Sanjay Nair examines Jürgen Klopp’s alternatives if Liverpool are foiled in signing Virgil Van Dijk.
The 2016/17 season has barely passed us by and the amount of transfer talk going around is already reaching monumental proportions. Outrageous prices are being thrown around for some of Europe’s most wanted and as expected Liverpool are very much at the forefront of some of it.
With defensive worries of last season being the main talking point at Anfield, Virgil Van Dijk has been the man most linked with Liverpool.
Yet, in bad news for the club, Southampton have reported the Reds to the Premier League for the manner in which they have gone about trying to sign Van Dijk.
That said, below are some other centre-back (and one left back) options, both expensive and not-so-expensive, that we could look at if it is true that Klopp has a huge transfer kitty at his disposal.
Aymeric Laporte – Athletic Bilbao
“My position’s most important evolution has been in the sense of being more than a defender. A big part of my game is to bring the ball out from the back. Defenders do this more than ever before. It’s all about arriving at perfection. I spend as much time in training and matches working on starting attacks as I do stopping them.”
Laporte’s words will be music to Klopp’s ears, given that the ethics and style described above fits right up our manager’s alley. His strengths include aerial duels, Liverpool’s biggest issue over the past few seasons, as well as strong passing, tackling and ball interception skills.
A regular at centre-back for Athletic Bilbao of Spain, who was under the radar of both Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, only last year signed a four-year contract extension.
Currently valued at £22 million with an additional release clause in the region of £50 million might seem a lot, but if Liverpool fail to land Virgil Van Dijk despite being ready to shell out £50-£60 million, then this highly rated 23-year-old Frenchman might prove to be a better purchase in the long run.
Kalidou Koulibaly – Napoli
If ever you wanted a defender to strike fear into the minds of opposition strikers, this 25-year-old Senegalese currently plying his trade with Napoli is what you are looking for. His rise to one of the best defenders across Europe in such a short span of time has been phenomenal.
Valued at £30 million, Koulibaly possesses very strong passing and tackling skills with no perceivable weaknesses and should be the perfect candidate if Liverpool want to spend big and yet get full value for money.
However, his club president claims to have rejected a huge £55 million bid from Chelsea last year due to lack of immediate reinforcements. Though all signs still point more to a potential move to West London than Anfield, Koulibaly could be tempted to Anfield with a sizeable wage structure and the obvious promise of regular first team football. Provided, of course, Liverpool are able to convince Mr De Laurentiis to sell perhaps his prized possession.
Joël Veltman – Ajax
An established centre-back for both club and country, Veltman is definitely worth being considered to shore up Liverpool’s defensive frailties.
Although in the news recently for showing unsportsmanlike behaviour in the Dutch League, there is no doubting the 25-year-old Dutchman’s abilities. His team’s run to the Europa League final will have also brought Ajax’s vice-captain into the limelight and increase his market value from its current range of under £10 million.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is reportedly a huge fan of Veltman and will be looking to add him to the squad amidst rumours of Kyle Walker’s impending move elsewhere.
Álex Grimaldo – Benfica
No analysis of defensive reinforcements at Liverpool can be complete without a mention of the left-back position, even if he won’t be a like for like alternative to Van Dijk. Grimaldo is one of the hottest young prospects in Portugal at the moment and is already touted as the natural heir to Jordi Alba at Barcelona.
Valued at under £10 million, Grimaldo at 21 years of age is already a proven player having come through the famous youth system at Barcelona. Tremendous pace, the ability to attack at will and a terrific left foot will be something Liverpool will so dearly love to have.
Senseless as some of these transfer values may seem to be, let us hope that we solve our issues before the start of the pre-season and are well prepared for the upcoming season.