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Dream, realistic, wildcard: Three ways Liverpool could line up after the transfer window

Dream, realistic, wildcard: Three ways Liverpool could line up after the transfer window
Dream, realistic, wildcard: Three ways Liverpool could line up after the transfer window

The Arne Slot era is about to begin at Anfield and trying to follow Jurgen Klopp is going to be a tough task. 

Liverpool enjoyed incredible success under Klopp, who lifted eight trophies during his nine years in charge at Anfield, including ending the club’s 30-year wait for an English top-flight title in 2020.

Slot arrives following a glittering spell of his own in charge of Feyenoord, leading the Rotterdam giants to the 2022/23 Eredivise title before lifting the KNVB Cup and finishing second in the league this season, all following a run to the 2021/22 Europa Conference League final — Feyenoord’s first major European final in 20 years.

The Dutchman is sure to have already done his homework on the playing squad he’s inheriting, identifying key areas for strengthening and perhaps some candidates to balance the books and trim the fat.

Here are the dream, realistic and wildcard ways Liverpool could line up following Slot’s first transfer window in charge:

Dream

It’s safe to say Liverpool have a lot of questions to answer at centre-back. Joel Matip has departed at the end of his contract, while both Joe Gomez and Ibrahima Konate have failed to consistently stay fit. Jarell Quansah has stepped in brilliantly when required but still lacks experience, while you get the feeling he may form part of a longer-term strategy to replace Virgil van Dijk. Regardless, this is an area where the Reds need answers.

Our dream signing here would be Leny Yoro. Still only 18, the defender has been a seamless addition to the Lille defence over the last 18 months, putting in performances way beyond his years when it comes to decision-making and maturity. It’s reported that Liverpool will face competition from a number of top European clubs for Yoro’s signature, including the likes of Real Madrid, PSG and Manchester United. But that only serves to highlight just how remarkable the youngster’s breakthrough has been. Yoro rotating with Quansah and the pair learning from Van Dijk would be some education and great forward planning from the Reds.

Further forward, Liverpool underwent a massive midfield rebuild last summer, but it still feels like the balance isn’t quite right. Ryan Gravenberch struggled with injuries throughout 2023/24, Dominik Szoboszlai veered between elite and unnoticed, and Alexis Mac Allister is yet to fully settle on his best position within the midfield confines. That’s not forgetting Wataru Endo, who certainly thrived the longer the season went on, but at 31 years old already, is not a long-term solution.

Slot spent much of 2023/24 switching between 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 systems. This suits Liverpool well, but he may want to add an extra creative force. A great fit here would be Orkun Kokcu. The Turkey international is already very familiar with Slot after scoring 32 goals and registering 27 assists across 175 appearances for Feyenoord before leaving for Benfica last summer. And since arriving in Portugal, he’s added another seven goals and 11 assists.

Given he’s only been in Lisbon a year, it would take a significant fee to bring Kokcu to Anfield. But what better way to back your new manager than to sign one of the most productive players he’s worked with? At 23 years old, Kokcu would be another great investment.

The final area Liverpool will be considering this summer is up-front. The Reds were famed for their attacking line-ups for years under Klopp but despite each of their forwards producing at least decent numbers last season, it always felt like they were destined for more.

We already know Slot likes speed and directness on the flanks, so there are few better targets than the Premier League’s ‘dribble king’ Mohammed Kudus, who attempted (201) and completed (124) more take-ons than any other player in the division, by a distance.

Recent reports have suggested PSG may target Luis Diaz as their Kylian Mbappe replacement and in that case, Liverpool would surely hang on to Mohamed Salah for another year. But what to do with Darwin Nunez? The Uruguay international is undoubtedly effective with his aggression and physicality, but my word does he miss some chances; 27 big chances in the Premier League last season alone, to be precise. Only Erling Haaland (34) missed more, but his shot conversion rate stood at 22.3% compared to just 10.2% from Nunez.

It may cost a handsome sum following a 43-goal, title-winning debut campaign in Portugal with Sporting CP, but Viktor Gyokeres combines all the finishing qualities of Haaland and the physicality of Nunez, and is reported to be available for less than his £86m release clause.

Realistic

While Liverpool will no doubt back Slot, it’s hard to see them splashing astronomical sums after splashing out around £150m over the course of the 2023/24 campaign.

One area where they could save money is at centre-back, where we’ve already spoken about the unexpected impact of Quansah. The 21-year-old established himself as the first choice to partner Van Dijk by the end of the season ahead of the far more expensive Konate and has been rewarded with a place in England’s provisional squad for Euro 2024. A defensive four-piece of Van Dijk, Quansah, Konate and Gomez would remain among the very best in the Premier League.

