One of the areas Liverpool FC could improve this summer is by adding a left-back to compete with Alberto Moreno, we assess three options recently linked with a move to Merseyside.
With Jose Enrique set to leave the club, and Brad Smith providing little in terms of regular competition for current first choice Alberto Moreno, Jurgen Klopp is targeting a new left-back ahead of 2016/17.
Moreno’s hit-and-miss displays in Klopp’s back line this season have led many to question the Spaniard’s future on Merseyside, and while this is a knee-jerk reaction, he needs support.
A number of left-sided options have been linked with the Reds already this season, with the most prominent trio being Fenerbahce’s Caner Erkin, Cologne’s Jonas Hector and Leicester City prospect Ben Chilwell.
But who are Erkin, Hector and Chilwell, and what could they bring to Liverpool?
A long-standing target for Liverpool’s transfer committee, Erkin spurned the Reds’ advances back in 2014 by signing a new contract with Fenerbahce.
That deal is set to expire at the end of 2015/16, however, opening up the possibility of a renewed bid for Fener’s No. 88 this summer; and with Liverpool linked with a pre-contract move, this seems likely.
Erkin is a robust, physical left-back, standing at 5’11”, who has developed into a dependable option for both Fener and the Turkish national team, following his move to Istanbul in 2010.
This physicality gives Erkin an edge over Moreno, but the 27-year-old is also effective in the attacking third, having spent a number of seasons operating as a left winger, before being converted to left-back at Fener.
In 211 appearances for Fener, Erkin has laid on 48 goals for his team-mates, as well as scoring 16, with his crossing ability and set-piece prowess making him an invaluable creative outlet.
A cost-effective addition at left-back, the experienced Erkin would provide Klopp with a useful alternative to Moreno.
Linked along with fellow Cologne stalwart Timo Horn at the beginning of March, Hector is thought to be available for around £6.2 million this summer, and if Liverpool opt to move for the Germany international, he could be a bargain addition.
Hector is an intriguing prospect at left-back, having made a late surge into the Cologne first team as they teetered between the 2. Bundesliga and Germany’s top flight.
Tall and strong, Hector is a defensively sound, tactically astute left-back with the versatility to thrive in a number of systems; a poor man’s David Alaba.
This season, Hector has been in excellent form as Cologne push for a top-half finish in the Bundesliga, marking their progress under manager Peter Stoger.
Stoger has utilised Hector in a progressive, all-round role on the left flank, highlighting the 25-year-old’s balance.
In December’s 2-1 win at home to Borussia Dortmund, he was stationed on the left of a five-man defence, and made four key passes, offering an effective outlet in attack, while in Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Hannover 96 showcased his defensive prowess, making four successful tackles in a flat back four.
At 6’1″ tall, Hector is also dominant aerially, and this may appeal to Klopp as he looks to vary his options at left-back.
Club: Leicester City
While the 27-year-old Erkin and 25-year-old Hector would arrive at Liverpool with considerable experience, links with Leicester’s up-and-coming left-back talent Chilwell represent more of a gamble for Klopp.
Chilwell emerged as a possible target for the Reds towards the end of 2015, with a £4 million January bid mooted, and this interest has endured as Klopp heads towards the summer market.
Entering the final 12 months of his current Foxes contract this summer, Chilwell could be acquired for a cut-price fee, and if Klopp opts to pursue the England U21s international, he would welcome a left-back with great potential.
Named Leicester’s Academy Player of the Year for 2014/15, Chilwell was promoted to the first team on the arrival of Claudio Ranieri, though this was soon followed by a loan move to Huddersfield Town.
Under Klopp’s close friend, David Wagner, at Huddersfield, Chilwell showcased his ability in eight Championship appearances, before returning to Ranieri’s squad in January.
Chilwell is a well-rounded left-back in the mould of former Reds trainee Aaron Cresswell, with pace and a great left foot.
However, whether he would provide immediate competition for Moreno’s starting spot is questionable.
Likely one for the future, Chilwell would flesh out Klopp’s squad ranks, and could develop into an accomplished Premier League left-back, but with Liverpool needing experience, he is far from the most suitable option.