Defending Premier League champions Liverpool have been jolted by the season-long injury of star defender Virgil Van Dijk. Hours after the Dutch centre-half was taken off the field during their Merseyside derby against Everton, it was reported that the Ballon d’Or nominee was out for months with a knee injury that would now need him to undergo surgery.
With the talismanic defender seemingly out for the season, Liverpool are on the lookout for a replacement that would take over Van Dijk’s role from January, following which the season gets more intense with UEFA Champions League knockouts factoring in. With the winter transfer window just two months away, here’s a look at some players who could replace Virgil Van Dijk in Liverpool’s defence.
The French enforcer is amongst the range of emerging centre-backs that have taken the footballing world by storm in recent years. Only 21, Dayot Upamecano could be the talent to watch out for, given the glimpses he has offered at the world’s biggest of stages. A former RB Salzburg star, the youngster has bettered after moving to Bundesliga side RB Leipzig, with his best cameo coming in his side’s UEFA Champions League quarter-finals fixture against Atletico Madrid that the German side won 2-1. The only obstacle in Upamecano’s potential is his lack of experience though, as the immensely talented defender has played very little so far. Upamecano’s £40million release clause will be active after the current campaign, and Liverpool would not have any problem spilling the amount for the talent at hand.
A more experienced and matured option, who could slot in for Virgil Van Dijk and perform his role to perfection from the very first minute, is Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly. The Senegal international has been turning heads with his defensive abilities and game reading skills for years with the biggest of clubs showing interest in him. However, Serie A side Napoli have their clamp tight on one of their best players and a mammoth €75m price tag on the player has also kept his suitors at bay. What makes Koulibaly the most ideal replacement for Van Dijk is him being a complete package. The towering African enforcer is hardly shaken by physical battles and is agile enough to track back in difficult scenarios. Italy’s tactically rich league has improved the defender’s positioning as well, which makes him a brilliant prospect for any top side.
The Sevilla star has a big fan in Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, who believes Diego Carlos’ massive physique and impressive ball control make the Brazilian centre-half a prominent English Premier League candidate. Helping Sevilla win the UEFA Europa League last season, Carlos was the lynchpin to Julen Lopetegui’s setup that outsmarted star-studded teams like Manchester United and Inter Milan in the semi-final and final. Though Carlos’ game-reading skills aren’t one of his strengths, his physicality could more than compensate for that in the Premier League. Though Carlos has also been accused of being reckless at times, it is widely believed that in a perfect set-up, the defender could do wonders. The 27-year-old talent has a release clause of £60million pasted on his name, hence Klopp would have to be absolutely sure before making the move.
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