With the footballing calendar on hold, Liverpool will remain just short of their first league title for 30 years for the foreseeable future given the coronavirus outbreak.
However, the champions-elect appear to be using this hiatus as an opportunity to improve their ranks with Schalke's 18-year-old centre-back Malick Thiaw targeted as an option to bolster their back-line. A defence which, prior to the suspension of play, was the best in the Premier League this season.
Thiaw reportedly has a £7m release clause and the links to Merseyside have already inspired unhelpful and lazy comparisons to a current Liverpool centre-back, with the 18-year-old hastily dubbed the 'new Joël Matip'.
So, here are five things to know about this talented youngster before he might arrive on English shores...
Inexperienced at Senior Level
To say Thiaw lacks competitive first-team football would be an understatement. The 18-year-old has been granted a solitary minute of Bundesliga action in his career so far, which came in Schalke's last match at the start of March when Thiaw replaced Everton loanee Jonjoe Kenny in injury time.
One day later the young defender scored an 83rd-minute equaliser for Schalke's Under-19 team, a side which he has been a fundamental part of since 2018. Thiaw has missed only one match in the past two seasons for the Blues' youth team and even captained the side in six of their last seven league fixtures.
Thiaw has also made a smattering of appearances in friendlies for the first team and was included in the senior side's training camp over the winter break.
Varied Youth Career
Despite not turning 19 until next season, Thiaw already stands at 6'3, forming quite a formidable physical presence either at centre-back or in defensive midfield.
This stature not only makes him quite literally stand out in youth games but could also inflate his actual talent given many of his opponents will still be growing. Like any player transitioning from youth football to the senior game there will be a period of adjustment but given his widely-vaunted ball-playing ability it may be harsh to assume Thiaw's success has been solely down to his early growth.
Recent Goalscoring Streak
As news outlets report Liverpool's interest in the, until now, unknown Thiaw, the quality which undoubtedly leaps out and into the player's profile is the nine goals he's scored for Schalke's Under-19 side this term, including two against arch rivals Borussia Dortmund.
This tally is enough for him to be the side's top scorer this season. The fact that a defender is their most prolific player is a concern not lost on coach Norbert Elgert who tellingly describes it as 'significant'.
However, goals have not always been a part of Thiaw's game. In his first 39 appearances for the Under-19 side he didn't trouble the scoresheet once. In his last 14 league games, he has eight goals.
Given the limited footage of Schalke youth games, it's difficult to say whether this is simply a hot streak or a blossoming of goalscoring talent, but assuming that he can maintain this goal every other game average seems fanciful.
Fight for him at International Level
Thiaw was born in Düsseldorf, Germany to a Senegalese father and Finnish mother. He has Finnish citizenship but is waiting on his German passport which he applied for in November.
Finland's Under-21 coach has already travelled to
However, Thiaw would not be able to play for Germany if he made an appearance for Finland before he had secured dual nationality.
Despite his young age, Thiaw clearly knows what he wants from his career and should be an exciting prospect in the years to come, be that at Liverpool or wherever he chooses to play.
Source : 90min