Liverpool have made something of a habit of signing players in recent seasons from teams who are either close to the bottom or facing relegation; this year there are several who might fit the bill to do the same.
Jurgen Klopp, Michael Edwards and Co. aren’t afraid of looking further down the table to find the value and quality to help the Reds.
Three years ago, the Reds landed Andy Robertson from Hull after they had dropped down into the Championship, while the following campaign, Xherdan Shaqiri had signed from Stoke—who were also relegated.
Turn the clocks back even further and in 2016 Gini Wijnaldum was the man spared the ignominy of second-tier football, with the Dutchman going on to be a key part of the Reds’ team since.
The moves all go to show that the squad can be bolstered and even world-class players developed without spending at the top end of the market from Champions League rivals every time.
So who could Liverpool turn to this year? We’ve identified the most likely candidates from each of the teams at the bottom—though at most it’s likely to be one, if any, that make the grade as the final choice for our transfer team.
Starting at the bottom of the table, oddly, yields the highest number of potential candidates.
The Canaries are a fantastic footballing side who have been let down by poor defensive work, injury issues and a lack of clinical edge in key games—but individually, there’s plenty to admire.
At full-back, both Jamal Lewis on the left and Max Aarons on the right represent exciting, attack-minded youngsters who could be developed into more rounded players; it’s perhaps the Northern Irishman who would be more likely, given the line of succession from Trent Alexander-Arnold to Neco Williams looks locked down for now on the right, but Lewis still needs plenty of work on his defensive acumen and timing of his runs.
Further forward, two creative talents look more than capable of playing a key role in the Reds’ system: Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell.
Buendia is the more experienced player, a scheming link man between the lines, but as the Reds don’t really play with a No. 10 he’d only really be an option for Klopp from wide.
Cantwell has attracted huge amounts of interest from the top end of the league and has the aggression in his game, the physicality and stamina, to play either as a No. 8 or a supporting option from wide.
An English player, there’d be a premium on his price, but he’s almost certain to remain a Premier League player if Norwich do suffer a drop.
Villa have a small handful who have been either linked with the top end of the league or else look to have the technical qualities to handle it, but none seem absolutely perfect for Liverpool in truth.
Jack Grealish is the obvious big-name player, but the captain will command a massive fee and isn’t a perfect mould for the way the Reds play. Undoubtedly skilful and having improved with his end product, he’d nonetheless block Curtis Jones‘ pathway without really offer the necessary upgrade to the team that his price tag should command for a 24-year-old.
A pair of midfield Villains are the other potential targets.
John McGinn won plenty of admirers for his all-round game early in the season, but at 25 and having suffered a bad ankle injury mid-season it’s unlikely the Reds would make a move.
He’s combative, classy in possession and knows where the goal is, but better than Keita, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Henderson? Probably not.
In a more destructive capacity, Douglas Luiz is potentially excellent and would be one for the coming years rather than an immediate starter, but he’s also one who might be best-served by another year of regular game time.
If he’s on the Reds’ radar, the most sensible approach would be buying with a view to loaning him to a Premier League club for a year or two.
Nathan Ake could be ideal: versatile, left-sided in defence, capable of playing in midfield, good aerially, combative, decent pace and a good passer out from the back.
On the downside, he’s their most precious asset in sale terms and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him command a £40-50 million fee. Given his best role is the same one Virgil van Dijk operates in, that makes it a non-starter unless he’s very open to being moved around a lot.
Philip Billing would be an outside bet; he hasn’t shown his best in a poor Cherries side this term, but he’s a strong and capable midfielder who, at 23, can still go on another level or two.
A ball-winner and -carrier, but not of the class and elegance to be a starter for Klopp.
Outside the drop zone
That’s the bottom three, but a few teams just above the drop zone have the odd player the Reds may consider.
At Watford, Adam Masina would be an entirely serviceable option as competition for Robertson at left-back, with solid across-the-board traits and probably a reasonable transfer valuation.
Attacking team-mate Ismaila Sarr has already shown Liverpool fans what he can do, but consistency remains his biggest weakness. Put his game together on a weekly basis and the wide man is easily capable of playing for a Champions League team.
West Ham should, by the strength of their XI, get themselves out of danger—but the team was in shocking form before the season was postponed.
Felipe Anderson is their best attacking talent, an offensive midfielder right across the line who can also play as a second forward, but he would cost a huge sum. He wouldn’t be a starter ahead of the Reds’ current trio in attack.
Declan Rice‘s star has faded somewhat this season but there’s a talented holding midfielder there to be found with the right coaching and system, while centre-back Issa Diop has every major attribute desirable in a modern defender.
He’d be another who would cost a fortune, but there’s enough time and talent there to make it worthwhile for a better team than the Hammers.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Ben White has been linked with the Reds, currently playing at Leeds on loan from Brighton.
We shouldn’t limit our options to just inside the Premier League, either—so here are the best of the players in danger of relegation from around the Continent’s top leagues.
Mounir Chouiar — Attacking midfielder — Dijon. Left side or through the middle, he has shown great talent this season with his one-on-one dribbling and ability to fashion chances for himself and others in Ligue 1. A summer transfer is definitely on the cards for the 21-year-old, whether Dijon survive or not.
Wesley Fofana — Centre-back — Saint-Etienne. A teenage defender who made the breakthrough in late 2019 and has quickly impressed, keeping his place in the team. One of the future but lots to like about his game already.
Sandro Tonali — Central midfielder — Brescia. More chance of the Reds re-signing Tonali’s team-mate Mario Balotelli than of Tonali himself staying at Brescia if they go down. Nine points from safety, that’s probably what will happen. He’s brilliant technically, has lots of game intelligence and has been likened by some to Andrea Pirlo. Think the best of the legend’s deep-passing game, but add in lots of frequent bursting runs through the centre right into the attacking line.
Milot Rashica — Attacking midfielder — Werder Bremen. You’ll have seen him linked with the Reds recently…and mentioned as one for the Reds to consider in this column last summer. Great talent, very versatile, linked with Leipzig as a possible Timo Werner replacement.
Noah Katterbach — Left-back — Koln. We’ll finish on a Bundesliga left-back, with the 19-year-old another one to look at as a development option: lots of talent, but a finishing touch required on an at-times raw approach.
There’s never any shortage of quality to add, even to the finest team in world football!