If Liverpool were only thinking about signing a centre back in January, then that has probably become ‘seriously’ thinking about it after the news of Joe Gomez’s injury last night.
The extent of the centre-back’s injury sustained on international duty is not yet known, but the prospects are not looking good, with early reports ruling him out for the season at the least.
That leaves Jürgen Klopp with a significant crisis at centre back, with Joel Matip his only senior option left fit and available.
While youngsters Nathaniel Phillips and Sepp van den Berg are in the squad, and Fabinho can fill in at centre back too, signing someone in January now looks very likely.
The winter window is a notoriously tricky to get a good deal in, though, something Liverpool will be more than aware of.
They’ll be keen to avoid falling into the pitfall of overspending, particularly with finances tight as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Fortunately for them, there are options available.
Chief among them is Bayern Munich’s David Alaba. He’s out of contract at Bayern Munich next summer and has so far failed to sign an extension with the German giants.
Word out of Germany is that he is only focused on them, but there is a growing fear he will be negotiating with clubs come January, as is his right under the Bosman ruling.
Bayern will be desperate to avoid that if it’s clear he won’t extend and so selling for a reduced price in January would make sense, that’s where Liverpool could come in.
They’ve already been linked with a move by former Bayern midfielder Mario Basler, who touted him as an ideal replacement for Virgil van Dijk last week, and it makes even more sense now after Gomez’s injury.
The Austrian would provide a wealth of experience, can play in either centre back position comfortably and at 28-years-old is not too old either.
The biggest issue, though, is his wages. The reason he’s not signed a new at Bayern so far is his demands to be among the top earners, and it’s hard to see Liverpool, who have tight control over their wage budget, being willing to match what he wants.
Of course, necessity could loosen the purse strings, but Alaba would be an expensive purchase even if Bayern set a relatively low asking price to ensure they got something for him.
Thus Liverpool may be best looking across the Bundesliga at Schalke’s Ozan Kabak. He was linked heavily during the summer transfer window, with several reports indicated they were watching him closely.
They were revived this week when Calciomercato claimed they were ‘seriously thinking’ about a move in January.
If that is the case, which is more likely now following Gomez’s injury, there is undoubtedly a deal there to be done.
Yesterday we covered a report from SportBILD that stated Schalke had put Kabak ‘in the shop window’ because of the financial situation at the club.
They’re looking for €25m for him, which is a lot of money in the current climate, but something the Premier League champions could easily afford.
With Schalke open to a sale, something club chief Jochen Schneider has also hinted at, a reasonable fee and the player unlikely to command big wages it’s a deal that makes plenty of sense for the Reds
The major drawback is Kabak’s lack of experience. He’s only 20-years-old, and while he does have 60 appearances to his name across the Süper Lig and Bundesliga, as well as four in the Champions League, none of it is at a level anywhere near what Liverpool play.
Can Klopp afford to throw a 20-year-old into the deep end alongside Joel Matip? That’s up for debate and something Liverpool’s recruitment team will be pondering deeply.
That’s a debate they’ll be having about Ajax’s Perr Schuurs. He’s also been linked with a move to Anfield, with Calciomercato reporting this week that they have ‘strong interest’ in the 20-year-old.
That interest is a longstanding one, with Liverpool reportedly sending scouts to watch Schuurs when he was with Fortuna Sittard in 2017.
He’s valued at around €30m now, although it has been made clear that Ajax ‘are not currently considering his transfer’, which makes a deal hard to get done on the face of it.
The Dutch giants are tough negotiators as it is and it’s unlikely they’d settle for anything too low for a player who has been described as the new Matthijs de Ligt in some quarters.
Schuurs does only have two years left on his contract so that is something that could be exploited by Liverpool, although it’s more of a problem for the summer than January.
Like Kabak, though, he’s inexperienced at the highest level. While he has 115 league appearances to his name, all of them have come in the Netherlands and only 18 in the Eredivisie. He’s also only got five Champions League appearances to his name.
It’s debatable whether he’s at the level Liverpool need at this moment and there will undoubtedly be questions about his ability to adapt to the Premier League, with numerous players having arrived from the Eredivisie and struggled down the years.
The situation is a tricky one for Liverpool to manage. Do they go for experience and pay the likes of Alaba the big wages he wants or do they pick a youngster and plan for the future?
Their history would suggest the latter, with Klopp and his team having often preferred to look to the future than sign players for the here and now.
That trend changed somewhat with the summer purchase of Thiago Alcantara, though, and perhaps the same thinking will be in force when it comes to finding a much-needed centre back in January.