The Hard Tackle takes a look at five emergency options Liverpool should consider following yet another injury blow for Joel Matip.
Liverpool’s morale-boosting 3-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur came with its price as the game saw key defender Joel Matip leave the pitch at half-time. The former Schalke captain now joins Fabinho, Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk in the list of current injury-related absentees for the Reds, adding to Jurgen Klopp’s misery.
Following the game, even the Liverpool manager hinted that he may finally have to enter the market after maintaining a rather even-handed stance regarding defensive reinforcements this January. “If you have a centre-half available at a reasonable price, and one with the quality we need, then send me a message,” Klopp told BT Sports after the game.
“We will see. The situation yesterday didn’t make it easier but we still try to do the right things. If that’s possible, we will do it. If not, we won’t,” he added.
Unfortunately for the former Borussia Dortmund head coach, it could be a difficult task for Liverpool to negotiate a deal with a top-quality defender, especially with just a few days remaining before the transfer window slams shut. Hence, the Reds might largely have to target free-agents or fringe players in a desperate attempt to reinforce the central defensive unit.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a look at five such emergency options Liverpool could target in these final few days of the January transfer window.
Ezequiel Garay is topping the list of centre-backs, who are available for free in this January transfer window at the moment.
Released from Valencia following an irreversible dispute between the two parties back in summer of 2020, the Argentine has been a free-agent for over eight months now. He emerged as a subject of interest for several clubs during this period, including Barcelona, who were willing to sign him an emergency back-up for the injured Gerard Pique.
A move to Nou Camp has not materialised, much to the fortunes of Liverpool who now have an ideal opportunity to secure his services this week.
Although Garay may not bring the technical astuteness of Virgil van Dijk or even Joe Gomez, to the table, he certainly does have a lot of experience at the highest level of football, having made over 200 appearances in La Liga. In addition, the 34-year-old can bring the leadership at the back, while his aggressive style of play could be ideally suited to Jurgen Klopp’s footballing philosophy.
Garay is currently a free agent as well, making him a cost-effective option in Liverpool’s bid to find an emergency cover for the recently injured Matip.
Perhaps the most interesting inclusion on this list, Klopp could fancy calling one of his former Dortmund defenders as we head towards the final few days before the transfer window slams to a shut.
Much like Garay, Subotic bags a lot of experience at the highest level of football. But, what makes him an appealing target for Liverpool is his relationship with Jurgen Klopp, who played a key role behind the defender’s initial rise to prominence. The player himself has featured in 281 competitive matches under the leadership of the German tactician – more than any of the current Liverpool players.
In addition, Subotic is a ball-playing defender and quite resembles Matip in regards to his style of play. He is known for his composure that could come in handy in the fast-paced nature of the Premier League.
However, Subotic’s game has been in decline ever since the 2014/15 campaign. He has fallen out of favour not only at Dortmund but also at Saint-Etienne and Union Berlin while he was recently released by Turkish outfit Denizlispor – making him quite a shrewd option for the Reds.
Aaron Long has emerged as a shock target for Liverpool during the final few days of the January transfer window. The NY Red Bulls star doesn’t have any experience in European football, having spent his whole career playing in the Major Soccer League.
However, unlike the previous two players on this list, Long, at the age of 28, is currently at the peak of his career. Having made over 100 appearances in the competition, he is a veteran in MLS and is also a key first-team player for the USMNT. The defender is primarily known for his strength, athleticism and an imposing frame – making him quite intimidating for the opposition.
Although Long is not a free agent, he could be allowed to leave NY Red Bulls on a short-term loan deal, especially with MLS being suspended until April. It could provide Liverpool with the ideal opportunity to secure his services and add some much-needed depth in their defensive unit.
A short stint at Anfield should also increase the player’s chances of becoming an indisposable figure in the USMNT, alongside John Anthony Brooks.
Returning to the European continent, Liverpool could find a potential solution for their defensive problems in the Premier League itself, in the shape of Shkodran Mustafi.
The much-maligned Arsenal defender is currently up for sale at Emirates as Mikel Arteta looks to oversee a massive overhaul in the defensive unit, having already offloaded Sead Kolasinac and Sokratis. Mustafi himself has been linked with a move to Hertha Berlin already and the Reds must act swiftly if they are to secure his services.
From a sporting perspective, Mustafi is not necessarily a bad option considering the current situation at Anfield. The former Valencia star was, in fact, a key part of Arsenal’s FA Cup-winning team last season and has a considerable amount of experience at the highest level of football.
Unlike Subotic or Garay, Mustafi isn’t particularly old either, and the German connection between him and Klopp could potentially bloom at Anfield during the second half of the campaign.
By far the youngest player on this list, Roger Ibanez provides long-term prospect for Liverpool – something all the other candidates lack. At the age of 22, the AS Roma centre-back has established himself as a reliable defensive option in Serie A.
Roger Ibañez (22) averages 4.6 tackles + interceptions per game in Serie A this season.
Someone to keep an eye on, likely that he will be in Brazil’s Olympic squad this summer. pic.twitter.com/nziuDs2OlJ
— Brasil Football 🇧🇷 (@BrasilEdition) January 4, 2021
The Brazilian likes to bring the ball out of the form and is capable of providing the penetration in the build-up with his laser passes. He is quite athletic as well, making him an ideal partner for someone like Fabinho.
However, Liverpool may have to dig a little deeper in their pockets to secure the services of Ibanez. Fortunately for the Reds, AS Roma are desperately looking to offload a few of their star players after being financially hit by the pandemic.
The Giallorossi, therefore, could be willing to ship their defensive asset cheaper than usual, though the Reds may still need to splash somewhere in region of €30 million to €40 million.