Defensive midfielders Liverpool could sign to replace Jordan Henderson or Fabinho

Jurgen Klopp took a defiant tone when the strength of Liverpool’s midfield was questioned in July 2022.

“Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago, Milner, Keita, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Fabio Carvalho, Oxlade-Chamberlain,” the manager rattled off. “Now you tell me what kind of player are we missing?” Well, Klopp has lost plenty of those players in just 12 months.

James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were allowed to leave at the end of their contracts and Carvalho will spend next season on loan at RB Leipzig. Thiago Alcantara fended off interest from Saudi Arabia but Jordan Henderson and Fabinho may not be as strong willed.

Liverpool’s skipper is considering an offer to reunite with former teammate Steven Gerrard at Al Ettifaq while Pro League champions Al-Ittihad are keen on adding Fabinho to a side which includes Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante and Jota (not Diogo).

Klopp has already bolstered Liverpool’s offensive central options with the acquisitions of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai this summer. But the base of midfield will need to be stiffened up if one or both of Henderson and Fabinho chase the Saudi silver.

Here are some alternatives which Klopp may want to mull over.

Romeo Lavia

Romeo Lavia made the second-most tackles and blocks for Southampton last season / Michael Steele/GettyImages

Age: 19
Club: Southampton

Liverpool are one of at least six clubs that harbour a burning desire to prevent Southampton’s Lavia from slipping into the Championship. A tenacious attitude off the ball and an eye for a defence-splitting pass are some of the attributes that make him so sought after.

However, the 19-year-old is understandably raw. Liverpool already have a promising teenager capable of fulfilling Fabinho’s duties at the base of midfield in the form of Stefan Bajcetic and are reticent to meet Southampton’s lofty £45m asking price for Lavia.

Khephren Thuram

Khephren Thuram’s father Lilian and brother Marcus have both played in World Cup finals for France / Eurasia Sport Images/GettyImages

Age: 22
Club: Nice

Thuram insisted that he was ‘happy’ at Nice in June but that was before the club took the surprising decision to turn down the chance to make Didier Digard permanent manager. Thuram forged a strong bond with the interim boss who ‘helped me a lot in difficult times in my young career’. The burgeoning midfielder described Digard as ‘someone I can never thank enough’.

Klopp inspires similar loyalty from many of his players and will be itching to bring Thuram’s blend of dexterity and industry to Merseyside. While he may not offer the natural defensive rigidity of Fabinho, Thuram brings the drive that had begun to fade from Henderson’s game last season.

Ibrahim Sangare

Ibrahim Sangare is coming off the back of his best scoring season after five goals for PSV Eindhoven last summer / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Age: 25
Club: PSV Eindhoven

Nottingham Forest have been nowhere near as active as last summer’s splurge but the Tricky Trees have identified PSV’s Sangare as a potential recruit. Liverpool haven’t directly vied with Forest for many transfers since the early 1980s but they would also benefit from the acquisition of the towering midfielder.

Boasting a yawning wingspan of limbs that can gobble up the ball and send it firing towards the opposition net at a frightening velocity, PSV were understandably thrilled when Sangare signed a five-year deal last summer.

However, the departure of manager Ruud van Nistelrooy has knocked the club sideways, with Sangare thought to be one of the fiercest critics of the move. This unease could offer Liverpool an opening to pounce.

Aurelien Tchouameni

Aurelien Tchouameni was heavily linked with a move to Liverpool last summer / Catherine Steenkeste/GettyImages

Age: 23
Club: Real Madrid

While watching the 2022 Champions League final, Tchouameni began fervently messaging his representatives. Liverpool and Real Madrid, the two finalists in Paris last year, had been in the race for the Frenchman’s signature but Tchouameni had decided; he wanted to join the Champions League winners.

Without quite setting the world alight, Tchouameni enjoyed a decent debut campaign in the Spanish capital, aided by his rapid grasp of the language. However, through little fault of his own, Tchouameni could be on his way out of Madrid after Los Blancos added Jude Bellingham to their bulging roster.

Liverpool were also heavily linked with Bellingham this summer but could end up getting former flirt Tchouameni – it would certainly be a case of better late than never.

Borussia Mönchengladbach v 1. FC Union Berlin - Bundesliga

Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham was the only midfielder to complete more take-ons in last season’s Bundesliga than Manu Kone / Christof Koepsel/GettyImages

Age: 22
Club: Borussia Monchengladbach

Already an established starter for Borussia Monchengladbach, Kone has been keen to stress his development. “I could be labelled an ‘up-and-coming player’,” the France under-21 international explained, “…but I wouldn’t say I’m a ‘young player’, as I’ve already picked up quite a few things.”

Those qualities include a beguiling ability to weave forward with the ball and win back possession. No Bundesliga midfielder was fouled more often than the wriggling menace who finished the season as Gladbach’s leader for tackles, blocks and recoveries.

On this week’s edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott Saunders is joined by Toby Cudworth and Graeme Bailey to discuss Tottenham rejecting a second bid for Harry Kane, Manchester United’s business, Romelu Lukaku’s Chelsea future, Paul Pogba being PIF’s number one target for the Saudi Pro League & more!

If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

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