With Liverpool’s interest in Southampton star Virgil Van Dijk seemingly dead in the water, the Anfield faithful must be wondering who to turn to next in a bid to solve their defensive frailties.
The Reds were forced to apologise to Southampton earlier this month, after it was alleged that they may have made an illegal approach to sign the Dutchman for a club-record fee.
Initially, this appeared to scupper Jurgen Klopp’s plans to revamp his back-line ahead of next season.
However, two weeks have now passed and it seems Jurgen Klopp remains keen to sign the ex-Celtic centreback, with some sources expecting the club to renew their interest in the £50 million-rated player.
And while there is no questioning that the Saints captain has the quality to become a real big-time player on Merseyside, we’ve been racking our brains as to which players may be better suited or simply more financially viable.
Here is what we came up with…
1. Michael Keane
Keane’s fairy tale return to Old Trafford was scuppered when Manchester United completed the signing of Victor Lindelof from Benfica for £30.8million last week – something Liverpool should definitely be looking to take advantage of.
The Burnley defender had a fantastic season under Sean Dyche, however, he remains keen to seal a move away from Turf Moor and Anfield could be the perfect setting.
If Keane can stomach the criticism that will undoubtedly come his way as a former United player, the 24-year-old could reach new heights in a Liverpool shirt.
Keane has his best years ahead of him and has bags of Premier League experience to call upon when the going gets tough.
The defender’s contract runs out at the end of next season, meaning Burnley will risk losing him for nothing if they don’t find an ideal suitor this summer.
2. Davinson Sanchez
A lesser known quality than Keane, and therefore a player who should be more economically viable, is Ajax defender Davinson Sanchez.
The 21-year-old was simply fantastic in the Dutch Eredivisie last season, in fact he looked unstoppable as Ajax made it all the way to the Europa League final – an achievement which has alerted Barcelona to his progress.
Sanchez completed 90% of his passes last term and covered an average distance of 21.5m per-game, two stats which will surely intrigue Klopp, as he looks to build a sturdy and efficient base to his defence.
Sanchez signed for Ajax for £4 million last summer and if Liverpool can act quickly, they could get the player for a fraction of the price quoted for Van Dijk.
3. Jonathan Tah
Like all of the players on this list, Tah still has room to improve.
However the 21-year-old has already made three senior appearances for the German national team – so he must have something special.
Tah has won around 60% of his aerial duels during his Bundesliga career, making him one of the most dominant defenders in the division – much like a player he if often compared to, Jerome Boateng.
The Bayer Leverkusen star would also be available for a fraction of what Van Dijk would cost, and while he isn’t the finished article, Klopp could easily work his magic here.
Tah is a player who is both defensively sound and a physical freak, who only needs to work on his passing and positioning to become an elite centre-back.
Liverpool should jump at the chance to sign a talent like Tah, before Europe’s super clubs (Bayern Munich) come calling in a season or two.
4. Raphaël Varane
For most Liverpool fans, the prospect of signing a player who has just won the La Liga title and the Champions League with Real Madrid seems simply unfathomable.
However, the Frenchman played just 25 domestic games for Madrid last season, mainly due to injury and suspension.
With Pepe headed for the Bernabeu exit, will Zinedine Zidane put his faith in the 24-year-old to line-up alongside the colossal Sergio Ramos week-in and week-out?
Or will Zizou splash the cash to replace the outgoing Portuguese, especially with Madrid linked with Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci in recent days.
Madrid’s loss would undoubtedly be Liverpool’s gain and with Varane rejecting Manchester United earlier in his career, the defender would undoubtedly earn a cult-following at Anfield.
He’s a fantastic talent and one who refuses to shrink on the biggest stage, something Liverpool’s back line has lacked since Jamie Carragher hung up his boots.
5. Kalidou Koulibaly
Chelsea’s interest in the Napoli defender was splashed across every back page last summer, however, Antonio Conte decided to re-sign David Luiz instead of the highly-rated Koulibaly.
The Senegal international has been impressing in Serie A for several years, having helped Napoli boast the third best defence in Italy last term.
However, if Liverpool are to throw their hat into the ring of interest surrounding the 26-year-old, they may need to shell out a hell of a lot of cash to seal his signature, as Chelsea had a £38 million bid rejected last year.
Napoli clearly aren’t keen to lose their defensive stalwart… but a deal could be a lot more realistic than prising Van Dijk away from St. Mary’s.
A strong, fearsome tackler, who Conte saw as the right man to lead his defence before negotiations went sour.