With Danny Ings turning down a new contract and Liverpool holding a financial trump card over other clubs, it may be time to consider a return for the Southampton striker.
Ings has now entered the final year of his contract at St Mary’s and, according to The Athletic‘s David Ornstein, has turned down the offer of an extension.
Southampton had hoped to tie their No. 9 down to an improved deal, but Ings is said to have opted for “another chance to join a team competing towards the top of the table, either this summer or next.”
It would be a deserved move, having scored 46 goals in 100 appearances for the Saints since making the initial loan move to the south coast in 2018 – a deal which was made permanent for £20 million a year later.
He has forced his way back into the England reckoning, and though injury scuppered his chances of a place at the Euros, he has largely allayed concerns over long-term fitness issues over three consistent seasons with Southampton.
Man City, Man United and Tottenham have all been suggested as possible clubs for the 28-year-old, but if he is allowed to leave this summer, Liverpool should be in the frame, too.
There would be no wounds to heal for either side, with Ings having been granted his exit by a reluctant Jurgen Klopp, who praised him as a “footballer who has all the tools” and said “the biggest emotion is how much we will miss him.”
In fact, Klopp had hoped the striker would sign a new contract with Liverpool that summer in 2018, with Ings telling the Mail at the start of last year that “the best way to say it is that they didn’t push me out of the door.”
Ings added, though, that: “I just knew I had to go and make a name for myself and be the player I wanted to be.”
That objective, it is safe to say, has been accomplished at Southampton, with regular first-team football allowing him to prove he is worthy of a top club.
After back-to-back serious injuries, Liverpool just could not offer Ings the minutes he required at the time, but now, three years on, the landscape may have changed.
Roberto Firmino is far from a faded force, but turning 30 in October, it is abundantly clear that the Brazilian needs competition and support as part of Liverpool’s strike force.
Diogo Jota, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are all available as regulars in Klopp’s front line, and can all convincingly start up front rather than their natural roles out wide, but there are legitimate concerns elsewhere.
There is a clear lack of trust in Divock Origi, for example, who made the matchday squad on 38 occasions last season but was only given six starts, with his only goal coming against League One side Lincoln City in the third round of the League Cup.
Origi is one of a number of players available for transfer this summer, though it has been claimed that the Belgian could stay due to the difficulty in finding a player of his experience and quality at the right price.
Liverpool’s No. 27 is valued at between £15 million and £20 million, and that suggestion has already been undermined by moves for the likes of Patson Daka, Andre Silva, Jack Harrison and Milot Rashica around that price range or lower.
The Reds will have already identified possible replacements, but given Ings’ availability, it is reasonable to present him as an option.
Not only is Ings a proven goalscorer, but he is one of the hardest-working strikers in the Premier League, comfortable in a high-intensity pressing system having operated under both Klopp and Ralph Hasenhuttl.
His time under Klopp at Liverpool would negate any adjustment period that other possible signings may require, while he still enjoys a strong relationship with a number of players within the squad such as Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.
Most importantly, he could rekindle a productive connection with Klopp, who earmarked him as a player he was “really looking forward to coaching” as he studied his new squad before taking the job in 2015.
Ings is still the same player he was when he swapped Burnley for Liverpool in a deal that would break the record for a tribunal fee at £8 million, but now he is even more well-rounded.
The prospect of replacing Origi for a similar fee to that brought in may be considered tricky when it comes to Ings, particularly as it has been mooted that Southampton would find it “difficult to say no” to an offer between £25 million and £30 million.
Given Ings will be 29 by the time the season starts, that could be seen as too big a fee to shell out by many clubs, but in this respect, Liverpool have an advantage over the likes of City, United and Spurs.
When the Reds struck their loan-to-buy deal with Southampton in 2018, sporting director Michael Edwards negotiated a 20 percent sell-on clause in their contract – in effect, securing a fifth of the transfer fee were Southampton to move him on.
If City paid the Saints their £30 million asking price, then, Liverpool would be owed £6 million of that.
Negotiating a reunion, though, would effectively allow the Reds to knock 20 percent off any fee demanded; so £30 million would become £24 million, and £25 million would become £20 million.
Sell Origi and sign Ings, then? It could be a mutually beneficial deal, which could hand Ings an opportunity to finally prove himself at Anfield.