Lovren or No Lovren, Liverpool Don't Need to Buy a New Centre-Back This Summer

Should Dejan Lovren depart Anfield to rebuild the reputation that Troy Deeney systematically annihilated back in March, it's understood that the Liverpool recruitment team will consider a new central defensive addition.

It seems that mid-season personnel crisis, which saw Jordan Henderson deployed in central defence for a Club World Cup semi-final, has left some battle scars.

The names in the frame have differed wildly, from the ambitious Kalidou Koulibaly to Leeds loan star Ben White to Diego Llorente, but we're yet to see one that is particularly convincing.

That's because any new centre-back arriving at Anfield, assuming the three pillars of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip remain in place, will have to hit a very specific criteria.

While Watford and Atlético Madrid exposed a crack or two, Liverpool's defensive unit is among the most formidable in Europe. They have conceded just 21 Premier League goals this season - only Sheffield United (25) and Leicester (28) have managed fewer than 30 - so any new addition would have to be incredibly good, but also willing to go months on end with virtually no first-team football.

This very good, very patient centre-back would also have to come cheap. 90min understands Liverpool weren't planning to spend big this summer under normal circumstances, and with the coronavirus crisis complicating thins further, they certainly won't be now.

So...who does that leave? Is there, somewhere, a magical goldilocks defender, unassuming, of adequate standard, and offering exceptional value for money? Or should Jurgen Klopp and co consider other solutions?

You only have to look as far as this season's domestic cup matches to see that the answer to the problem might lie within the current squad.

Directly, there is the versatile and mightily impressive Ki-Jana Hoever, who showed in the 1-0 win over Shrewsbury at Anfield - in which a Liverpool youth team upset the odds on the big stage - that he has all the physical and mental attributes to eventually succeed as an elite central defender.

If Hoever - who only celebrated his 18th birthday this year - lacks the experience Klopp is after in his fourth choice centre-back, then waiting in the wings is 23-year-old Nat Phillips. He was temporarily recalled from a loan spell at Stuggart in January when things were looking tight, which demonstrates clearly that the Anfield coaching staff feel he is capable of stepping up...at least in an emergency scenario.

There is also last summer's signing from PEC Zwolle, Sepp van den Berg. The youngster is still only 18, but held in high regard at Melwood, while he has had the invaluable benefit of working under and alongside Dutch legends Jaap Stam and Van Dijk already in his nascent career.

Meanwhile, if Neco Williams is deemed prepared to step into a more senior role, that may also help ease the need for reinforcements.

Clearly, the wiry right-back is not going to transform into a deputy central defender over the summer, but if he is deemed capable and ready to serve as Trent Alexander-Arnold's understudy, then Gomez - who infrequently finds himself shunted out to provide full-back cover - can wholly focus on what he does best.

On the left of defence, meanwhile, Andy Robertson, for all his cyborg qualities, can't play every game. And while James Milner has the intelligence and work-rate to provide a steady stop-gap, he lacks the dynamism to truly pick up the Scotland captain's slack.

If there is room in the budget to recruit a backup left-back who can also cover at the heart of defence, then that too would negate the need to go and sign a Lovren 2.0. It's purely speculation, but someone in the mould of Borussia Monchengladbach's Ramy Bensebaini - an offensive left-back with a proven history of tucking inside - might cut the mustard here.

How Liverpool will handle Lovren's departure remains to be seen; they may recruit a direct replacement, they may lean on an amalgamation of the solutions outlined here, or they may find another, more creative solution.

In order to aid the development of the emerging youngsters and appease the fringe stars who have patiently awaited their opportunity, however, it would only be prudent for the Reds to first consider the easel and canvas they currently have to work with.

If they've proven to be one thing in the Klopp and Edwards era, however, it's just that.

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Source : 90min