Schalke are claimed to be willing to sell Liverpool-linked centre-back Ozan Kabak for around €20 million, while his stand-in during suspension is also on the Reds’ radar.
Kabak is currently four games into a five-game ban after being adjudged to have spat at Werder Bremen left-back Ludwig Augustinsson in Schalke’s 3-1 away loss in September.
The Turk insisted it was “an accident,” and that “the TV angle gives a deceptive view of the incident,” vowing that he “never did that before and won’t do it in the future.”
In his absence, however, the 19-year-old Malick Thiaw has emerged as a new favourite in Gelsenkirchen, aided by the opening goal in his second consecutive start – a 1-1 draw with Stuttgart last time out.
Thiaw is likely to keep his place for the trip to Mainz on Saturday, and it remains to be seen whether Kabak will be immediately reinstated on his return to eligibility.
It could provide a natural transition as Thiaw continues to partner Matija Nastasic and Salif Sane at the back, with BILD now claiming Schalke will not rule out the high-profile sale in January, and that Kabak is the “hottest candidate.”
Schalke’s sporting director Jochen Schneider told WAZ earlier this week that the 20-year-old was subject of a bid from AC Milan “at the very end of the transfer period in the summer,” which he rejected as “out of the question” due to the timing.
BILD reference this, but add that while Milan’s offer of around €20 million was turned down, an acceptance that clubs are unlikely to meet the €45 million release clause that kicks in next summer could see Schalke accept a similar bid in January.
They argue that his relative low profile as a four-cap Turkey international and the financial restrictions during the pandemic could inform Schalke’s decision.
So may the form of Thiaw, who they believe has “proven that he can prevail in the Bundesliga,” and, interestingly, BILD hold up the claim that Liverpool are regularly scouting the teenager as evidence of his ability.
It remains to be seen whether Kabak will emerge as a genuine target for the Reds, but a potential deal worth around £18 million could be an enticing one for a talent of his calibre, particularly in the wake of a glut of injury problems at the back.
Without Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Joel Matip, Jurgen Klopp has seen both Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams excel alongside Joe Gomez, and it is unclear whether he would want another option at the back.
Perhaps Liverpool will play the game and maintain their interest in Thiaw instead, with this not the first time he has been linked with a switch to Anfield.
That came back in March, before he signed his first professional contract in the summer.