One area of the team where Liverpool may look to invest is the defence – but Jurgen Klopp has particular requirements for many new additions.
The injury to James Milner against Everton threw into sharp relief the fact that the back line is easily the area of the side with least depth.
No natural senior full-backs are on hand to rest Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, leaving rookies Neco Williams and Yasser Larouci to get their chance on derby day.
It’s at least a possibility that one defender is brought in across the next transfer window or two, but with the first-choice back four in place, it’s more likely to be a promising young talent who Klopp can develop.
Versatility is also a key trait: our last few senior outfield signings have been Takumi Minamino, Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabinho and Naby Keita, all of whom can play at least three roles in the team.
With that in mind, here’s a look around Europe at the up-and-coming defenders who might be of interest, who can each play a couple of positions, primarily operate in defence and are all aged 23 or under. They are listed in order of likely market value, most expensive first.
Alphonso Davies – Bayern
Positions: Naturally a winger, but Bayern have converted him to a full-back this season, playing left-back with some regularity
Status: Has become a starter for them over the last few months
Has the skills, the agility and the pace to be a real threat running from deep. Played either side in attack earlier in his career, but as a left-footer might only play that side in defence.
Downside? If he remains a starter, they either won’t sell him or he’ll cost a fortune. Canadian international who the Reds were originally recommended at age 15, when he was still with Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS.
Lukas Klostermann – Leipzig
Positions: No doubt English TV commentators would immediately call him Mr. Versatile – he has played right-back, left-back, centre-back and both flanks in midfield, depending on the team’s system
Status: Always in the first team, rarely in the same role for more than a few games at a time
If you want someone to fill in wherever needed, it’s hard to find a more reliable option than Klostermann.
He is a full Germany international, usually down the right, and right-back is probably his best position. Operates just fine as a wing-back or out-and-out wide midfielder.
As we already know, Leipzig will sell…if you pay the price, which isn’t usually cheap.
Achraf Hakimi – BVB/Real Madrid
Positions: Right-back, left-back, both wings if needed
Status: First-choice starter for Dortmund, where he’s on loan until the end of this season
Hakimi has really excelled and grown during his two-year loan spell, finding more consistency and attacking output. Still work to do defensively for the Morocco international.
Real Madrid have suggested bringing him back next year, as Dortmund don’t have an option to buy, but both they and Bayern want him. Wherever he goes he’ll want to be first-choice.
Hakimi won Young Player on the night Sadio Mane recently won Africa’s Player of the Year.
Nico Elvedi – Gladbach
Positions: Centre-back, full-back either side
Status: Starter and likely target for big clubs this summer
For the past two seasons, Swiss international Elvedi has played only at centre-back and he’s a key figure for BMG, who are second in the league and have the best defensive record.
Prior to that, though, he played both sides of defence for an entire campaign in 17/18, being more comfortable on the right.
Has been linked with City and Spurs previously; this one is perhaps only likely if, say, Matip moved on and the Reds wanted a real ongoing challenge for places between Gomez and another. He’s very good on the ball.
Nordi Mukiele – Leipzig
Positions: Right-back, wing-back, centre-back
Status: In and out of the team as needed, most often down the right
We’re still in Germany – noticing a theme at all which might suggest where Klopp’s tendencies and preferences come from?
Mukiele is a little raw at times, but has plenty of potential and his athleticism makes him good cover in a variety of roles.
Could be that Leipzig’s plan is to make him a starter after the next big-money player moves on, continuing the conveyer belt.
Ola Aina – Torino
Positions: Wing-back either side, winger
Status: First-choice with Torino, who usually play with three in defence and wing-backs, most frequently operating down the left
Aina started off as an attacker with great dribbling skills, but while still in Chelsea‘s youth teams moved back to full-back and even centre-back at times.
Now he’s a rampaging outlet down the flank in Serie A, who loves to run with the ball at his feet.
They paid €10m for him and he has been linked with a move this coming summer, but it won’t be anywhere near the levels that Hakimi and Co. would cost—perhaps making him a much more interesting candidate as a squad player. Experience in England from a loan with Hull, too.
Mathieu Goncalves – Toulouse
Positions: Left-back, centre-back
Status: Inexperienced and just starting to make his breakthrough this season
The youngest on the list and the one we’ve been linked with—L’Equipe suggested last month that the Reds were considering him as backup to Robertson.
Which would be a little odd, in all honesty, as he has made precisely four Ligue 1 appearances for his side so far and they have all come at centre-back.
His one run-out on the left came in the cup, though he has also played left-of-centre in a back three, hinting at his ease between the two areas.
Would almost certainly be one for the future, similar to Sepp van den Berg, rather than a genuine option to play regularly next season, were that initial interest followed up on.
There’s every reason we should be looking inward rather than outward for the next addition to the back line, given how well our youngsters have performed in the cups this term.
Ki-Jana Hoever has already played right-back, left-back and centre-back for the first team and has all the talent in the world; he just needs experience, to continue learning the tactical side and to get a bit stronger as he grows.
Yasser Larouci is a converted winger who now plays left-back, where he debuted for the Reds against Everton and played in pre-season, but this term he has by necessity also played in attack for the U23s, both at right-wing and even centre-forward.
And although he has missed out this season due to injury, Adam Lewis remains a prospect who many were excited about six or 12 months ago. Getting back to full fitness is vital, as will be a loan spell across the next year at some point. He’s a left-back, but has also played left side of midfield and even central midfield.