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Plan B: What happens if we miss out on Keita and Van Dijk?

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With Southampton and RB Leipzig making negotiations difficult for Liverpool, deals for transfer targets Virgil Van Dijk and Naby Keita are on a knife edge. Jurgen Klopp may be forced to look elsewhere to bolster the squad in time for the new season, as deals may not materialise in time. Despite both players supposed interest in the move, there is nothing LFC can do than continue to bid, any potential move may be hinged on the player submitting a transfer request.

With Southampton’s reluctance to sell to Liverpool for what would now be 3 consecutive seasons, and the report filed to the Premier League for “tapping up” over the transfer of Van Dijk, the move remains unlikely. While reports emerged this week that Leipzig insist that Naby Keita is not for sale, at any price, and that they will not listen to any further offers for the player. Yet, this is probably an effort to increase the price of the player, knowing that LFC must have their own limit. If both of these transfer fail, where else could Liverpool look to replace these targets?

Liverpool are in need of another box-to-box midfielder which fueled the desire to sign Keita, we know that Klopp is fond of players from the Bundesliga, given his own experience in Germany. The signing of Joel Matip and usage of Emre Can has proven this, so Klopp could dip into this league once more to find his replacement for Keita. Look no further than Leon Goretzka of Schalke 04 and Germany. The dynamic Goretzka proved his credentials at the Confederations Cup this summer, where he played a pivotal role in the team’s success in the tournament. Scoring twice in the opening 8 minutes against Mexico in the semi-final, he displayed his attacking prowess in his tournament debut.

Despite a disappointing season for the club overall, Goretzka shone scoring and assisting an equal 5 times for both, making him just short of Keita’s 8 goals and 7 assists. Klopp’s track record of developing young players could sway Goretzka towards Anfield. His talent could be nurtured, and with the addition of regular first team football, Goretzka could fulfill his potential as one of the world’s best midfielders if given the opportunity. Furthermore, going into the last year of his contract, if Liverpool offer a generous amount of money, Schalke may look to sell as opposed to losing him on a free to Bayern, which is rumored to be the player’s preferred move. Could Klopp use the German connection to convince Goretzka to join the Reds?

On the other hand, finding a replacement for Van Dijk may be more difficult as his Premier League experience and class is undeniable. Looking within our own league, the best centre backs play for better teams or are tied down to long-term contracts. As proven this summer, selling within the league and strengthening the opposition comes with a hefty price tag. This is why many fans advocate for the return of Sakho, who has not played a match for Liverpool since that infamous drugs test scandal. With this resolved, and a successful loan spell at Palace, could Sakho finally redeem himself? Klopp spoke about Sakho after the 4-0 win over Tranmere on Wednesday, saying:

“First of all, he needs to get 100% fit and then we will see.”

Sakho has been recovering from an injury sustained on the 27th April against Tottenham, which suspended Klopp’s transfer plans to an extent. It’s understood that Sakho was offered to a plethora of European clubs for £30m but nobody took Liverpool up on the offer. Sakho has been posting fitness videos on social media, in anticipation of making a return to the first team. If Klopp and Sakho can put this ordeal behind them, his inclusion in the squad could plug the gap that Van Dijk was intended to fill. Sakho was an integral part of getting Liverpool to “that” Europa League final against Sevilla, should he be given another chance if a deal for Van Dijk not materialise?

However, with Klopp’s judgment of Sakho seemingly final, he may delve into the transfer market for a Van Dijk replacement. Many are touting Napoli’s Koulibaly as Klopp’s second choice, one of his strengths is playing out from the back, making 1705 successful passes in 28 Serie A games last season. Defensively, he is also sound making more tackles, interceptions, and blocks than Van Dijk (however, he did play 8 more games).

A deal for Koulibaly would be above £50m, as his agent claims that he is able to leave Napoli this summer should he wish. In June, his agent said:

“Chelsea and Liverpool? I always talk with these kind of clubs, but about all of my clients, not just Kalidou.”

It seems Liverpool could find themselves in a grudge match with Chelsea to secure Koulibaly should a deal for Van Dijk collapse. This could drive the price up further, as Premier League clubs are notoriously charged more for players due to the TV coverage and sponsorship deals that give them huge wealth. However, with Van Dijk quoted at £70m, it may prove to be a somewhat cheaper alternative and could be finalised easier and with less controversy. Who should replace Van Dijk should we miss out, Sakho or Koulibaly?

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