Liverpool have reportedly identified Real Sociedad midfielder Mikel Merino as a more realistic transfer alternative to Jude Bellingham.
It seems Liverpool’s links with a new midfielder are destined not to slow down in the New Year. Of course, they released Georginio Wijnaldum at the end of last season. No replacement was found, although Harvey Elliott returned from a loan spell and began to make his case before an injury.
There are still some concerns about a lack of depth in the middle of the park for Liverpool. Elliott is not the only player there to have spent time on the sidelines recently. It has reminded Liverpool of the need to have plenty of options in each role.
Should they enter the market for a new midfielder in 2022, they would like to try for a statement signing. They have been heavily linked with Bellingham of Borussia Dortmund, for example.
Bellingham has been building up quite the reputation in the early years of his career. The teenager has not struggled at all with the step up from Birmingham City to Borussia Dortmund. Rather, he has flourished, and he is now a frequent sight in England squads.
There is a widespread acceptance that Bellingham will return to his home country at club level one day. Dortmund will be keen to keep him for a while yet, but a big bid could test their resolve.
Liverpool would be prime suitors for his signature if they are willing to pay a high fee. However, in all honesty, that appears unrealistic.
The club have tended to operate with a low net spend under their current owners. Therefore, they are usually unlikely to make big-money signings without a significant sale coming first.
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Bellingham’s price tag may already have skyrocketed beyond their means. With that in mind, it would be useful to keep in mind some alternative targets.
According to Fichajes, one cheaper solution for Liverpool would be Merino of Real Sociedad.
Formerly of Newcastle United, he has built up a better career for himself in Spain. He may be able to have a better second attempt at Premier League football, though.
Now 25 years old, he has earned 10 caps for Spain and has played more than 100 times for La Real.
Merino still on Liverpool radar
Liverpool were apparently considering him over the summer, but as a backup plan behind Bellingham. Now the latter looks out of reach, they have returned to thinking about Merino.
The report from Fichajes suggests that Merino’s main qualities that would be a good fit for Liverpool are his ability to cover ground and adapt to a range of different territories.
While he would be cheaper than Bellingham, Liverpool are still willing to invest a decent amount in Merino if they feel they have the right chance to sign him.
He is under a long-term contract with La Real until 2025, so again would not be the easiest player to acquire.
The report does not specify exactly how much he may cost, but it seems reasonable to think that he would be more within budget.
Although his stint with Newcastle was not particularly memorable, he would not be starting from scratch in the Premier League and is therefore someone Liverpool could think about.