Liverpool have held exploratory talks to get ahead in the race to sign centre-back Josko Gvardiol.
Gvardiol looks set for a move to one of Europe’s top clubs, after a breakout World Cup for Croatia. With the tournament catapulting him into the limelight, journalist Fabrizio Romano has claimed that Liverpool looked at signing him in January.
“At the moment Liverpool have explored conditions of the deal in January for Gvardiol but he was not on the market,” Romano told CaughtOffside.
“I’m sure Liverpool will have kind of list for centre-backs, but the priority remains to refresh the midfield; this is crucial for Klopp.
“At the moment I’m aware of Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool but it’s still March and nothing is agreed, so we have to keep the race open. I think Gvardiol will become the most expensive centre back ever, more than €80m [£71m] fee.”
Liverpool looking to repeat Leipzig trick?
In a summer where Liverpool are planning to go big on Jude Bellingham, dropping such a fee on Gvardiol seems difficult.
And yet, the links to the 21-year-old appear to be credible. Few know the transfer market like Romano, and he has consistently mentioned Liverpool in connection to Gvardiol. So, how could the Reds make that work? Well, one possibility is to look at another ‘Naby Keita style’ deal with RB Leipzig.
On the face of things, that wouldn’t look like an impossible option. Back in 2017, with Liverpool desperately chasing Keita, the Guinean also had a relatively high release clause. It was lower than the £96m it will reportedly take to trigger Gvadiol leaving Leipzig, but it was still decently sized.
Liverpool got ahead of the game though – offering to pay a little more than the clause to secure Keita a year earlier. With Gvardiol’s clause not due to be active until summer 2024, a compromise can surely be reached here. Maybe Liverpool pay a little less than the clause, but agree to send the defender back to Germany for a year.
That would ensure Leipzig get their money with Gvardiol’s stock still high. It would also mean Liverpool can plan for the departure of Joel Matip in a year’s time. The player himself is a Liverpool fan and would surely be happy to hold on a year for his dream move. Everybody seemingly wins.
There are stumbling blocks to that of course, not least the presence of other suitors. But as the Keita and later Ibrahima Konate deals show, Liverpool have a good relationship with Leipzig. They should make that count to get a deal done here.
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