Jurgen Klopp might insist his side will not be rushed into a new signing to solve their injury issues at center back but that has not stopped the rumor mill from churning out new names for Liverpool to sign on a daily basis over the past few weeks.
Brighton center back Ben White is the latest man on whom the media is gazing with local newspaper the Liverpool Echo reporting that the 23-year-old is a summer target for Klopp. That it is a move for the summer appears significant with the Premier League champions offering every indication that they are ready to stick with what they have for the remainder of this season.
"If the world was in a completely normal place and we have this situation, you could be sure we would try everything to do the right thing now," Klopp said last week. "But the world is not in a normal place so I don't know why we constantly treat a football club like it's independent from all the other struggles around.
"It is not a time for massive investment if you don't have the funds for it. Obviously football clubs live off what they earn. We still don't have supporters in the stadium, a lot of stuff is still different, and that has gone on for a long time... I cannot go to the owners and say: 'Without that we cannot win anything.' We have to make the best of it, and that is what we have always done. It's not that nobody wants [a new central defender]; the question is if we can."
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There is logic to a fix, be it for the short-term or long-term. Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are set to miss the majority of the remaining season with major injuries, even if they do return before the campaign is over they will need time this term and next to rediscover their match sharpness. Letting Dejan Lovren leave without a replacement in the summer meant they were short-staffed even before the injury crisis hit.
Fabinho has excelled having dropped back from midfield but Joel Matip continues to struggle with niggling problems whilst Rhys Williams and Nathaniel Philips have performed in the mixed way that might be expected of youngsters. Klopp would never have imagined losing two of Europe's best center backs to season-ending injuries but having had that experience happen to him he may just want to insure himself against lightning striking twice. With that in mind, here are a string of varied options that could add something to Liverpool either next season or in some cases more immediately.
Five center backs for Liverpool to target
Ben White: The man of the moment in Liverpool circles and why shouldn't he be? At 23 he is young enough to improve but also has four seasons of regular football under his belt and winning experience from his season in the Championship with Leeds. White's strengths have been varied with Brighton this season: only three center backs have recovered possession more frequently in the Premier League, he is in the top six central defenders for passes into the final third and has yet to make an error leading to a shot, let alone a goal. All that and he could be available at a snip if Brighton's struggle to translate performances into points continues.
Dayot Upamecano: Signing the French international is perhaps the most ambitious move Liverpool could make, gambling that they can upgrade on Gomez, whose status as arguably a relative weak link in Klopp's strongest side serves to emphasize just how exceptional this team is. Upamecano would be an upgrade and ought to sit naturally alongside Van Dijk on the right of Liverpool's back four. The 22-year-old is likely unobtainable from RB Leipzig now but has a $51million release clause in the summer, a ludicrously cheap price for such a talent.
Ozan Kabak: As Klopp himself noted earlier this month, there is a challenge with using the transfer market to address an injury crisis. For much of the remainder of the season any signing would find themselves first choice but eventually Van Dijk and Gomez will be back to their best and the new man will be warming the bench. Perhaps then someone like Kabak makes sense not just to solve the short-term issue but to prepare for life post-Van Dijk.
The Turkish youngster, viewed as more of a summer target at Anfield, is nine years younger than Liverpool's current defensive anchor and is not yet a regular with Schalke. While that means it would be a big ask for him to feature regularly for the English champions over the coming months Kabak could be a depth piece behind Fabinho and Matip, perhaps even heading out on loan next season.
Eder Militao: Here is a player who could potentially thread the gap between immediate impact and first-team player. Crucially as well, should Klopp and Liverpool opt to pursue more immediate defensive cover he would appear to be available this month with reports in Spain indicating that Real Madrid are prepared to loan out Militao. The 22-year-old, who has been linked with Tottenham, has struggled for game time and form since joining Madrid but he was a $60million center back just a season and a half ago. If the Reds could unearth that on loan they may have found a long-term option.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos: Well there had to be a left-field option. Yes Sokratis may not be able to get in the Arsenal squad, let alone Mikel Arteta's first XI. At 32 he is hardly one for the long-term. But he does not merit the error-prone moniker that is often thrown at Gunners defenders, as Klopp knows only too well from his time at Borussia Dortmund. Just because he does not look elegant in possession does not mean he is ineffective and he does the more basic parts of defending extremely well.
All of the names above have some degree of long-term thinking attached to them but if Liverpool, perhaps through another Matip injury, need someone for the here, now and no more then there are far worse options than Sokratis.