After signing Cody Gakpo for an initial £37m, it remains to be seen if Liverpool will strengthen their squad further in the current transfer window. Following the Dutchman’s arrival, Jurgen Klopp admitted the deal could impact any future Reds business in January and that he doesn’t expect to “splash the cash” in this month’s transfer window as a result. But that doesn’t make any further winter deals impossible.
While Anfield sources have stressed that a mid-season move for any midfielder remains unlikely following the signing of the forward, the club will continue to assess their options – as they do in every transfer window. For example, their summer business last year was considered complete before injuries prompted them to bring in Arthur Melo on loan, while attractive fees and rival interest saw them act opportunistically to bring in both Gakpo and Luis Diaz mid-season despite initially planning to make such moves in the close-season.
Admittedly, January seems a rather unlikely time for Liverpool to try and complete a deal for first-choice midfield target Jude Bellingham, with the England international almost certain to cost a club-record fee and Borussia Dortmund currently showing no desire to sanction an exit mid-season.
And while the club’s stance has been to sign the right player rather than any player right now, even if that means they have to wait and leave a void in their squad, if a suitable target of high-enough quality became available for an attractive fee, as was the case with Gakpo, club bosses would perhaps be more inclined to swoop in the weeks ahead. Alternatively, there’s always the possibility that injuries could reluctantly force their hand.
With Luis Diaz ruled out until at least March after undergoing knee surgery, and Diogo Jota sidelined until February with a calf injury, injuries also played their part in Liverpool opting to strengthen their attack and sign Gakpo rather than prioritise their midfield in January. Yet it remains clear, as the Reds’ on-field struggles leave Champions League qualification hopes in serious peril, their engine-room remains in need of an overhaul.
A look at their current options, which are predominantly made up of ageing stars, injury-prone players, expiring contracts, and raw youngsters, and there is a notable drop-off compared to the midfield Klopp could field when Liverpool were being crowned champions of England, Europe and the world.
The main accusation that falls the engine room’s way is its lack of legs compared to yesteryear. Currently bereft of the intensity that made up their highly-successful ‘gegenpressing’ identity, this is where an increasingly desperate fanbase are wanting to see change.
With Fabinho struggling this season, calls for a new number six to at least rival him for a starting berth continue to grow. Meanwhile, links with the likes of Bellingham reiterate the need for a powerful box-to-box number 8 capable of making impact on both ends of the pitch.
Putting it simplistically, Liverpool need at least one all-round midfielder who is capable of lining up in either position. In other words, they need the ‘next Gini Wijnaldum’ or ‘next Jordan Henderson’ – two trusted lieutenants whose versatility, especially when at their prime, was perhaps taken for granted. They just made what now looks so difficult for the Reds look ridiculously easy.
To sign such a player of high-enough quality and for an attractive fee is admittedly easier said than done. Already a rare commodity, the profile of such a player is not one any club would part with willingly mid-season.
Yet such a player might not be the only target on Liverpool wishlists after confirmation that Virgil van Dijk has suffered a hamstring injury. The Dutchman has undergone scans to determine the severity of the setback, and is likely to be absent for much of January at least.
But with the duration of lay-off still to be determined as a result, such a prospect will still create an anxiety in a Reds camp still scarred by his season-long absence in 2020/21 as Liverpool saw all their senior centre-backs one-by-one struck down by season-ending injuries.
There is no suggestion at this time that the 31-year-old faces a prolonged period on the sidelines, but with Joel Matip, Ibrahima Konate, and Joe Gomez all boasting patchy records when it comes to availability, news of a Van Dijk injury will no doubt create a twitchiness regarding whether Klopp’s squad boast enough quality defensive cover.
But that is what makes links to Atalanta midfielder Teun Koopmeiners all the more intriguing, after the iNews reported that Liverpool have been scouting the Netherlands international in recent months, and suggested that assistant manager Pep Lijnders is a fan.
Liverpool have been linked with the 24-year-old before, back in 2021 when it became clear that Wijnaldum would leave Anfield at the end of his contract. Then on the books of AZ Alkmaar, where he was club captain despite his tender years, he was touted as a potential replacement for his compatriot, only to join Atalanta that August in a €12m deal.
Koopmeiners, who recently impressed for the Netherlands at the 2022 World Cup, caught the imagination of supporters two years ago courtesy of enjoying 16 and 17-goal seasons (and also recording 10 assists over the two campaigns) for AZ despite being a midfielder. But scratch beneath the surface and the baulk of such strikes come from penalties, free-kicks and corners.
While still a goal threat and capable of playing as an attacking midfielder, he predominantly plays as a number eight or a number six. Meanwhile, he’s equally comfortable playing at centre-back too if required.
Boasting four goals and an assist from 15 appearances so far this season, Koopmeiners has been one of the standout performers in Serie A during the 2022/23 campaign. Good on the ball and boasting strong work-rate, it’s understandable why he could appeal to Liverpool.
His versatility ensures the left-footer could cover for either Fabinho or Van Dijk in midfield and defence, as well as being an option further forward in the engine-room. A proven leader at AZ, the 24-year-old is still young enough to get better with his peak years ahead of him, and, like Gakpo, can already speak English and boasts working relationships with compatriots at Anfield.