Having already signed two midfielders as part of a long-awaited overhaul of the engine room, a new centre-back, preferably on the left, is also on Liverpool’s wish list this summer.
Jurgen Klopp confirmed this back in May when he was directly asked if he would like to bring in a new centre-back.
“We are looking in every department apart from goalkeeper at the moment,” the Reds boss told reporters. “Yeah, if there’s a good one (centre back) out there, I wouldn’t deny it. That’s all. We look at all areas of the pitch, for sure.”
As a result, Liverpool have been linked with a host of names throughout the summer as a result. And while club sources have dismissed speculation crediting the Reds with interest in Bayern Munich’s Benjamin Pavard and Sporting Lisbon’s Goncalo Inacio, other rumors remain linked.
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Chelsea’s Levi Colwill has his admirers at Anfield and he certainly caught the eye when he helped England win the European Under-21 Championship this summer. Elsewhere, Liverpool continue to be linked with Torino’s Perr Schuurs and VfL Wolfsburg’s Micky van de Ven, although it is Tottenham Hotspur who are reportedly currently in talks to sign the latter.
Colwill appears to be the current subject of the Reds’ desires, although a transfer appears difficult to complete at this stage. Football London has reported that Liverpool have made ‘several enquiries’ about the defender’s availability, but Chelsea have no desire to sell as things stand.
Brighton & Hove Albion are also understood to have had bids of up to £40m rejected for their former loanee, who will hold talks with new manager Maurico Pochettino over his future later this month. Colwill has two years left on his original contract which the Londoners can extend his deal by a further year if certain playing criteria are met, with Chelsea also keen to tie him down to a long-term extension if possible.
Ultimately, it looks like the 20-year-old will have to push for a transfer after talks with Pochettino if Liverpool are to have any chance of securing his signature. And playing time at Stamford Bridge is set to dictate his decision.
“I want to talk to my family, talk to everyone I need and make a decision,” he said after the European Championship final. “I have to play at the end of the day.”
As a result, Colwill’s future remains up in the air and it is unclear whether Liverpool will follow up on the initial interest or be forced to shift their attention elsewhere. If they are disappointed, is there still ‘a good one out there’?
Admittedly, there is no indication that it will be Colwill or nothing for the Reds this summer. As their recent signing of Dominik Szoboslzai shows, they are always capable of pulling off a surprise transfer regardless of who they are linked with publicly.
But while Liverpool have been successful in signing players who were not previously first-choice targets, they have also been known to wait for the right signing rather than simply fill a void. Therefore, while there was no escaping the fact that the Reds would need to address their midfield this summer, they are likely to show patience in defense if necessary.
After all, while Joel Matip has been linked with a summer exit, he is still currently expected to see out the final year of his contract. While wing options Nat Phillips and Sepp van den Berg could follow Rhys Williams out the exit door, Liverpool’s four first-choice senior centre-backs will be untouched as a result.
So would the Reds be willing to push on as they are if necessary if their search for a new centre-back this summer ends up being unsuccessful? If it comes down to it, such a stance would admittedly be unpopular given how the club has fared when it chose to delay strengthening central defense in the summer of 2020 and in midfield last summer.
Throw in the fact that all four of Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konate, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip suffered injuries last season, and Klopp’s new 3-2-2-3 formation arguably calls for more strength in depth in central defense, and not recruiting would be a pretty big bet.
At the very least, if it comes to that, Liverpool could retain the services of one back-up solution, who is even currently of interest to Bayer Leverkusen, according to reports.
Luke Chambers is highly rated at Anfield and featured in the Reds first team in both pre-season last year and their mid-season friendlies before joining Kilmarnock on loan for the second half of the campaign. Impressive in Scotland, he is the subject of loan interest again, this time from the Championship, although reports in Germany claim Leverkusen are also in talks to sign the teenager.
Led by Liverpool legend Xabi Alonso, the Bundesliga outfit tended to line up in variations of a 3-4-3 formation following the Spaniard’s appointment last October. In such a set-up, Chambers would be an obvious option as a left wing-back.
However, the England youth international is extremely versatile, as evidenced by the number of different positions he played at Kilmarnock. While most of his minutes came in his traditional left-back position, he also featured at left wing-back, left-midfield, center-midfield and center-back during his time north of the border.
Therefore, he is also suitable to line up as a left-sided central defender in a three-man defense, where he could well find himself on occasions if he came to Leverkusen, along with his more natural flank position.
Club sources suggest a move to the Bundesliga is not yet imminent, despite recent reports in Germany, where the Reds traditionally give younger players the chance to impress in pre-season before deciding whether to move up to the first team, remain at the youth level, or leave on loan. However, it is acknowledged that Leverkusen would be an eye-catching option for Chambers if a move were to materialize if looking to make the next step after Kilmarnock.
But if a team competing in the Europa League is interested in signing the 19-year-old, couldn’t he emerge as an option for Liverpool themselves? After all, both the Reds and Leverkusen will be among the top seeds for this season’s group stage.
Of his 16 appearances for Kilmarnock, 15 came from the start. 11 of those appearances came at either left-back or left wing-back, while he was switched to central defense twice, having also lined up in such a position on occasions under Klopp in friendlies.
Liverpool’s interest in a new left-sided centre-back is initially to give them a more natural defensive option as an alternative to Andy Robertson, who could also later emerge as a long-term replacement for Virgil van Dijk. Admittedly, Chambers only ticks one of those boxes, although it does ensure he would be comfortable in the Reds’ new formation in the hybrid left-back/left centre-back role.
The young defender is admittedly still raw with only half a season of senior football under his belt. After his time in Scotland, you would expect him to take a step or two more, not yet ready for the physical nature of English football, before he would be ready for consistent first-team action at Anfield.
But with Klopp still possessing his four senior centre-backs, Premier League options will be limited regardless. Instead, playing time could follow in the Europa League group stage and League Cup before he reassess his situation in January. A minor step forward at Anfield is still possible in the coming months.
Stefan Bajcetic’s emergence last year proves how it is possible for a young player to force his way into the first team ahead of schedule after an impressive pre-season. As a result, it makes sense for Liverpool to assess Chambers in pre-season before making a final decision on his future.
In an ideal world, the Reds sign a new centre-back before seeing Chambers take giant steps out on loan to Leverkusen or in the Championship. But if Liverpool are unable to strengthen accordingly this summer and need to reassess their options, at least Alonso’s interest in the defender suggests they already have a last-resort solution for their overlooked hybrid role if it is required.