When Liverpool secured the free transfer of Joel Matip from Schalke back in January, it appeared as if they would be blessed with numbers in the centre of their defence come the start of the 2016/17 season. Options were even boosted further when Mamadou Sakho was cleared of a doping allegation by UEFA.
However, Martin Skrtel’s time at the club has come to the end, departing in a £5.5 million deal with Fenerbahce, Kolo Toure has left after his contract expired and young defender Joe Gomez has suffered a fresh injury set back following his cruciate ligament injury from last campaign. Tiago Ilori and Andre Wisdom look unlikely to secure places in the first team. Suddenly, Liverpool look a little light in defence.
This means that Jurgen Klopp really needs to find another centre back before the start of the season, with just Matip, Sakho and Dejan Lovren as out and out, experienced options, with Lucas Leiva as an auxiliary central defender. But who could Liverpool target to shore up their defensive options?
32-year-old Barcelona and France defender Mathieu would be a sensible choice for Liverpool if they were to look for another centre back. An experienced player thanks to a long career in France and Spain, he has made 75 appearances for Catalan giants Barcelona since his transfer in the summer of 2014.
Already a back up to Gerard Pique and ex-Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano, Mathieu’s prospects of game time have been reduced by the signing of Lyon defender Samuel Umtiti, and a move away from the Camp Nou could be a good way to continue his career.
He is an intelligent, calm defender, who would certainly do a job for Liverpool should he come in as a back up option. Although not a signing that would set the world on fire, nor a particularly long term option, he would add plenty of experience and stability to the defence, and is more than good enough to fill in or even break into the first team. He would certainly be a dependable, solid, sensible choice.
Another name Liverpool have been linked with, but at the other end of the age spectrum, is 20-year-old Bayer Leverkusen defender Jonathan Tah.
Starting his career at Hamburg, Tah has excelled since his transfer to Bayer Leverkusen last summer, making 29 appearances in the Bundesliga and his Germany debut in the 3-2 loss to England back in March. He is young, and is seen by many as the future of Die Mannschaft’s defence, but is an intelligent defender who is comfortable on the ball, a vital part of a modern day centre back’s game.
It is rumoured that Tah would cost around £10 million, a snip in today’s market even for one so young, and although he may not go into the first team straight away, he may be a very exciting prospect for the future.
He may have just departed the club due to his contract expiring, but it might be worth Jurgen Klopp giving Kolo Toure a call and getting him back in the squad for the upcoming season.
A firm fan favourite already, Toure was excellent towards the end of last season, when he was brought in to cover for Mamadou Sakho. Although he may have lost a bit of pace at 35, and is still prone to the odd lapse in concentration, his intelligence and reading of the game is still excellent.
If no realistic, quality options become available to Klopp, Toure is a player who would be worth bringing back. He would slot into the squad easily and cover any injuries as well as anyone. It’s hard to see why he was let go in the first place.
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