Liverpool’s defensive deficiencies were exposed again in the FA Cup defeat at Manchester United – but the club do appear to be searching for a solution.
Much was made of Klopp’s comments last week that he couldn’t spend the money and choose to bring in a defender he wants, though the media furore over that was misplaced.
The boss was simply highlighting that it wasn’t he who was in charge of the final say of spending funds, with his remit in the transfer process to make recommendations and then let those in the hierarchy wield their magic.
That appears to rule out a big senior signing this window, with the pandemic playing havoc with clubs’ finances, but a shorter-term solution could be an acceptable compromise.
A loan or free transfer signing would bridge the gap through to summer and give Klopp an extra senior option at the back, which would in turn either free up one of the midfielders to move back upfield or else offer protection for Joel Matip‘s fragile physical state and Rhys Williams‘ learning curve.
To that end, it’s an intriguing note that the Reds contacted former Arsenal defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who was released on a free transfer by the Gunners last week.
The Greek defender used to play under Klopp at Dortmund and, as noted recently, the Reds would have to free up a non-homegrown spot at the club if he, or another overseas signing, were to join.
However, Sokratis is reportedly set to join Olympiacos – but “Liverpool made contact towards the end of last week” according to the Athletic.
In contradiction, the report also says Liverpool still have “no plans to enter the market” – and the conversation with Sokratis was “not thought to have progressed past checking on his situation”.
It’s a slightly bizarre line of reasoning, as the club would hardly have been ringing for a social chat, and instead points to them considering every option on the table – as they absolutely should be doing.
While the Greek veteran wouldn’t exactly be an ideal fit, there may come a time when a mere warm, experienced body makes more sense than plugging away with out-of-position players, especially if Matip picks up any more injuries.
Sokratis isn’t the only free agent on the market, with Ezequiel Garay also available. Perhaps more intriguingly, another of Klopp’s former Dortmund defenders also became a free agent only last week.
Neven Subotic was a mainstay of Klopp’s backline at the Westfalenstadion and the now-32-year-old parted ways with Turkish club Denizlispor after missed salary payments. He was not a regular with the SuperLig club, not playing a full league 90 minutes since November, and last season was with Union Berlin in the Bundesliga, where Loris Karius and Taiwo Awoniyi are now on loan.
The alternative for the Reds is to consider a loan move for an out-of-favour defender.
Mateo Musacchio only made his first Serie A appearance off the bench for AC Milan this past weekend and they have just signed Fikayo Tomori from Chelsea, further reducing the need for the Argentine who is out of contract at the end of the season.
Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti has also barely been involved until this past weekend and is largely out of favour at the Camp Nou, while elsewhere a promising young talent such as Bayern’s Chris Richards could be a left-field consideration to offer game time for half a season.
Whatever the chosen outcome, it is clear that bringing in someone could have profound effects on the season and the team, and not adding any defensive options could prove to be far more costly than the ‘sunk cost’ of a short-term deal in the difficult January transfer window.