An extra midfielder seems to remain a priority and one name heavily linked right now is Ederson. No, not the Manchester City goalkeeper, though we’re sure he wouldn’t look out of place pulling the strings. Instead, we’re talking about Atalanta’s Brazilian midfielder.

It’s understood that despite initially looking at Teun Koopmeiners, the Reds have now become more interested in his midfield partner and Liverpool will be very familiar after facing Ederson twice as Atalanta dumped them out of the Europa League quarter-finals.

Across the two legs, Ederson turned in five tackles and seven possessions won in the middle third, while he was only dribbled past once and wasn’t dispossessed at all.

Liverpool could face competition from Premier League rivals for Ederson, but a reported £42m fee could be worthwhile considering the energy and aggression he would add to their midfield — especially with money saved at centre-back.

In a more realistic universe, Liverpool will give Nunez another year to prove he’s an elite No.9, while Slot may well give more Premier League opportunities to compatriot Cody Gakpo, who came off the bench 18 times in the top flight last season.

But there’s still a real possibility Diaz will leave. In that case, Slot would be handed some large sums to replace the Colombia international and right now, the Reds are a 6/1 shot with Sky Bet to sign Crystal Palace star Eberechi Eze, with only Tottenham (5/1) holding better odds.

Eze broke Liverpool hearts with his goal in Palace’s 1-0 win at Anfield as Klopp’s swansong title bid fell apart, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be an immensely popular arrival.

Wildcard

Time to think outside the box.

So we know Liverpool would like another midfielder, but don’t they already have one in Trent Alexander-Arnold? The academy graduate is among the best ball players on the planet and has long been touted for a switch to midfield for Liverpool — a position he’s already taken up on occasion at international level with England. TAA would certainly be more brains than brawn, but who needs to defend when you have the ball all the time?

And fear not, as Liverpool already have a replacement right-back in Conor Bradley, who was quite frankly sensational at times when thrown in during Alexander-Arnold’s knee ligament absence.

Liverpool still need a centre-back, but will perhaps be put off by the high fees required to sign the likes of Yoro or Goncalo Inacio. So how about Eintracht Frankfurt defender Willian Pacho?

The Ecuador international still wouldn’t be cheap given he only signed from Antwerp last summer. However, he isn’t quite held in the same regard as the above names. What’s more, he shares an interestingly high amount of ball-playing qualities with Van Dijk, has shown excellent defensive traits in the Bundesliga and has the pace to deal with Slot’s preferred high line.

In midfield, Slot’s arrival could be the best thing that happens to Ryan Gravenberch. At least, that’s what the former Bayern Munich man thinks. “I think he can be good for my career,” Gravenberch said of the appointment of his compatriot. “It’s a coach who wants to play good football.”

He will probably just be edged out by Szoboszlai and Mac Allister early next season, but it may not take much convincing for Slot to give him an extended run following a disappointing debut season at Anfield.

And up front, what if Salah does actually leave? The Egyptian’s contract is up at the end of next season and he’s been heavily linked with a move to Saudi Arabia in recent months. If Liverpool are sure they cannot tie him down to another deal or, turning 32 next month, feel he’s past his best, it’s hard to see them turning down a significant offer for Salah this summer.

“I don’t want him to go, but in terms of the amount of money you’re going to get, with all the chat that we’ve heard over the season – whether any of that’s true or not, we don’t know. But I think the others are a lot younger, they’re hopefully going to be playing for Liverpool for the foreseeable future,” former Liverpool defender Glen Johnson told Squawka of Salah.

“So he’s the one that’s probably only going to be there for another year or two maximum, so he wouldn’t probably be the one that you would try to replace, again just because the level of money that you would attract.”

If Salah goes, you can bet Liverpool will want to bring in a replacement who can stay at the club for as long as he did, building a similar sort of legacy.

At just 19 years old, Yankuba Minteh has the age profile to do just that. What’s more, the Gambia international has just come off a highly productive season playing under Slot at Feyenoord, hitting 10 goals and six assists in 27 Eredivisie appearances, while also netting his first-ever Champions League goal.

Newcastle would probably charge a high price to Liverpool for Minteh but with the likes of Anthony Gordon and Miguel Almiron set to remain ahead of him in the pecking order, they could be convinced. Minteh is actually linked with Liverpool’s Merseyside rivals Everton, but the teenager’s blistering pace and already reliable end product should attract suitors in a more favourable financial and competitive position. The Slot factor would put Liverpool ahead of any other rival here.

If Minteh is too much of a stretch, consider Slot’s compatriot, Crysencio Summerville. The 22-year-old Dutch winger is looking for a move after missing out on promotion with Leeds United, despite hitting 21 goals and 10 assists across all competitions. Liverpool are currently priced as 5/2 favourites by Sky Bet to sign the Netherlands U21 international this summer.

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