The summer transfer window is coming around, and per the transfer mill surrounding Liverpool, a couple of Southampton players are being linked with the club. Dividing opinion, some fans feel Virgil van Dijk would improve the Reds backline, others feel he might turn out to be the next Dejan Lovren – more doubts than uncertainty – and are wondering if Liverpool’s scouts are all based on the south coast.
Some also question why the Reds are constantly looking at mid-table clubs for new recruits, with the notion being that these clubs provide players with supposedly less quality as compared to signings from Europe, regardless of where these European clubs are placed within their own leagues. After all, fans’ excitement over German international Julian Brandt is despite his team, Bayer Leverkusen, fighting relegation in the Bundesliga.
To be fair, in the past five years, the Reds have only enjoyed minor success buying players from mid-table English teams; most of the successes came from Southampton. This year’s twin sensations, Sadio Mané and Adam Lallana, arrived from the south coast club three summers apart, with the ever reliable Nathaniel Clyne joining alongside the latter three years ago. The other success to note is Giorgino Wijnaldum, the Dutch international joining from relegated Newcastle last summer.
These successes have been bookended by Rickie Lambert, from Southampton, and Christian Benteke, who joined from relegated Aston Villa. Both forwards respectively flopped under the more fluid system of Jurgen Klopp’s predecessor and the German manager himself.
With the upcoming conclusion of the Premier League season, who among the clubs outside the top seven could Liverpool potentially consider to bolster their squad next year? Who could add reliability like Clyne and Wijnaldum, or sparkle a la Mané and Lallana? Or who would eventually flop like Lambert and Benteke?
The Icelandic international was on the radar of former manager Brendan Rodgers when he took the managerial hot seat at Anfield back in 2012. Having registered 7 goals and 4 assists in the season prior, Rodgers wanted to bring his ex-player to Anfield. However, Sigurdsson chose Tottenham. Evidently the move did not work out and he found himself back in Swansea only two years later.
Yet Sigurdsson is now the talisman of this Swansea side. With over 30 goals in the last three seasons, he has emerged as a goalscoring midfielder in the league. The former Reading youth prospect would likely command up to ￡20 million. He’ll be hitting his peak soon, and could prove a useful squad player for a few of the top six clubs.
How could he fit in? Behind the main striker or as a false nine, he would be a good option or back-up for Roberto Firmino. He could be an option for the No.10 spot, if Klopp is willing to go 4-2-3-1, or as part of a 3-man midfield.
Why not? Having failed to shine at Spurs, there are doubts over his ability to be a smaller fish in a bigger pond, as compared to being the main man at a club with lesser expectations and pressure. Although he would provide a significant goal threat, he would not exactly fit Klopp’s system and would require to be shoehorned into the side as per above.
Another who seemed to have failed at a top six club, Zaha’s inability to cope with the pressures at Manchester United might not be totally attributed to him. Having rejoined his former club in 2014, Zaha is now thriving in a system which retains much emphasis on wingers. With a target in ex-Liverpool striker Christian Benteke to aim for, the England youth international is having his best Premier League campaign to date, with 6 goals and numerous assists.
The lanky winger is being eyed by the likes of Spurs, with his electric pace finally being complemented with better decision making and final product. Zaha’s ability to take people on makes him a rather rare commodity in the league today, and it won’t be long before he gets another chance at a bigger club.
How could he fit in? He could bring a similar impact to Mané, with his pace adding much needed dynamism to the Reds frontline. Only 24, he would be the type of signing preferred by Liverpool’s owners FSG. He would likely start as a squad player supporting Mané or deployed on the opposite flank.
Why not? His arrival would mean the Reds have two wingers who would prefer to be deployed on the right flank. He will likely have to learn how to play as a left winger, or remain a back-up option for Mané. Questions over his temperament will always remain given how he could not settle at Old Trafford.
Despite arriving back to the Premier League as a 30-something after a year in Major League Soccer, Defoe continues to bang in the goals, even for a poor recently-relegated Sunderland side – over 30 in just two seasons. The England international remains athletic for his age, while his poaching instincts have certainly not deserted him.
His goalscoring record speaks for itself, and he’ll be looking to remain in the Premier League next season. A wrath of mid-table clubs will definitely be interested in his goalscoring exploits, but it would not be a surprise if he gets one last chance at a top six club.
How could he fit in? As a fourth choice striker. Having registered 1 goal for every three games in his two spells for Spurs, he is proven at the top level. With age looking to catch up sooner rather than later, he would be a useful option off the bench. He would put pressure on the likes of Divock Origi and Danny Ings, and could teach a thing or two to the likes of Ben Woodburn and Rhian Brewster.
Why not? His age and whether he would accept being a back-up player at a bigger club, or would rather remain the main man in a mid-table team. Could he keep up to the high press Klopp demands? His arrival might also hinder the progress of young stars like Origi, Woodburn and even Brewster.
Ever since he arrived from Genk in January, Leicester City’s dismal form dramatically picked up. He has certainly done a good job filling the N’Golo Kante-shaped void in Leicester’s midfield, while providing greater attacking impetus from midfield.
Standing at 187cm, his physique, athleticism and dynamism are similar to Kante’s. They might be different types of midfielders, but Ndidi, at 20, certainly has age on his side. If he continues this upward trajectory, it won’t be long before Ndidi follows Kante’s path to a top six club.
How could he fit in? He would be a cross between Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson – a midfield engine with the ability to push forward. His height would greatly enhance Liverpool’s aerial ability, especially when defending set-pieces. He fits the bill of a “FSG signing”, and could easily be a first pick for Klopp, should he settle well within his first year at Anfield.
Why not? He’s only spent half a season in the English top flight, and there would be the inevitable doubts of his ability to carry his current form to a bigger club and continue improving. With the likes of Henderson, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Can and even Grujic competing with him for three midfield spots, it will test his temperament and ability to shine under pressure and competition for places.
Perennially linked to a top six clubs for a few years now, Butland has continued his steady progression into an impressive shot stopper at Stoke City. An imposing figure with a strong built, Butland will hope to get ahead of fellow England No.1 hopefuls Fraser Forster, and perhaps even Jordan Pickford, should Joe Hart show any sign of decline any time soon.
After his breakthrough Premier League season last year, registering 31 appearances in the league, Butland suffered multiple injury setbacks and only returned this April. He has impressed on his return, and will have to pick up where he left off again next summer.
How could he fit in? As the Reds’ new No.1. Young, hungry and eager to prove himself in the top flight, he could finally end the constant uncertainty in the Reds goal.
Why not? He may not possess the kicking ability Klopp requires of his goalkeepers. The manager looks to be satisfied with his current duo Mignolet and Loris Karius, with their battle for the Reds No.1 jersey to be continued into the next summer. Klopp would prefer not to undergo another transition in this department.