Liverpool need a centre-back.
Jurgen Klopp knows it, the fans know it and the media know it. FSG know it too but, with less than a week to go in the January transfer window, their transfer stance remains unchanged. Any senior business will have to wait until the summer.
Such a position is indeed frustrating, even more so considering the Reds’ recent surrender of top spot in the Premier League table, but it is not a surprise in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Liverpool’s transfer business under their American owners has always been planned windows in advance, with the club sticking to their principles and putting maximum work in behind-the-scenes before moving for a desired target.
The Reds’ squad is littered with examples of such recruitment, from global superstar Mohamed Salah to reserve left-back Kostas Tsimikas. Players the club have monitored over a length of time before making a move at the opportune time at a price that is deemed acceptable by the club.
As such, a number of Liverpool signings could have been recruited for less years in advance when first linked to the club. But with their transfer activity so though-out, the Reds are always very particular about when they make their move.
Take Salah for example. This week marks the anniversary of the Egyptian joining Chelsea in 2014, with Liverpool also in the running for his signature at the time. But if they had signed him that season, enduring the same initial struggles he did at Stamford Bridge, it’s hard to believe they would have retained his services long enough to enjoy his successes that have followed since his eventual move to Anfield in 2017.
With that in mind, Klopp and Michael Edwards will have already drawn up a list of centre-backs they will continue to monitor and word from Anfield insiders suggests recruitment work taking place in January has all been focused on the upcoming summer window.
With Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez likely to be sidelined until the end of the season, having suffered serious injuries in October and November respectively, there has been plenty of pressure to move for one of their desired targets now rather than in the summer.
But if such a deal was possible, it would have been completed by now.
The reason such a move is not happening in January will be because, despite the Reds’ rather drastic current circumstances, it is not the opportune time for the perfect deal for a variety of reasons.
However, a recent report in the Athletic suggests that Liverpool bosses might have got to the stage where they step aside from their proven method to find Klopp a short-term fix having supposedly sounded out Sokratis Papastathopoulos’ representatives following his release from Arsenal about his situation.
Talks supposedly didn’t go any further than that, with the Greek since signing for Olympiacos.
But with Joel Matip’s frailties never-ending, Fabinho an albeit rather impressive makeshift centre-back whose talents in midfield are missed and both Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips still rather raw, it is logical why such an option would be explored.
Liverpool bosses might have hoped Klopp’s side could continue to challenge this season with what they have, and they were doing so admirably until only a few weeks ago.
But now with their situation more precarious, with Champions League qualification on the line never mind a Premier League title defence, the Reds will have to move in a different position to the one which they are accustomed to if they are to land a new centre-back for the second half of the season.
Liverpool pride themselves on being well-run and steer clear of impulsive, short-term decisions.
But their current situation requires just that, and with the Reds not able to follow their preferred protocol if they sign such a player, one that Klopp already knows well would appear the best solution.
Joining Borussia Dortmund from Werder Bremen in 2013, Sokratis is exactly that having enjoyed two years under the German before he called time on his seven-year stint with BVB.
Yet there is one centre-back currently available on the market who is even more well-known to Klopp and who Liverpool could turn to as a potential solution to their defensive shortage.
The Serbia international recently became a free agent after tearing up his contract with Turkish side Denizlispor and is a player Klopp knows better than most.
Coming through the youth ranks at Mainz 05, he was handed his debut by the German in 2006 and shone in his first full season with the club before following the Reds boss to Borussia Dortmund in 2008.
There he enjoyed 10 successful years with BVB, seven of them under Klopp, making 263 appearances as he won two Bundesliga titles, a DFB-Pokal Cup and reached the Champions League final.
Prior to his time in Turkey, Subotic enjoyed season-long stints with Saint-Etienne and Union Berlin and the 32-year-old is admittedly no longer the player he once was alongside Mats Hummels at the heart of Dortmund’s most-impressive defence.
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But Liverpool wouldn’t need him to be. In an ideal world, Matip stays fit and Van Dijk returns early from injury, with the Serbian utilised at centre-back as a senior alternative to ensure the Cameroonian is managed carefully or could, at times, allow Fabinho to be restored to midfield.
Despite frequent links with the likes of Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Christian Pulisic during his time at Anfield, Klopp has never signed one of his former players since moving to Merseyside.
But any reluctance never stopped him from taking Subotic to Dortmund after departing Mainz.
And should Liverpool indeed decide a senior short-term fix in defence is required to help reignite their fortunes, Klopp could break his transfer rule and turn to his most familiar of former players once again.