A lot of debate has come into the equation when considering external options to cover with the loss of Dejan Lovren who recently left Liverpool to join Zenit Saint Petersburg in a £10.9 million [Guardian] move last week.
A number of candidates have been drawn up to replace the Croatia international who enjoyed a six-year Anfield tenure. Real Betis defender Aissa Mandi is someone who fits the bill with the 28-year-old reportedly identified as a like-for-like replacement for Lovren.
However, in the event that Liverpool deem there is significant cover in that department of the squad could there be a few options that can potentially step up following Lovren’s departure?
Sepp van den Ber and Ki-Jana Hoever are two young and promising options yet both lack significant senior experience despite their undeniable potential and cannot be expected to make too much of an impact next season.
One player who is often forgotten as a potential option to bolster Jurgen Klopp’s squad is defender Nathaniel Phillips.
Making a case for Phillips
The 23-year-old spent the 2019/20 campaign on loan with Stuttgart in Germany’s second-tier.
Phillips clocked up 23 appearances last season and also featured for Liverpool in the FA Cup third-round victory against Merseyside rivals Everton back in January.
Klopp recalled Phillips back from Stuttgart to start in the world’s oldest cup competition where he played the full 90 minutes alongside Joe Gomez to register a clean sheet before returning on loan to Germany days later.
According to reports from Goal, Phillips is the subject of interest of a number of Championship clubs and Liverpool have the option to cash in if the price is right.
However, with the ongoing financial uncertainty that has come from Covid-19, there could be little chance of Liverpool sanctioning a deal of significant value for Phillips so keeping him amongst the squad could still add value for Klopp.
Stick or twist?
Both Van den Berg and Hoever are yet to register a Premier League appearance although both impressed in the FA Cup win against Shrewsbury Town.
With this under consideration, Phillip’s experience in Germany potentially makes him Liverpool’s fourth most senior option behind Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.
Also, Matip has been plagued by injury throughout last season and his regular availability was a concern for Klopp last season.
Matip, 28, started featured in just nine league encounters during Liverpool’s title victory and is still nursing an ongoing knee problem that has limited the player to just one PL appearance since October.
This could open the door for Phillips as another potential offer for Klopp next season.
His statistics in Germany were largely impressive for the matches Phillips featured in. During 16 Bundesliga 2 starts, he averaged 1.6 tackles per game according to WhoScored.
On the ball, Phillips is a calm and assured figure averaging a pass success rate of 84.3 per cent. Remarkably he also provided two assists from central defence during a season which saw Stuttgart promoted back to the Bundesliga.
While it is unlikely he would become a squad regular during Liverpool’s title defence which kicks off in September, the current economic uncertainty could dictate that Klopp will look for value in internal options at the club rather than seeking out transfer possibilities.
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