Last week, Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp dismissed the idea of any significant incomings at Anfield in January. That, however, was before the Reds were humiliated away at Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League. Despite remaining unbeaten in the Premier League this season, the 2-0 defeat in Serbia was just the latest disappointing showing in what has been a fairly lacklustre start to the season for the Merseyside club.
Klopp is known to spring a surprise or two where transfers are concerned and his side’s inability to replicate last season’s form may encourage the German to delve into the transfer market this winter. So, who could Klopp have his eye on this January?
Who Are Liverpool’s Transfer Targets This January?
Ousmane Dembéle has endured a rather indifferent start to life at Barcelona. Since the Frenchman’s £103 million move from Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2017, Dembélé has shown glimpses of his undoubted ability, but those glimpses have been too few and far between.
It has led to question marks over Dembele’s suitability for Barcelona. In recent weeks, Barca boss Ernesto Valverde has opted for the selection of Rafinha and Philippe Coutinho in wide areas as Lionel Messi recovers from a broken arm. Dembélé’s fringe involvement at the Camp Nou has sparked rumours of a January exit, and Liverpool are just one of many elite European clubs who have been linked with the mercurial winger.
What will appeal to Jürgen Klopp is the 21-year-old’s ability to operate down either flank. Dembélé’s versatility and ability with both feet will offer Klopp more tactical freedom and unpredictability going forward. The over-reliance on Roberto Firmino to not only score goals but create them too has become clear this season as the Brazilian has hit something of a slump – only scoring on four occasions. The acquisition of Dembélé would allow Klopp to ease the burden on Firmino, instead playing Sadio Mané or Mo Salah centrally and Dembélé wide in a fluid system that could also incorporate Xherdan Shaqiri.
After missing out on the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the Italian national team was in need of an urgent rebuild. Cagliari midfielder Nicolò Barella could be at the centre of that very rebuild. The 21-year-old burst onto the scene last season with Cagliari, scoring six times as the Sardinian club just steered clear of relegation.
The Cagliari-born ace has acquired the nickname the ‘Sardinian Steven Gerrard’ and it’s not hard to see why. Aggressive in his pursuit of the ball, and then efficient in possession, Barella represents the ideal modern-day midfielder. It would seem newly installed Italy manager Roberto Mancini is in agreement. Barella has started the last two Italy games, playing in a midfield three alongside the more esteemed pair, Jorginho and Marco Verratti. Barella’s involvement with the Azzurri is a testament to his development at Cagliari, but it is simply a matter of when, and not if, Italy’s most coveted midfielder leaves his Sardinian home.
Barella’s performances in Serie A and subsequent Italian caps have alerted the likes of Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Roma and namely Liverpool. Whilst Liverpool are currently well-stocked in midfield following the summer arrivals of Naby Keïta and Fabinho, the uncertain futures of James Milner and Adam Lallana could force Jürgen Klopp to act quickly in January. Milner’s contract is set to expire this summer and as Lallana’s influence on games continues to diminish. A Keïta-style deal could be in the offing that sees Liverpool agreeing a deal with Cagliari in January for a summer transfer.
Nabil Fekir’s failed moved to Liverpool in the summer was probably the most confusing and mysterious transfer saga in recent times. It appeared the Lyon captain was all-but a Liverpool player, only for the deal to fall-through at the eleventh hour. There is also evidence to suggest that Fekir’s Anfield move was so advanced that he actually completed an interview for the club website donning the famous Liverpool red.
However, for whatever reason, Liverpool pulled the plug and Fekir remains a Lyon player, for now. Jürgen Klopp has a habit of resurrecting deals for players that he feels would drastically improve his team. Naby Keïta and Virgil van Dijk both arrived at Anfield after proposed moves in previous windows didn’t materialise, and it would be no surprise if Klopp and Liverpool revisited the Fekir deal this January.
Liverpool fans were understandably disappointed as Fekir remained at Lyon in the summer, as there was a feeling that he was the last-piece in the Liverpool puzzle. The Lyon attacking midfielder represents what is probably the closest like-for-like alternative to Roberto Firmino in world football. Much like Firmino did at his former club TSG Hoffenheim, Fekir plays predominantly as a number ten behind the striker and the World Cup winner has also played as the focal point in attack.
Once again, it is clear Fekir’s offensive versatility is something that appeals to Klopp. Fekir’s ability to operate as a striker, a number ten and also potentially in a deeper midfield role ensure he’s not only the perfect alternative to Firmino but also an ideal replacement for the long-since departed Philippe Coutinho.