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.
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.
?? Ko Itakura, one to watch in 2024 as top clubs are monitoring Japanese CB.
Understand Liverpool have sent their scouts multiple times to follow Itakura’s performances.
Tottenham also monitored him as Ange Postecoglou wanted Ko at Celtic.
Release clause NOT valid in January. pic.twitter.com/E6Ce08dAd4
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) January 1, 2024
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.
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.
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.