus

This year, Liverpool’s January transfer window was dominated by one thing: Centre-backs.

No other single issue was as obvious to any Premier League club’s supporters as the champions’ need to bring in defensive reinforcements following a tumultuous first half to the season in which they lost both Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk.

Without the two defensive pillars of their title-winning team last season, and having sold Dejan Lovren last summer, Joel Matip and Fabinho were a more than acceptable backup duo.

Unfortunately, both have had injury issues of their own, with Matip suffering a number of problems – the latest, ankle ligament damage, has ended his season prematurely – while midfielder Fabinho has also dealt with problems of his own.

That has meant Jordan Henderson, youngster Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips also seeing game time, and the Henderson-Phillips partnership called upon in wins over Spurs and West Ham in the last week was the 16th duo used by Jurgen Klopp.

That number will be added to before the end of the season, as Liverpool completed deals to sign two centre-halves on Deadline Day to bolster their defensive ranks, as Klopp had been calling for the club to do throughout January.

Preston North End’s Ben Davies has signed on a permanent deal for an initial £500k, the left-footed 25 year-old a surprise arrival with Klopp admitting: "I think it’s probably clear that in a normal transfer window, without any issues, we would not look at Preston.”

With Davies also able to play left-back, he offers cover in both positions.

The more intriguing arrival on Merseyside is undoubtedly Schalke’s Ozan Kabak.

The 20-year-old Turkish international has endured a pretty miserable campaign in the Bundesliga, with his club in crisis currently bottom of the table in Germany.

But having seen enquiries for RB Leipzig pair Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate knocked back – RBL wanted “crazy money” to part with either now – and an approach for Marseille’s Duje Caleta-Car fall through as the French side couldn’t source a replacement, Liverpool elected to move for a player whom they had regularly scouted in the past 18 months.

Glowing testimonies from David Wagner and Sven Mistlintat helped persuade Klopp of Kabak’s worth.

Schalke, who have signed Shkodran Mustafi to replace him, were open to Kabak’s exit, but initially wanted a loan (£2million fee) with a £27.5million obligation to buy in the summer; that guaranteed future cash would be a major help to a club with financial issues.

But Liverpool never wanted to be obliged with regards either a permanent signing – that’s not to say that they won’t eventually – nor a fee.

Thus, the club’s much-vaunted sporting director, Michael Edwards, got down to business, taking the same hard-line stance which has worked so well for the Reds in negotiations in recent years, even while Kabak underwent a medical in Gelsenkirchen.

At the time that the deal was announced, having threatened to walk away and settle on only adding Davies, Liverpool had agreed a £1million loan fee, another possible £500k based on appearances and an £18million option to buy (plus further add-ons).

To go from a guaranteed outlay of £29.5m down to just £1m is quite the piece of persuasion and artistry; it’s little wonder that social media was awash with plaudits for Edwards at the deal he had put in place, the best of which, unquestionably, came via KFC’s UK and Ireland account.

“Michael Edwards could walk into a KFC for a Snackbox but end up walking out with the secret recipe, two of our fryers and the shirt off my back.”

The option rather than the obligation is key, something which cannot be understated.

Liverpool now have a four-month period where they can get a much closer look at Kabak, at how he adapts and effectively if he's going to be worth the outlay.

Having the option also means they have a period of exclusivity where, if he really steps up and shines, they cannot be usurped by rival clubs, or Schalke can't pull out to sell to a higher bidder.

In contrast, if Kabak proves an ill-fit, the obligation could leave the club with a player they didn't want, presenting themselves a problem this summer.

At his end, Kabak will be hoping to impress an do what's required to turn his temporary stay permanent.

So Edwards' move is both smart financially and affords Liverpool greater freedom with regards their summer recruitment, when the club are fully aware that bigger prizes may well be on the table.

One of those will be the aforementioned Upamecano, a player highly thought of by the powers that be at Anfield.

The French international will leave Leipzig for £38million in the summer, due to a release clause in his contract, but is undecided over his next destination.

Bayern Munich have held talks with his agent over replacing David Alaba in Bavaria, and Monday saw CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge divulge that both Liverpool and Chelsea have also opened up a dialogue with Upamecano’s representatives.

Alaba, leaving Bayern on a free, is another name that has been mentioned as a potential Anfield target, although he appears set on a move to Real Madrid.

Leipzig's Konate is another, however RBL would prefer to keep him for another year, rather than the double whammy of losing both starting centre-backs.

"They want crazy money," declared Klopp last week. "I am not sure there is an £80million centre-back available at the moment and a club thinks 'We can get £80m for him so we will sell him'.

"The teams would not sell this calibre of player now.

"We can not go out and say (to rivals) ‘are you ready to sort out our problem?’"

Five months from now however is a very different proposition.

The market will look very different and the talent pool will be far more swollen, offering more choice and potentially greater quality.

Davies and Kabak give Klopp what was absolutely necessary in the here and now.

But Edwards' maneuvering keeps Liverpool firmly in the conversation for bigger and better this summer.

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