Given there is certainly no shortage of defensive options at Liverpool right now, it may seem strange to even consider looking to sign another centre-back. However, what the Reds have available in quantity may not ultimately provide the quality needed.
The Virgil van Dijk Dilemma
After the horror challenge by Everton keeper Jordan Pickford left Virgil van Dijk writhing in agony, everyone was already fearing the worst. Just one day after that fateful Merseyside derby in October, the Dutchman was diagnosed with an ACL injury. It was severe enough that, even if his rehabilitation goes well, he could remain out of action for the rest of the season.
Having suffered such a devastating injury, there’s always the doubt whether van Dijk will return as quite the same player. Hopefully, he will. His absence has certainly been felt as Liverpool have faltered to regain the title won magnificently last season. This injury left Jürgen Klopp forced to shuffle the pack, amongst options that could never fill such a gaping hole.
Liverpool without Van Dijk…
We know losing a player of Van Dijk’s calibre will leave a hole in any team, but what are the knock-on effects?@AFHStewart explains@TelstarDesigns illustrateshttps://t.co/Ga2cgsreii pic.twitter.com/36uJLfBTO3
— Tifo Football (@TifoFootball_) February 5, 2021
With the odds on Premier League success being repeated this year already fading down to 22/1, Liverpool desperately needed reinforcements in the heart of defence. 20-year-old Turkish international Ozan Kabak joined on loan, in a deal that includes an option to buy clause valued at more than £18 million. Ben Davies also arrived from Preston North End, in a surprise bargain move that could be worth just over £1 million.
Both add to the options available, including Rhys Williams, Joe Gomez, Nathaniel Phillips, and Joel Matip. However, with Klopp being dealt injury blows to the more experienced members of that quartet of players, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho have been switched from their more habitual midfield roles. Unless the two new additions make an immediate and important impact between now and the end of the season, Liverpool may need to go shopping for centre-backs again.
World Class Options Available in La Liga
Finding players that can match the quality of Virgil van Dijk will certainly be no easy task but, if Liverpool do find themselves in the market for another central defender, some of the best options right now are plying their trade in Spain’s La Liga. All the options we’re going to look at are exceptionally talented, capable of adapting to football in the Premier League.
The youngest option is Sevilla centre-back Jules Koundé, with the 22-year-old having already made a remarkable impact in Spain and Europe. His current club shelled out €25 million when they signed him from Bordeaux in 2019, with sporting director Monchi renowned for spotting amazing talents. Koundé would be an expensive signing, but he can already be considered world-class if Liverpool are prepared to spend big.
JULES KOUNDE BY HIMSELF 🤯🔥 pic.twitter.com/4cS367hmuN
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 10, 2021
Whenever his contract is up for renewal at Real Madrid, there are always rumours that captain Sergio Ramos is finally going to leave the Spanish giants. However, this time it might actually happen, given the 34-year-old wants a longer deal than he’s currently being offered, while club president Florentino Pérez won’t be held to ransom. Ramos is out of contract in the summer, which makes this vastly experienced player a fantastic free transfer target.
Along with the doubts about the future of Ramos in Madrid, central defensive partner Raphaël Varane is also pondering his future. The 27-year-old French international has a current deal which runs until 2022 but renewal negotiations have stalled. This could leave Real Madrid forced to sell in the summer if the player hasn’t put pen to paper on a new deal.
Stick or Twist in Summer?
Much will depend on how well Ozan Kabak and Ben Davis perform, of course, but it’s hard to shake the sensation that, come the summer, Liverpool will be shopping for more defensive reinforcements. They could do a lot worse than grabbing any one of these three fantastic centre-backs playing in La Liga if current options aren’t up to scratch before Virgil van Dijk returns to action.