How well stocked are Liverpool’s central defensive options heading into next season?
Following on from Dejan Lovren’s departure to Zenit Saint Petersburg, the Reds are left with just three senior options at centre back as Liverpool prepare for their Premier League title defence.
Virgil van Dijk remains the most durable and reliable figure following two consecutive seasons where the big Dutchman has featured in every PL fixture.
Joe Gomez has become Van Dijk’s preferred partner over Joel Matip who has had to combat an ongoing knee problem and featured in just nine league matches last season.
Even in a squad filled with English and European champions, Liverpool cannot afford to be complacent.
This is why the need for another central defensive option next season certainly wouldn’t hurt.
One player who has been heavily linked with a potential Anfield switch is Real Betis defender Aissa Mandi.
Mandi, 28, is currently entering the last year of his contract with the La Liga club and could be available for £10 million.
Liverpool have reportedly bid for the Algerian international who has a release clause in the region of £30 million.
It is being reported by Cadena COPE that Liverpool have presented the Verdiblancos with a £10 million offer for the player.
A viable option?
Mandi is certainly a player of experience which would represent an adequate and like-for-like replacement for a 31-year-old Lovren.
With 55 international caps to his name, Mandi is far from a rookie and was a mainstay in a Real Betis side that finished 15th in La Liga.
He made 29 appearances for the Spanish outfit last term including captaining the side in their dramatic 3-2 loss to Barcelona in February.
According to reports, he was previously the subject of interest from Arsenal who came close to signing Mandi last season.
Mandi’s influence on his team is another impressive aspect of the player’s CV. Betis won or drew 19 of the matches he featured in last season and the team’s struggles typically occurred when he was out of the team.
He is renowned for his pace, positional awareness and versatility across the backline. One of the definitive factors of a potential interest from Liverpool could be that the player can kill two birds with one stone for the Reds.
Liverpool are also lacking cover in the left-back department with Andy Robertson currently the only viable option with Yasser Larouci set to leave the club.
Mandi can play both centrally and on the left which would solve two problems for Jurgen Klopp and could represent good value for money.
Could a deal materialise?
Liverpool’s financial difficulties could complicate matters if the club’s transfer committee do not see significant value in the deal.
Klopp has stated on numerous occasions that funds have become limited following the impact of Covid-19 and the ongoing implications of the global pandemic.
Lovren’s departure offers a chance of a deal materialising as the Reds were able to coup over £10 million for the Croatia international which could be invested into finding a replacement.
Mandi’s age suggests that if Liverpool’s interest is concrete, the club are looking to add a ready-made option rather than a younger and more promising alternative.
At present, Liverpool should have a number of candidates already drawn up and it could be that the Reds potentially bring in more than one central defensive option this summer.
You can never have too many top-quality centre-backs, and only Van Dijk has consistently showcased that he reliable enough to feature week-in-week-out over the past two seasons.
While Liverpool are preparing for another quite summer window, Mandi is certainly an option to keep an eye on but at this early stage it’s likely he won’t be the last central defensive target linked with an Anfield move.
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