Liverpool have recalled centre-back Rhys Williams in a move that has been tipped to spark a January agreement with West Ham.
The Welsh defender, 20, was in the middle of a season-long loan to Championship side Swansea. However, Williams had featured just five times in the league this season, with his last appearance coming on December 4.
Williams has now been recalled early by the Reds, with Swansea confirming the news via their official website.
“Everyone at Swansea City would like to thank Rhys for his contribution during his brief time at the club, and wish him every success in his future career,” read a Swansea statement.
Williams’ recall had been predicted earlier this week to provide extra cover in Liverpool’s first-team defence. The Reds are well stocked at present, though Nat Phillips has emerged as a genuine target for West Ham.
The Hammers are seeking to reinforce their rear-guard after Kurt Zouma and Angelo Ogbonna both suffered serious injuries.
The Liverpool Echo acknowledged West Ham’s interest in Phillips earlier this week and noted Williams’ impending return could pave the way for Phillips to leave. Jurgen Klopp previously suggested Phillips would not be loaned out this month, with any potential exit coming via the permanent route.
Liverpool to recall loan star as defender’s exit sanctioned
Liverpool are set to recall Rhys Williams from a loan spell at Swansea and allow fellow centre-back Nat Phillips to seal a permanent move away.
Liverpool are understood to be seeking around £15m for his signature. While that may sound steep for a back-up option, West Ham’s season could hinge on signing adequate depth at centre-back.
Indeed, Liverpool would not have qualified for the Champions League last season if Phillips had not filled the void left by their plethora of injured defenders. With Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk all sidelined, it was left to Phillips, Williams and loanee Ozan Kabak to steady the ship.
And with Williams now back and providing cover at Anfield, the path has cleared for West Ham to forge a deal with Phillips.
Bielsa backs Klopp over Liverpool postponement probe
Meanwhile, Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa insists he has “total trust” in his rival Premier League sides who have recently called on the competition to postpone a series of high-profile games of late.
Liverpool put the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final clash with Arsenal on ice. And while that tie will be concluded on Thursday evening, an investigation has been opened over alleged breaking of rules.
The issue has generated so many negative headlines that Gary Neville is urging the Premier League to put a stop to it. As such, Bielsa was asked whether he thinks rival Premier League sides are bending the rules to their advantage.
Bielsa, though, insists he fully trusts other clubs and insists he does not have an issue with Jurgen Klopp and others.
“It doesn’t matter what I think,” Bielsa continued. “I don’t think they are cheating, because the important thing is to trust those who administer the rules because there are rules that define whether a game can or cannot be suspended.
“The conditions you have to demonstrate for them to be suspended. Because I trust in those who administer those decisions. I trust all the games that were suspended met the criteria for them to be suspended.
“The question is not do the clubs take advantage, but the question is if those who evaluate do it good or bad. For a club to take advantage there has to be an evaluation that was mistaken because the rules have to be sufficiently clear.”