Which recently linked centre-backs could join Liverpool?

Liverpool were already walking on thin ice after opting against buying a replacement for Dejan Lovren in the summer, but the recent injuries to all of their remaining senior centre backs have placed the Reds in crisis mode.

The month of October saw perennial starters Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez succumb to long-term injuries. In recent months, both Joel Matip and defensive fill-in Fabinho have also suffered spells on the sidelines.

For these reasons, we have seen Nat Phillips, Rhys Williams, Billy Koumetio, and even Jordan Henderson make appearances in the heart of defence.

For a team as ambitious as Liverpool, they simply can’t expect to win the Premier League and Champions League with inexperienced teenagers anchoring the backline.

However, reports indicate that Jurgen Klopp doesn’t feel that the side need to sign an emergency replacement. Nonetheless, let’s assess the likelihood that each of the recently linked centre backs actually makes the move to Merseyside.

Jurgen Klopp
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 30: Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool is interviewed prior to the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St. James’ Park on December 30, 2020 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY OWEN HUMPRHEYS – POOL/GETTY IMAGES.

Sven Botman

Rumours linking the 20-year old centre back from Lille really picked up pace in the past few weeks. The Dutchman is strong in the air and composed on the ball, presenting a tidy fit into Jurgen Klopp’s system.

Furthermore, the collapsed TV deal in France means that Lille are one of many clubs who will be struggling financially. Therefore, they could be willing to let their prized possession go for an affordable price.

Just as rumours had spiked following Botman’s cryptic Instagram post with his agent, reliable sources James Pearce and Fabrizio Romano recently indicated that Liverpool are not in negotiations with the French club.

Whether or not this is just a smokescreen (remember Thiago just a few months ago) or not, the transfer makes a lot of sense.

Likelihood: If anyone’s to come in, Botman seems the most likely.

Sven Botman has been linked with a move to Liverpool in recent weeks. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY LIVERPOOL.COM.

Dayot Upamecano

Upamecano has undeniably entered the elite category among European defenders.

The Frenchman is a product of the marvelled RB Leipzig development system. He boasts experience upon his years, tackles assertively, reads the game well, and possesses underrated, yet electrifying, pace.

Labelling Upamecano as an emergency replacement would be an insult to the 22-year-old’s skill, as he would likely emerge as a cornerstone of Liverpool’s squad.

With a €42 million release clause set to kick in next summer, Leipzig may be tempted to negotiate.

However, a move in January seems highly unlikely. Leipzig find themselves in the thick of the Bundesliga and Champions League competitions. The likelihood that they would sell perhaps their best player to the side they face in the Champions League round of 16 is low.

Likelihood: Highly unlikely in January, but watch out for the summer.

There are a series of striking similarities between the pair. Both are French, in their early 20’s and have already missed a season through injury. As a matter of fact, Upamecano’s injury led to Konate’s rise, while Konate’s led to Upamecano’s resurgence. In 2018/19, Konate made 27 league starts and one sub appearance. In 2019/20, Upamecano did the exact same. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY RB LEIPZIG.

Ben White

Links to White are not new, as the Brighton defender has popped up in the rumour mill for the better part of a year now.

The 23-year-old has many admirable modern-day centre back traits. He moves extremely well for someone his size and tackles quite well.

His versatility will also appeal to Jurgen Klopp, playing at centre back, right back, and in midfield for Brighton this season.

However, Brighton have held firm in their stance on White. Many clubs were interested in securing his services last summer, but Brighton are holding out for ₤50 million.

At this point, the only thing stopping a transfer to one of many interested clubs is the price tag. In this current climate, there’s seemingly no chance that Liverpool pay that sort of money.

Likelihood: At that price, almost 0.

His versatility will also appeal to Jurgen Klopp, playing at centre back, right back, and in midfield for Brighton this season. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY SKY SPORTS.

Ozan Kabak

The Turkish defender is another centre back who has been linked with Liverpool for a while now.

The 20-year old has displayed quite a bit of potential, quickly becoming a household name for both Schalke and the Turkey national team.

Kabak’s best trait is his athleticism, as his mix of power and speed can be used to stymie the opposition’s attack. Still young, the Schalke defender still needs to develop better positional awareness and gain more experience.

Furthermore, he is at the heart of a defence of a side that is yet to win a Bundesliga game this season. Will Jurgen Klopp trust the Turk to completely switch his expectations mid-season? Furthermore, you would think Schalke would want all hands on deck to salvage their first division fates.

Likelihood: Unlikely in January, but much more likely in the summer.

GELSENKIRCHEN, GERMANY – DECEMBER 21: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) Ozan Kabak of FC Schalke 04 controls the ball during the Bundesliga match between FC Schalke 04 and Sport-Club Freiburg at Veltins-Arena on December 21, 2019 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY TF-IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES.

Perr Schurrs

Schurrs follows a similar model to Kabak. Just 21, the Dutch defender has broken through Ajax’s esteemed academy and has joined the first team.

Schurrs impressed in the two matches against Liverpool in the Champions League. Unlike Kabak, he is more of a natural defender and doesn’t tend to rely on athleticism.

His tackling ability really catches the eye, making up for any lack of speed.  Furthermore, his height allows him to win the majority of aerial duels. His upbringing in the Ajax academy has also instilled the obligatory ability to play out of the back.

Once again, Schurrs could still use more first-team experience. Ajax have never been shy to sell their players for the right price, so a considerable offer from Liverpool could see this through. However, Michael Edwards and co. shouldn’t expect a discount.

Likelihood: Probably not, unless Liverpool are willing to pay up

Other names to look out for

With all of the aforementioned transfers each facing obstacles, don’t be surprised if Liverpool look elsewhere.

Some more unfamiliar names that have been linked include Braga’s David Coman, RB Salzburg’s Maximilian Wober, and Torino’s Gleison Bremer.

Quite frankly, I wouldn’t be shocked if Liverpool were to sign a defender whose name we haven’t yet seen rumoured. Michael Edwards has previously opted for a more secretive approach to transfers.

A real wildcard would be David Alaba, with recent reports suggesting that Liverpool are hot on the Austrian’s heels. It has become clear that the 28-year-old will leave Bayern Munich after his contract expires this summer for another top European side. Could a famous Jurgen Klopp phone call convince Alaba of Liverpool’s project and expedite his departure?

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