With Liverpool humiliated into walking away from any potential deal to sign Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk, their issues in defence have come to the fore once again.
The Reds had become the favourites to sign the Dutch international in a deal that could have been worth potentially £50-60m, but those same reports became the foundation on which Southampton threatened to report Liverpool to the Premier League. Liverpool released a statement on Wednesday evening apologising to Southampton for any misunderstanding, and pledging to drop their interest in the 25-year-old.
With Liverpool still needing a centre-back, and seemingly with plenty of money to sign one, who now can they turn to in order to strengthen their squad this summer?
Stefan de Vrij (Lazio)
Van Dijk’s international teammate, Lazio’s Stefan de Vrij could be a man on the move this summer. The 25-year-old was linked with a move to Chelsea last summer, but ultimately decided to remain in Serie A. However, he has just one year left on his current contract, which could have a huge bearing on his value. Juventus are also thought to be interested, but the chance to play more regular first-team football at Anfield (coupled with Juve’s interest in Marquinhos also) may turn his head.
Juventus are also thought to be interested, but the chance to play more regular first-team football at Anfield (coupled with Juve’s interest in Marquinhos also) may turn his head.
Michael Keane (Burnley)
A deal to take Michael Keane back to former club Manchester United looked a formality just a few short weeks ago, but those reports have gone very quiet since the rumours of a pursuit for Benfica defender Victor Lindelof came rushing back to the fore.
That may allow Liverpool to sneak back in for the England international, who has reportedly already told his club that he wants to leave this summer.
Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)
Another player strongly linked with Chelsea last season, Koulibaly would cost every bit as much as Van Dijk would have should Liverpool decide to come calling for the Senegal international. The Serie A side were demanding £50m for his services last summer, and a new five-year deal signed in September last year would only have strengthened their hand in any potential negotiations.
It’s unlikely, and for Liverpool to have any hope of getting him he probably would have had to be their first choice from day one.
Kostas Manolas (Roma)
Staying in Serie A and while Liverpool have been in negotiation with Roma for Mohamed Salah, another name has cropped up recently as far as reports go. Manolas was heavily linked with a move to Arsenal last summer, and while the Gunners eventually decided to sign Shkodran Mustafi, Kostas Manolas has been tenuously linked with a move to England again this year.
Roma would probably do business if the price is right, and with two years on Manolas’ contract (as is the case with Salah) the Serie A side are running out of time to maximise value, but it remains to be seen how big an offer would be needed to persuade them to sell.
Aymeric Laporte (Athletic Bilbao)
The former French international looked nailed-on for a €50m move to Manchester City last summer, even though he was recovering from a broken leg at the time. That move never materialised, and a new contract has since seen his release clause rise to €65m.
However, with the departure of Club Athletic manager Ernesto Valverde and a poor domestic season for the club may see Laporte’s head turned with the right offer. As strong in the air as he is in the ground, the 23-year-old is still on a steady progression to be a full France international (or Spanish, depending on who wins to race to cap him first) in the near future, and would be a fine signing for most big European teams.
On this week’s edition of the Mixer Irish Football podcast, we spoke to former Ireland international Joe Gamble as well as looking ahead to Martin O’Neill’s side’s clash against Austria this weekend.