Liverpool could be forced to splash out in the January transfer window after suffering an injury crisis at the heart of their defence. Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez are unlikely to play again this season, while the club did not replace Dejan Lovren after selling him to Zenit Saint Petersburg. That has left the injury-prone Joel Matip as the only healthy centre-back at the club, and Fabinho has had to drop back into defence to play alongside him.
Jurgen Klopp claims he is comfortable thrusting youngsters Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams into the starting line-up if necessary, but signing an experienced defender in January would be prudent. These are the players that the Reds could bid for when the transfer window swings open on January 1:
The 20-year-old Dutch defender is the latest budding superstar to spring from the production line at Ajax’s fabled youth academy. He made his Eredivisie debut for the at the tender age of 18, and then established himself as a first team regular last season. Ajax had no problem sanctioning the sale of Joel Veltman to Brighton, as they were convinced that Schuurs had more than enough quality to become the team’s defensive lynchpin.
He has been an ever-present in the Ajax starting 11 this season, having formed a strong partnership with Daley Blind. Schuurs was called up to the senior Netherlands squad for the first time in September, and he is widely regarded as the next Matthijs de Ligt. Ajax have apparently slapped a £27 million price tag on the youngster, but Liverpool should have no problem meeting that fee.
Upemecano is one of the world’s most highly rated young centre-backs and he has been linked with almost every major European club over the past couple of years. He is just 22 years old, but he has already made 90 Bundesliga appearances for RB Leipzig. Upemecano has also earned three caps for France, which is impressive when you consider how many quality defenders Les Bleus manager Didier Deschamps can call upon.
He has generated a great deal of interest from Man Utd and Man City, but Liverpool could swoop in and bring him to Anfield instead. Convincing RB Leipzig to sell a prized asset in January would be difficult, but the Bundesliga side have excellent depth in that position – Lukas Klostermann, Ibrahima Konaté and Willi Orban are all quality players – and they know Upemecano wants out, so they could allow him to leave if he demands a move to Liverpool.
Cash-strapped Schalke could be forced to sell a number of key players in order to balance the books over the next 12 months. Liverpool have been linked with two of their defenders – Kablak and his talented understudy, Malick Thiaw. The latter has great potential, but Liverpool need something closer to the finished article if they are to dip into the January transfer market.
Kabak fits the bill. He is just 20 years old, but he broke into the Sturrgart first team in 2018/19, inspiring Schalke to fork out €15 million for his services. He is a regular in their starting 11, and already has 44 Bundesliga appearances under his belt, plus seven caps for Turkey. Kabak and Schuurs are obviously not yet operating at the peak of their powers, but they are further along with their development than Thiaw. Either one would significantly bolster their defence this season, but also offer something for the future.
The Napoli centre-back is the most experienced player on this list. He is 29 years old and has been one of the best defenders in Serie A since joining Napoli in 2014. However, his trophy cabinet is pretty barren, and Napoli are significant underdogs in the betting odds for the Scudetto once again this season. He could be tempted to leave the club in search of a new challenge and more silverware.
Man City were heavily linked with Koulibaly in the summer, but ultimately balked at the asking price. Some outlets claim he will move to the Etihad next summer, but Liverpool could scupper those plans by launching a significant bid in January. He could form a phenomenal partnership with Van Dijk once the Dutchman returns. Liverpool might be unlikely to pay so much for a 29-year-old, but if it makes the difference between winning the title and finishing second then it could be money well spent.
Leeds were desperate to sign White in the summer after he excelled during a loan spell at Elland Road last term. However, Brighton turned down a £25 million bid for the young Englishman, and made him a first team regular instead. He is now likely to cost a lot more than that after impressing in the early stages of the season, but the rumour mill suggests the Reds have been lining up a £50 million bid.
White is 23 years old, so he is not quite as raw as Schuurs and Kabak, and he would also have no problem adapting to the rigours of the Premier League. Graham Potter is determined to keep him at Brighton, but Brighton would find it hard to resist a bid of £50 million when they already have Lewis Dunk, Veltman and Adam Webster in their ranks. The Seagulls could reinvest that cash on a couple of dangerous forwards, while Liverpool would gain a defender with vast potential, so a deal could suit both clubs.