SOUVENIR PROGRAMME

DOHA, QATAR - Wednesday, November 23, 2022: Japan's Ko Itakura during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match between Germany and Japan at the Khalifa International Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool scouting ex-Man City centre-back with release clause at Bundesliga club

Liverpool are understood to be scouting Borussia Monchengladbach centre-back, and Wataru Endo‘s Japan team-mate, Ko Itakura ahead of the summer.

While Liverpool are not expected to make a move for a defender in January – nor any position, for that matter – plans are already in motion for the next window.

Joel Matip is currently sidelined with an ACL injury, and though Jurgen Klopp has expressed his hope for a contract extension for his No. 32, the chances are he has played his last game for the club.

If Matip does depart on a free transfer in the summer, that would leave Liverpool with a centre-back group of Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konate, Jarell Quansah and Joe Gomez.

Gomez has shown his quality at both right-back and left-back this season, and that versatility makes replacing Matip all the more important.

According to journalist Fabrizio Romano, Liverpool scouts have watched Gladbach centre-back Itakura “multiple times” this season.

Itakura, who will turned 27 later this month, has been tipped to move to a “top club” at the end of the season, with Tottenham also credited with an interest.

There is said to be a release clause in his contract at Gladbach, but it is “not valid” in January and there are no details when it comes to a fee.

But suggestions of interest from Anfield are worth noting for a number of reasons, namely due to current sporting director Jorg Schmadtke’s connections.

While Schmadtke, who is slated to leave Liverpool at the end of the season, has not worked directly for Gladbach, his son, Nils, was appointed sporting director for the club in June.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 3, 2023: Liverpool's Wataru Endo celebrates after scoring the third goal to equalise and level the score at 3-3 during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. Liverpol won 4-3. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Furthermore, the Reds have seen success in signing Japanese players in recent years, most notably with the summer arrival of Endo from Stuttgart.

Endo was a low-profile acquisition at £16 million, and despite low expectations, the 30-year-old has cemented himself as a key player as the season wears on.

Liverpool’s new No. 3 is Itakura’s captain in the Japan national team, and the pair will both depart for the Asian Cup later this week, which would provide more opportunity for club scouts to track the defender.

DOHA, QATAR - Wednesday, November 23, 2022: Japan's Ko Itakura during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match between Germany and Japan at the Khalifa International Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Itakura would have no issue with gaining a work permit to play in the UK, and in fact was already on the books at Man City for three years, though spent his entire time out on loan.

He joined Man City from Kawasaki Frontale in 2019, before loan spells with Groningen and Schalke led him to join Gladbach on a €5 million deal in 2022.

Though right-footed, Itakura has often played as a left-sided centre-back, while he is also capable of operating as a defensive midfielder.