Premier League • England

Five cheap but brilliant alternatives to Jude Bellingham for Liverpool: Gravenberch, Veiga…

Lorient's Enzo Le Fee, Bayern Munich's Ryan Gravenberch and Borussia Monchengladbach's Kouadio Kone. TEAMtalk montage.

While Liverpool have pulled out of the race to sign Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham, they still need midfield reinforcements in the summer. 

The Reds initially made Bellingham their number-one target this summer after watching him develop into one of the best midfielders in the world.

But the cost of signing the 19-year-old would have restricted the planned overhaul at Anfield and they’re now looking at other options.

They’ve since been linked with the likes of Mason Mount, Nico Barella and Alexis Mac Allister but they will all cost over £60m.

We’ve taken a look at five cut-price alternatives to Bellingham that Liverpool should be looking at in the summer transfer window.

Ryan Gravenberch

An all-action midfielder, Gravenberch came through the Ajax academy and has often been compared to Bellingham due to his style of play and skillset.

“He’s very important for our team because he’s a box-to-box player,” former Ajax manager Erik ten Hag said in 2022. “He accelerates out of positional play, does good dribbling, has tremendous passing ability and participates in the build-up play.

“Due to his athleticism and physique, he is also strong in the transition game and can also win the balls. He’s come a long way, but can still learn a lot.”

The 20-year-old completed a £21m move to Bayern Munich last summer but has found opportunities limited in Bavaria, registering just 333 minutes of game time in the Bundesliga this season.

He’s struggled to usurp Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka and Bayern are also going to sign Konrad Laimer in the summer, which would push the Netherlands international further down the pecking order.

According to The Times, Liverpool have “stepped up” their efforts to sign Gravenberch and a club representative recently met with his father in the Netherlands.

The report adds that Bayern have set an asking price of £25m – a fee much more affordable than the £130m which Bellingham will command.

Enzo Le Fee

Le Fee has earned plenty of plaudits in Ligue 1 this season, registering five goals and five assists for an exciting and youthful Lorient side.

Standing at 5 foot 7, the diminutive midfielder has a low centre of gravity, an abundance of technical quality and has been likened to Liverpool maestro Thiago Alcantara.

His current contract expires in the summer of 2024, and he has announced his intention of moving on at the end of the current campaign.

“It’s time for me to leave,” Le Fee told Le Telegramme. “I have a special bond with the club and that’s why I wanted to extend my contract at the start of the season.

“I waited for a contract offer from Lorient until December. It never came. Now, I don’t expect anything from the club and I won’t extend my contract. I hope to leave this summer so that my transfer will bring money to Lorient.”

Several Premier League sides are reportedly monitoring the 23-year-old as Liverpool, Leicester City, West Ham United, Leicester City, Fulham, Wolves, Newcastle and Tottenham have all been credited with interest.

The Reds should take advantage of his contract situation and a fee in the region of £15m is likely to be enough to tempt Lorient to sell.

Gabri Veiga

Since being officially promoted to the Celta Vigo first team last summer, Veiga has established himself as one of the best young talents in La Liga.

The 6ft midfielder has registered nine goals and four assists in 27 La Liga appearances this season, averaging a direct goal contribution every 127.8 minutes.

Despite being renowned for his offensive qualities, he doesn’t shirk his defensive responsibilities and can play in a double pivot in a 4-4-2.

ESPN claim that Liverpool are closely monitoring the Spain Under-21 international and have already commissioned reports on both Veiga’s sporting and personal life.

He’s also been linked with Real Madrid, Manchester City and Manchester United but those three clubs are still in the race for Bellingham’s signature, which could give Liverpool an advantage.

Jurgen Klopp’s side know exactly how much it’ll cost to sign the 20-year-old as he has a €40m (£35.4m) release clause in his Celta Vigo contract.

Romeo Lavia

A Manchester City academy graduate, Lavia left the Etihad last summer and joined Southampton in search of regular first-team football.

The 19-year-old has enjoyed a stellar breakout season at the heart of Southampton’s midfield, making 22 appearances in the Premier League.

“He is a young player who can do both sides of the game, equally good defensively but also once he is one the ball he has tremendous feet and can pass it,” Rio Ferdinand told BT Sport earlier this season.

Despite Lavia’s impressive performances, Southampton are currently rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table and they’ll face a fight to hold onto their star man if they go down.

Football Insider claim that Liverpool have joined Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United in a five-way race to sign the Belgium international.

Lavia operates in a different position to Bellingham but the Reds also need a long-term successor for Fabinho, who has struggled for form throughout the 2022/23 season.

Manchester City can’t activate their £40m buy-back clause until the summer of 2024 and this gives Liverpool and other prospective suitors the chance to sign him during the forthcoming transfer window.

Kouadio Kone

Kone has shone for Borussia Monchengladbach this season, with his performances catching the attention of some of Europe’s top clubs.

Journalist Fabrizio Romano has previously reported that Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Newcastle United and Paris Saint-Germain are all monitoring his situation.

“I live well with rumours, I don’t pay attention to everything that is said,” Kone told Le Parisien. “It’s more my entourage and my friends who send me the articles.

“It’s a source of pride for them to see my name associated with big clubs, but it doesn’t make me hot or cold. I prefer to finish my season quietly. Afterward, what must happen will happen.”

The France Under-21 international, who has a contract at Gladbach until 2025, operates primarily as a holding midfielder and has started 26 matches in the Bundesliga this season, winning an average of 2.6 tackles per game.

He can also play in a box-to-box role, where he showcases his athleticism, technical ability and willingness to bomb forward.

While the midfielder was initially valued at £39m, Sport Bild claim that Monchengladbach have dropped their asking price to just £26.6m as they look to raise funds in the summer.

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