Liverpool’s defensive shopping list? With Virgil van Dijk out for months, Jurgen Klopp faces a shortage at centre back (even after Fabinho starred at Ajax)… Here’s who he could target in January
- Virgil van Dijk’s season looks over after he sustained an ACL injury on Saturday
- The Reds centre back’s absence will leave a massive void in Liverpool’s back four
- Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are now Liverpool’s only fit first-team centre backs
- Fabinho is a fine option as emergency cover and proved so again in Ajax win
- But Jurgen Klopp is still short of options and could recruit in January
- RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano and Schalke’s Ozan Kabak are potential options
Out of all the setbacks Liverpool could have faced in their defence of the Premier League title, a season-ending injury to their talisman at the back could perhaps be the most fatal.
Virgil van Dijk requires surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament after being on the receiving end of a horror tackle by Jordan Pickford in Saturday’s Merseyside derby, an incident made even worse by the Everton keeper’s lack of punishment, both on the day and retrospectively.
It was a damaging blow for Jurgen Klopp and his team, ahead of a period of six matches in 18 days and 17 matches before 2020 is out.
More to the point, it leaves only two fit senior centre backs in the first-team squad in Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, with defensive midfielder Fabinho also able to deputise as he did so impressively in the 1-0 win at Ajax on Wednesday night, including a spectacular goal-line clearance.
Both fans and pundits have been raving about Fabinho’s ability at centre half – Rio Ferdinand even insisted that he has ‘been the best player’ whenever he has deputised in the position – but big question marks still remain.
Virgil van Dijk faces a number of months on the sidelines after sustaining an injury on Saturday
Van Dijk was clattered by Jordan Pickford and has suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury
Fabinho is still a makeshift, so how would he cope against the toughest of opposition? Can Klopp rely on the notoriously injury-prone Matip and Gomez? And if they suffer any more injuries, who on earth will come in?
Beyond his current three fit senior centre backs, Klopp’s options are sparse, with fringe players Nat Phillips, Rhys Williams and Billy Koumetio ultimately not yet ready for regular action. Even though Klopp insisted that there is no room for four senior centre halves in his squad, there is clearly a requirement for a new addition.
Carragher made a strong case himself in the wake of Van Dijk’s injury, saying: ‘It’s devastating for Van Dijk but for Klopp and the club, right away it’s: “Who can we get in?” I know the transfer window is just finished but they have to be ready on January 1 to bring someone in because they’re really weak in that area and that could stop them going on to achieve what they want to achieve.’
Who could Klopp and the transfer committee at Melwood target in the January transfer window? Sportsmail takes you through all the potential options…
The RB Leipzig centre half, who is also now a regular in the French national team, has been linked with a host of Premier League clubs in recent months but notably stayed put in Germany despite the long-held interest.
The 21-year-old was one of Leipzig’s standout performers as they reached the semi-finals of the Champions League last season, and signed a new deal in July until the summer of 2023.
Crucially, however, that fresh contract contains a £38m (€42m) release clause but it is only active from next summer – will Klopp wait that long?
One of the hottest defensive prospects in Europe, Upamecano possesses an authority and control at the back way beyond his tender years and has clearly thrived under Julian Nagelsmann.
Dayot Upamecano has emerged into one of Europe’s best centre backs at RB Leipzig
A move to Anfield before next summer would not come cheap, but the temptation to add raw quality to his ranks and nick the Frenchman from under the noses of Manchester United – among others – could persuade Klopp to act.
A fairytale return to Liverpool has been mooted in some quarters for Coady – and Jamie Carragher was brazen enough to ask the Wolves captain if he was interested live on Sky Sports on Monday night.
‘I can’t believe you have just put this to me here! No, not at all’, responded Coady.
‘I love playing for this club, we’ve just beat Leeds in an amazing, amazing game. You know what I am like.’
Wolves skipper Conor Coady has come on leaps and bounds since leaving Liverpool in 2014
The 27-year-old, who is now an England international, is a well-known Liverpool fan and came through the youth ranks at Anfield before leaving in 2014.
However, though his new contract until 2025 means a price will again be high, Coady’s leadership qualities as well as his quality on the ball and proven adeptness in the Premier League certainly makes him a candidate for Klopp at centre half.
The highly-rated Turkish international was linked with a £40m move to Liverpool back in July, and his combativeness means he could fit in well in English football.
The 20-year-old has already played for three top European clubs in Galatasaray, Stuttgart and now with Schalke.
Turkey’s Ozan Kabak has already impressed at 20 years of age for Bundesliga side Schalke
Klopp has a close relationship with Schalke coach David Wagner so will be well briefed on Kabak’s capabilities plus Schalke’s valuation.
Kabak featured 26 times for Wagner’s side in the Bundesliga, scoring three goals which saw him finish as Schalke’s fourth-highest goalscorer in a season where they struggled domestically.
He remains an outside option.
The Sevilla defender was heavily linked with a move to Manchester City in the summer before they bought Ruben Dias, while neighbours United are also keeping an eye on the 21-year-old.
Kounde has since claimed he would have jumped at the chance to play in the English top flight but has no regrets over a potential move to City falling through and is happy to remain in LaLiga with Sevilla.
Jules Kounde was a target for Manchester City in the summer, but could he move to Liverpool?
The France Under-21 star only joined Sevilla in the summer of 2019 after arriving from Bordeaux for around £22million but made an instant impression for last season’s Europa League winners.
He was influential as the Spanish side marched into the LaLiga top four last term and landed silverware again on the European stage
A man in demand, and one definitely to watch out for.
Liverpool extensively scouted the Brighton defender last season as he played his part in helping Leeds win the Championship.
The 23-year-old was then subject of three bids from Leeds for a permanent deal, but he instead signed a new four-year deal on the south coast last month.
Ben White has returned to Brighton this season following his successful loan spell at Leeds
He has played in every game for the Seagulls this season and has looked assured, with decent technical ability and poise on the ball.
Featuring alongside Lewis Dunk, White has slotted in seamlessly under Graham Potter in this campaign.
A player with bags of potential, it’s tough to see White as an immediate short-term fix for Klopp come January.
A price tag of £50m has also been reported, which would surely be too much for a player who is likely to be back-up to Van Dijk and Gomez when both are fully fit.
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