A rundown on Liverpool’s centre-back options

Anfield Central dropped the exclusive news yesterday that Liverpool are going to try to sign a centre-back in the coming days. Since then, a whole host of names have been linked.

Among them were the exciting young duo Ibrahima Konate and Sven Botman, USMNT star Aaron Long and Premier League pair Shkodran Mustafi and Issa Diop.

Jurgen Klopp has made it clear that the club ideally wants to sign someone for the long term. Yet he has acknowledged that if this option is not financially possible, a short-term fix will be considered.

As we all know, Liverpool have a total of zero fit senior centre-backs available at the moment. The fourth option, midfielder Fabinho, is also injured.

So that leaves midfielder Jordan Henderson as well as youngsters Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams.

It is clear that the club has to find someone. Other sides will take advantage of Liverpool’s desperation and will try to drive the price of their defenders up.

The five mentioned above are the most likely acquisitions at this stage.

They are five completely different profiles, so it is interesting to see which way the transfer committee decides to go.

It could be the likes of Long or Mustafi, who come in until the end of the season then leave when Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are fit again.

Or it could be a Konate or a Botman, who signs with the view of becoming Liverpool’s first-choice centre-back for the next decade.

Issa Diop seems to sit somewhere in the middle.

Here, we will give a quick rundown of each option.

Shkodran Mustafi – the likely last resort

Truth be told, Mustafi isn’t that much better than Phillips or Williams. The issue is that, at 19-years-old, Williams could have an excellent future ahead of him. A costly mistake this season could well mean that he never reaches his potential. It is best that he does not play again until he is ready. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY GOAL.

The first man we will talk about is Arsenal outcast Shkodran Mustafi. The German has been linked to Liverpool by the Sunday World this weekend.

Mustafi is certainly the least preferred option by Liverpool fans. He has drawn comparison to the much-maligned Dejan Lovren for some of his defensive lapses at the Emirates.

While he looks okay statistically, the 28-year-old has a tendency to fall asleep on the pitch and do something completely ridiculous. The fact that he cannot get a game for an Arsenal side that struggles at the back tells you all you need to know.

However, Mustafi is likely to come cheap and it was only a few short years ago that he was a very decent player. He does have a World Cup winners medal after all.

It’s possible that he comes in and does relatively ok for a few months before leaving in the summer.

The ex-Everton player is absolutely a last resort. Yet the fact that FSG are so determined to spend as little as possible makes Mustafi the most likely candidate at this stage.

Aaron Long – a marriage of convenience?

Long has only become a regular MLS player in the last few years. He has rapidly improved since 2017, earning himself 18 caps for the national side. He also captains the USMNT when just MLS players are selected. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY FOX SPORTS.

Next up is New York Red Bulls centre-back Aaron Long. The USMNT defender is someone that has been brought up by ESPN in recent days. The outlet claims that Jurgen Klopp has his eye on Long and wants to bring him in on loan.

The MLS season ended in December and will not return until April 3. This means that Long will be available to go on loan to a club in Europe before the February 1 deadline.

It is possible that he will follow in the footsteps of Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Thierry Henry by making a short-term January switch to Europe.

If this were the case, the 28-year-old would probably have to go back Stateside at the end of March. That is unless Liverpool managed to convince the Red Bulls to let him stay in England until the end of the Premier League season.

Liverpool’s American owners will know that MLS loans are available, and Long is possibly the best centre-back in the league.

In the 2020 season, he made 1.15 tackles per game. He completed 76.1% of his passes and won 73.2% of his aerial duels. These are solid enough numbers if unspectacular.

The 28-year-old may not be the best defender in the world, but at least he won’t immediately be striking fear into the hearts of Liverpool fans like Mustafi would.

So yes, it would be a temporary marriage of convenience, and a risky one at that. But if the club really cannot afford a big-money move, then Aaron Long is not a bad option.

Issa Diop – can he get back on track at Anfield?

France have developed a habit of producing elite young centre-backs in recent years. A move to Liverpool could help Issa Diop remind people that he deserves a mention among the very best of them. ALL RIGHT RESERVED BY BLEACHER REPORT.

French outlet Foot Mercato have today reported that Issa Diop is the latest defender to be contacted by Liverpool.

