With money tight in the footballing world because of the impacts of the global pandemic, free agents have become a far more valued commodity than ever before.
Georginio Wijnaldum, Lionel Messi, Memphis Depay and David Alaba all have six months remaining on their contracts at their respective clubs and they have all been heavily linked with upping sticks and joining new teams.
Although they invariably target younger players, Liverpool showed with their signing of Thiago that they are willing to offer financially plush wage packages to older players that they consider worth signing and making exceptions.
A key component to the Reds’ resurgence under Jurgen Klopp, losing Wijnaldum — even if a cohort of Twitter “fans” are blind to his obvious qualities — would prove a big blow to the Anfield club, especially on a free transfer. The former Newcastle midfielder is durable, tactically intelligent, physically dominant and when given the licence, technically polished.
However, in the shape of Alaba the English champions would have an ideal replacement for their versatile Dutchman.
The rapid Austrian international has been a regular for the Bavarians since 2011, playing extensively as a left-back, but also as a centre half — where he has featured regularly this season, replacing Mats Hunmels and allowing Alphonso Davies to play full back — and as a central midfielder; a position where he has excelled in his 72 Austria caps.
But now, according to reports in Germany, the versatile 28-year-old will leave the Allianz Arena in the summer in search of a new challenge.
Contract talks have stalled and Munich are resigned to losing their number 27 on a free transfer when his contract expires in July. Among the Austrian’s, born to Nigerian and Philippine parents, suitors, per reports, are Real Madrid and Barcelona but Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool should throw their hats into the ring and offer him the chance to make a move to the Premier League.
Not only as a centre midfielder, but the six-times European Champions could also do with Alaba as competition for Andrew Robertson at left-back. Injury means that Kostas Tsimikas has hardly featured at Anfield since his switch from Olympiacos, so it would be harsh to make concrete judgements on him, but the Austrian legend would comfortably be a better option at left-back.
Central midfield, though, is the area where Liverpool would be best advised to use Alaba and he could offer many of the same attributes that has made Wijnaldum a player of huge prominence to the Anfield club.
A recurring tactical feature of the Reds’ midfield in recent seasons is their central midfielders playing with discipline and providing the defensive stability that allows Robertson and Trent Alexander Arnold to become such effective attacking outlets.
So, who better to provide defensive midfield coverage for Robertson — while also offering the physicality Klopp values in the engine room, as well as another left-footed set-piece taker — at left-back than Alaba, a player with extensive experience in an intuitive knowledge of the position?
Many may feel that a player of the Austrians calibre might be reluctant to join a club where he’s not guaranteed to start every game. But such is the bloated nature of Liverpool’s fixture list, as well as Alaba’s versatility and functionality there will be plenty of games on offer.
Whether the club’s owners would be prepared to pay a big fee and wages for a 28-year-old remains to be seen, but the serial Bundesliga winner is almost three players in one and would offer great value for money.