Premier League • England

Liverpool desperation prompts ‘call’ to Man Utd target who’s already held secret transfer meeting

Napoli stars Victor Osimhen and Kim min-jae

The uncertainty surrounding Virgil van Dijk’s hamstring injury has prompted Liverpool into exploring a move for a Napoli star who’s already held a secret meeting with Man Utd officials, per reports.

Van Dijk was replaced at half-time during Liverpool’s ill-fated trip to Brentford. The Reds lost the contest 3-1, though may have lost their star centre-half to a damaging spell on the treatment table too.

Jurgen Klopp moved to allay fears of a long injury lay-off. However, the Times’ Paul Joyce and Athletic’s David Ornstein both later reported the issue is worse than first feared.

BBC Sport subsequently stated Van Dijk will be sent to see a specialist to determine to full scale of the problem.

The Reds do have an abundance of options to turn to in the event Van Dijk is sidelined for a sizeable period.

Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip would be the preferred pairing, with Joe Gomez and Nat Phillips in reserve. However, Gomez in particular has been off-form this season and Liverpool’s failing push for top four can well do without another major blow.

Injuries to Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz, combined with Man Utd’s interest, prompted Liverpool to act six months early and swoop for Cody Gakpo.

Now, reports out of Italy suggest it could be a similar story for Napoli’s Kim Min-jae.

Liverpool eyeing Napoli colossus

The South Korea international has been nothing short of sensational in Naples this season. Kim has played the full 90 minutes in 15 of 16 Serie A matches thus far. He also scooped the Serie A player of the month award in September – no mean feat for a centre-half.

The trusted Gianluca Di Marzio previously reported Kim’s deal contains a release clause overseas clubs can trigger next summer. It’s understood to be set at €50m (approx. £43m).

One club seemingly eyeing Kim up is Manchester United. Indeed, two Italian journalists claimed Kim and his camp held a secret meeting with Man Utd officials in a Naples hotel in December.

Journalists Antonio Corrado and Mimmo Malfitano – the latter of Gazzetta dello Sport – offered the insight.

Corrado told Area Napoli: “I can tell you that there was a meeting between Kim and his meeting with a foreign club at the Paradiso Hotel in Naples.

“It was held during the week before the match against Udinese [November 12]. I couldn’t find out the name of the club.

“Whoever gave me the news, told me they spoke in English, but couldn’t get the name of the club. It’s no coincidence that Napoli immediately took steps to renew the player’s contract and eliminate the release clause.”

At this point, Malfitano stepped in, adding: “So I’ll tell you: the club in question was Manchester United.”

However, according to Il Mattino, Van Dijk’s injury has sparked Liverpool into action.

They headline reads: ‘Liverpool call Napoli after van Dijk’s knockout’. It’s then claimed Klopp is on Kim’s trail, though a move that would suit the Reds looks tough to make.

Kim Min-jae move an uphill struggle

Kim’s release clause doesn’t activate until the summer and by that point, Van Dijk will have long since returned to fitness.

Liverpool’s need – if indeed Van Dijk is ruled out for a lengthy period – is immediate. However, Napoli are in a strong position to fend off any interest with Kim’s contract running until 2025.

Furthermore, Napoli currently top Serie A and are chasing their first domestic title since the Diego Maradona days. Various outlets have gone on record to state it’ll take something special for Napoli to sell a regular starter while embroiled in a title race.

While Kim would undoubtedly represent a fine addition for Liverpool – and a potential long-term successor to either Van Dijk or Matip – a deal seems fanciful at this stage in the current window.

READ MORE: Nine of the best deals that Liverpool have made in the January transfer window: Van Dijk, Suarez…