Diop’s West Ham career has stumbled in the last year or so, but he remains a very promising defender.

The Frenchman was seen as a massive coup for the Irons when they signed him from Toulouse in 2018. He was outstanding in Ligue 1 as a 19-year-old and had a host of top clubs after him.

Diop chose West Ham and had a very promising start there. He started 33 Premier League games in 2018/19 and looked outstanding.

He made 3.5 tackles and interceptions per 90, completed 85.3% of his passes and won 67.7% of his aerial duels. Diop retained those numbers for the most part in 2019/20, but errors began to creep into his game.

He has since fallen behind Craig Dawson and Angelo Ogbonna in the pecking order at West Ham, so the Londoners will probably be open to letting him leave.

He clearly has the physical characteristics to be a top centre-back, but he needs to eradicate the mistakes from his game.

At 24, he is a lot more likely to do this than an older player like Mustafi.

A loan-to-buy option would be smart, provided the price in the summer is £20m or less.

Best case scenario is that he shows why he was so highly rated and explodes into a phenomenal centre-back. At worst, he will be decent this season and progress into a good defender who could be third or fourth choice for years to come.

Sven Botman – Europe’s best young centre-back?

Botman falls into the category of a short-term and long-term fix. He is good enough to play right now but also young enough to be the long-term successor to Virgil van Dijk. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY FOOTBALL FANCAST.

The fourth option we will speak about is Sven Botman. Liverpool were seemingly very interested in his services at the beginning of the month before a deal seemed to peter out due to FSG’s reluctance to spend big on him.

Now the Sunday World are reporting that the club are likely to revive their interest in the Dutchman.

The young defender is only half a season into his Lille career having joined from Ajax for €8m in August.

He was incredibly impressive on loan at Heerenveen in 2019/20 despite being just 19 for a lot of the season. This encouraged the famously transfer-wise Ligue 1 side to take him to France.

He has since gone from strength to strength, playing a crucial role in Les Dogues sitting level on points with PSG at the time of writing.

It is incredibly rare to see a 21-year-old centre-back performing as well as Botman is in a top European league. At 6’4″, the Dutchman is an impressive physical specimen. Yet unlike most his age, Botman has already filled out and is incredibly powerful.

A left-footer, Botman has completed a massive 87.5% of his passes. He completes 10.4 long passes per 90 and wins 70.2% of his aerial duels.

It is clear that he is going to be one of the very best centre-backs around in a few short years.

If Liverpool do decide to bring forward their summer plans, Sven Botman will be worth it. Even if it means having to pay a few million pounds extra.

Besides, the last Dutch centre-back we signed in January didn’t turn out too bad did he?

Ibrahima Konate – Leipzig’s other young French centre-back

While Dayot Upamecano is also of interest to Liverpool, he seems likely to head to Bayern. In fact, his countryman and club teammate Konate might even prove to be a better player in the long run. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY FOOT MERCATO.

Finally, we come to RB Leipzig’s Ibrahima Konate. We reported on Liverpool’s interest in him back in early December, while highlighting the fact that he would be an excellent option for the club as long ago as July.

Christian Falk has since reported that Konate has a €40m release clause that comes into play this summer, which has interested Liverpool. This means that the Reds are more likely to go for him later in the year.

However, the latest crisis might mean that they decide to bring forward this deal and try to get him in this weekend.

We went into detail about Konate in the aforementioned December article, but in short, he is a fantastic defender. He is already performing excellently at a top team, but the fact that he is only 21 means that there is heaps of improvement in him yet.

RB Leipzig won’t want to sell to Liverpool because the sides face each other in the Champions League last 16 next month.

Yet surely they would rather sell for £50m now than £40m in the summer. Especially when they have Upamecano, Willi Orban, Nordi Mukiele, Marcel Halstenberg and Lukas Klostermann, as well as strong links to Mohammed Simakan, who can all play at centre-back.

It is unlikely that Koante is the one that Liverpool go for at this moment in time. Yet if he is someone that the club intends to sign anyway, they may as well try to get him now when he is most needed. Even if it does mean spending an extra €10m or so on him.

£45m for a player as good as Konate is really a bargain. It would be best for Liverpool if they pushed hard for him in the next few days.

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