David Alaba has been linked to, among other clubs, Liverpool regularly recently.
The Austrian defender is in the final six months of his contract with FC Bayern and can now negotiate with foreign clubs ahead of a possible free transfer in the summer.
It was expected that Alaba, 28, would join Real Madrid but the Spanish giants — who are also in negotiations to renew the contract of Sergio Ramos — reputedly cannot pay the versatile defenders’ €12M per annum wage demands.
Hypothetically, this could open an avenue for Liverpool to throw their hats into the ring and make a move for the Austrian international. It seems highly doubtful, however, that the Reds would sign off on a wage packet that would make Alaba the second-highest-paid player at the club — assuming the figures bandied about are accurate — but perhaps a compromise could be reached.
The well connected Melissa Reddy added credibility to the rumours when she wrote in the Independent that the Anfield club — when putting together a move for Thiago — explored making a move for the Bayern number 27 as a way to gauge the price and kind of contract the Spain international would like on Merseyside.
Reddy, however, reported that the Reds’ recruitment team would not consider Alaba — who stands 5’11” — as a centre half option because of his lack of height and how that would hinder him when it comes to aerial challenges. The stats confirm this. Last season, according to figures sourced from FBRef, the Austrian, who mostly plied his trade in the heart of the treble-winning Bavarians defence, only won 44.9% of his aerial duels.
Being strong in the air is a prerequisite of playing in a Jurgen Klopp defence and that is a box that Alaba — whose brilliant versatility would make him a considerable asset to the club in many roles — doesn’t tick and this will in all likelihood prevent the English champions making a move for him; at least as a centre half.
Ben White, the Brighton and Hove Albion centre half, also falls into this category. Liverpool extensively scouted the 23-year-old while he was on loan at Leeds in the Championship and he has been previously linked with a switch to Anfield. But the Englishman — who has also played midfield regularly this season, thus skewing the numbers by invariably competing with less aerially adept players in that part of the field — only wins 56% of his aerial challenges.
Liverpool play an intense, claustrophobic style of football against the ball and the majority of teams — especially in domestic football — don’t have the technical qualities to play through this organised and intense surge of pressure. Therefore, most teams strategies are to hit the ball long over the top of the press or to aim to make hay from set-pieces. Aerially strong defenders are an antidote to this approach and give the Reds the chance to squeeze higher up the pitch and pin teams into their own half.
Whether the Reds sign anyone in January remains to be seen, but when it comes to recruiting centre halves, the links to David Carmo and Sven Botman make far more sense than reports of interest in using Alaba as a central defender or signing White.
Alaba would be an ideal player to replace Georginio Wijnaldum, but at centre half? Hard no.