10 defensive midfield options for Liverpool if Fabinho and Henderson leave

In the space of a few chaotic hours, Liverpool found themselves facing the possibility of losing both Jordan Henderson and Fabinho to Saudi Arabia – so who would replace them?

Liverpool have reached an important juncture of the season, they have added two midfielders to their ranks but now face losing two of their most senior players in the position.

Henderson has accepted a three-year deal to join Steven Gerrard‘s Al Ettifaq, but no agreement has yet been made between the two clubs, while Fabinho is expected to be the subject of a £40 million bid from Al Ittihad.

There is plenty for Jurgen Klopp and Co. to weigh up, and if they did one or both of them, they need to ensure they have the right replacement/s ready to make the move.

So, here’s a look at 10 possible options.


Aurelien Tchouameni

2H05PWN Milano, Italy. 10th Oct, 2021. Aurelien Tchouameni of France in action during the Uefa Nations League final match between Spain and France at San Siro stadium in Milano (Italy), October 10th, 2021. Photo Andrea Staccioli/Insidefoto Credit: insidefoto srl/Alamy Live News

Age: 23
Club: Real Madrid

Have we been linked before? Yes, very much so! Last summer, Liverpool attempted to sign the Frenchman before his move to Real Madrid.

“The first [club] to come forward was Liverpool, we had discussions. Then Real arrived,” Tchouameni explained.

“We were going for a midfielder, but the midfielder decided to go to another club,” said Klopp last August.

Since then it has been speculated that Liverpool could go back in for the player following Real’s signing of Jude Bellingham.

With Modric, Kroos, Camavinga, Valverde and Bellingham, he certainly faces competition in Madrid.

How good is he? Very. You know that, Jurgen knows that! He’d certainly be an upgrade even on Fabinho.

Suitability? 10/10


Teun Koopmeiners

CARDIFF, WALES - Wednesday, June 8, 2022: Netherlands' Teun Koopmeiners (#20) celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Nations League Group A4 game between Wales and the Netherlands at the Cardiff City Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Age: 25
Club: Atalanta

Have we been linked before? Yes – as recently as April, the Dutchman was name-checked as a possible option for the club this summer.

It is no surprise that Liverpool have been described as admirers of the 25-year-old, there’s plenty to like.

How good is he? An imposing central midfielder who has traits to cover a number of roles across the middle of the pitch.

He can break up play and help his defence while also offering a goalscoring threat, a polished contributor who has the defensive capabilities to play in the Premier League.

Suitability? 8/10


Moises Caicedo

2JJ65BW Brighton and Hove Albion's Moises Caicedo during a pre-season friendly match at Select Car Leasing Stadium, Reading. Picture date: Saturday July 23, 2022.

Age: 21
Club: Brighton

Have we been linked before? If Liverpool weren’t, you’d be worried. We’ve been ‘keeping tabs’ but the price tag is consistently mentioned as being prohibitive. But if you want the right player for years to come, you have to be prepared to pay for them.

How good is he? Let’s put it this way, Liverpool should be doing all they can to get him. He can inject immediate quality into the midfield, a game-changer that does not come along all that often.

Suitability? 10/10


Ibrahim Sangare

2K6E3R8 EINDHOVEN - Ibrahim Sangare of PSV Eindhoven celebrates the 3-0 win during the UEFA Europa League Group A match between PSV Eindhoven and FC Zurich at Phillips stadium on October 13, 2022 in Eindhoven, Netherlands. ANP OLAF KRAAK

Age: 25
Club: PSV Eindhoven

Have we been linked before? When news of Tchouameni agreeing a deal with Real Madrid broke last June, it was reported that Liverpool scouts had been tracking Sangare.

He was said to be “firmly in the sights” for the Reds, with his attributes matching up nicely with Tchouameni’s.

How good is he? He is predominantly a defensive midfielder, which Liverpool would need if Fabinho departed and crucially, he would be affordable.

Nottingham Forest are interested and his price tag is reportedly in the region of £30 million. He is comfortable on the ball, strong in the air and adept at clearing his lines.

Is direct in his play and notably, is in his prime. Something Liverpool lacked in the position last season.

