Liverpool face a crucial summer transfer window as they look to rebuild an ailing midfield, potentially without the crucial finances and lure of Champions League football. The out-of-form Reds are up against it to finish in the top four and may need to win this season’s continental competition to be involved in it next year.
How the rest of the season pans out is expected to have a major say in whether Liverpool can land their major targets. Cody Gakpo was one of them but Jurgen Klopp and co. fast-tracked that move, much like they did with their interest in Luis Diaz 12 months earlier, to sign him last month after rival interest from Manchester United.
Gakpo joined from PSV for £37million and could be the long-term successor to Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian, available for free at the end of the season, may yet pen a new deal to extend his time on Merseyside however.
While Liverpool’s defence has struggled this term, it is the midfield where sporting director Julian Ward and Klopp will be focusing on. It is well known that Jude Bellingham is their top target.
The Borussia Dortmund midfielder is wanted by a clutch of clubs but as it stands it is expected to be a three-way battle for Bellingham between Liverpool, City and Real Madrid. But a failure to qualify for the Champions League could cause issues for Liverpool in their pursuit of the 19-year-old England international.
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That is because any deal is expected to cost a club-record fee, in excess of £100million, and he would probably command starting wages of £150,000 a week or so. That would make the total sum of a five-year package near to £150m.
Yet with Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner all set to leave for free in the summer, Klopp may need a trio of new midfielders. Wolves’ Matheus Nunes looks likely to be one addition at a little over £40m, despite only joining the Midlands club last summer.
But without top-tier European football and the riches it offers, Liverpool’s business may be restricted if they are to sign Bellingham. The Reds would be able to afford a greater number of players if they were to abandon a deal for the Englishman. Instead, it seems likely – unless a takeover occurs before the summer – that their ideal plan is to sign Bellingham and Nunes.
Buying the pair without Champions League money would make it difficult to sign any other targets, such as Chelsea’s Mason Mount – who could become available if he cannot agree a new deal with the Blues – or Brighton’s Moises Caicedo. Even more so given Liverpool only have a handful of players they could sell for good money this year, such as Caoimhin Kelleher and Joel Matip.
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Goal report that there is increasing noise internally that Matip could be moved on, but Liverpool would need to replace the centre-half. Ex-Arsenal target Evan Ndicka is poised to leave Eintracht Frankfurt for free and at just 23 could be the ideal low-cost replacement if Matip does depart.
CBS Sports have confirmed Liverpool are tracking the Frenchman, who has been an ever-present for the Europa League holders. The potential issue though is that there are plenty of other clubs keeping an eye on him who could offer him guaranteed minutes, whereas he would initially be a back-up option under Klopp.
If not Ndicka, Braga’s David Carmo has long been liked by Liverpool and has a £34million release clause. Elsewhere, if Southampton are relegated, their duo of Armel Bella-Kotchap and Duje Caleta-Car could become options.
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