Suitability? 8/10


Khephren Thuram

2PMR441 Basel, St. Jakobs-Park, Switzerland. 13th Apr, 2023. UEFA Europa Conference League: FC Basel - OGC Nice, #19 Khephren Thuram (Nice) controls the ball (Photo by Daniela Porcelli/Just Pictures/Sipa USA) Credit: Sipa US/Alamy Live News

Age: 22
Club: Nice

Have we been linked before? All summer! A deal looked highly likely, but then we signed Dominik Szoboszlai and cooled our interest in Thuram.

How good is he? Lots of potential but certainly not a finished product. He’s also not really a defensive midfielder, he has played there but not extensively, so would be quite raw.

Suitability? 6/10


Romeo Lavia

Southampton's Romeo Lavia celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the Premier League match at St Mary's Stadium, Southampton. Picture date: Tuesday August 30, 2022 (Steven Paston/PA)

Age: 19
Club: Southampton

Have we been linked before? His name has been constantly mentioned since the Reds wrapped up the deals for Mac Allister and Szoboszlai! Interest is certainly there but without any firm movement in starting discussions with Southampton.

How good is he? There is a lot of potential, but at 19 he might not be one you would want to throw in straight away and rely on so heavily.

He lacks the experience Liverpool typically look for in younger signings but he will qualify as a homegrown player in the future which makes him a very attractive prospect.

Lavia ticks a lot of boxes, though. He is quick to the challenge, comfortable under pressure and is hard to beat in a challenge. Sounds good, right! The ideal Fabinho successor.

Suitability? 8/10


Florentino Luis

Florentino Luis of Benfica (Credit Image: © Pedro Fiuza/ZUMA Press Wire)

Age: 23
Club: Benfica

Have we been linked before? Nothing concrete, word of scouts in attendance of his games and a mention of ‘making checks’ but nothing beyond that.

How good is he? Is technically proficient and his ball-winning ability is readily lauded, his quick-decision making makes him an exciting defensive talent.

Has shown plenty of resilience to emerge as a mainstay for Benfica and at 23, he has a lot to offer in the present and in the long term.

Suitability? 8/10


Manu Kone

Manu Kone (France U21) (Image: Maurizio Borsari/AFLO/Alamy Live News)

Age: 22
Club: Gladbach

Have we been linked before? Quite a lot, although it has cooled significantly in recent weeks.

Talks took place with his representatives but we have not heard any more since he injured his knee while with France in the U21 Euros – it’s to see him sidelined for six weeks.

How good is he? At 22, he is a mainstay in the Borussia Monchengladbach midfield and has two years of experience under his belt.

A promising young player who breaks up play and gets his team moving forward – the concern will be his injury history, Liverpool do not need any more of that in midfield!

Suitability? 8/10


Joao Palhinha

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 6, 2022: Fulham's João Palhinha during the FA Premier League match between Fulham FC and Liverpool FC at Craven Cottage. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Age: 28
Club: Fulham

Have we been linked before? Back in March, Liverpool were credited with “serious” interest but we have heard little more since.

How good is he? He has plenty of experience, but at 28 he does not fit the long-term profile Liverpool will want if they’re parting ways with one or two of their veterans.

He’s strong when it comes to the defensive side of the game but he’s not nearly as impressive as others in this list when it comes to having the ball at his own feet.

Suitability? 5/10


Ryan Gravenberch

2NGHBM9 Paris, France - February 14: Ryan Gravenberch of Bayern Munchen thanks supporters for standing during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 leg one match between Paris Saint-Germain and FC Bayern Munchen at Parc des Princes on February 14, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Eurasia Sport Images) (Photo by Eurasia Sport Images/Just Pictures/Sipa USA)

Age: 21
Club: Bayern Munich

Have we been linked before? Quite consistently throughout the summer. Readily name-checked but has voiced his desire to fight for his place at Bayern.

How good is he? A versatile midfield player who is capable of playing in the defensive role but, like Thuram, is suited to a more advanced position.

Suitability? 6/10

Who would you like to see Liverpool sign? Let us know in the comments below.