Premier League • England

Liverpool draw up three-man January shortlist as Klopp offers spiky response on huge transfer claim

Wolfsburg's Maxence Lacroix, Goncalo Inacio of Sporting Lisbon and Sao Paulo's Lucas Beraldo are all Liverpool targets

Maxence Lacroix, Goncalo Inacio and Lucas Beraldo are all Liverpool targets

Liverpool reportedly have a transfer shortlist of three defensive targets ahead of the January window – but Jurgen Klopp has offered a now customary guarded response to claims the Reds are ready to splash the cash.

The Merseysiders spent the summer rebuiding their midfield after the sudden departures of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho took the number of departures at Anfield to six. And having splashed out a combined £145.2m to bring in four new players – Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai, Wataru Endo and Ryan Gravenberch all signed on – Klopp was able to boost what had been a jaded-looking area of the Liverpool side.

Going into that summer window, Klopp had expected to sign two, possibly three midfielders but also allowing for the addition of a new centre-half at Anfield too.

And with long-serving Joe Matip entering the final year of his contract, it was believed Klopp was open to the idea of moving the 32-year-old on and signing a long-term successor in his place.

However, that plan was ultimately shelved when it became apparent that Liverpool’s priorities would have to be focused on midfield recruits.

Sadly, though, for Liverpool and Matip, the former Schalke defender has suffered a serious ACL injury that has now brought his season to a premature end.

And with his deal at Anfield due to expire in June, his Reds career could also now be over too, with the dramatic 4-3 win over Fulham last Sunday proving to be his 201st, and potentially last, appearance for the club.

That leaves Liverpool desperately short of central defensive cover heading into the business end of the season.

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Liverpool draw up three-man defender wishlist

But with the January window opening for business in just 23 days time, Klopp at least has the opportunity to bring in a replacement.

Now according to Football Insider, the Anfield boss has drawn up a three-man list of defensive targets to come in and strengthen their options.

That list is headed up by Sporting defender Goncalo Inacio – as we exclusively revealed in  November – and with the Reds have been tracking for well over a two years now.

The 22-year-old is regarded as one of his country’s finest centre-halves, drawing comparisons with Ruben Dias for his uncompromising style. Now a regular for club and country, Inacio has an exit clause in his deal set at €60m (£52.4m).

If Liverpool are to prise Inacio away from Sporting CP, their manager Ruben Amorim has warned that his suitors will need to meet that release clause in full, with his side very much against the potential sale.

And to underline their determination to keep him, they are looking to hand Inacio a new deal that now only presents him with a pay-rise, but also seriously enhances that exit clause.

That means Liverpool will potentially never get a better chance to sign Inacio than they will in the January window.

Klopp, however, does have two other alternatives in mind, however, in the form of Sao Paulo defender Lucas Beraldo and Maxence Lacroix of Wolfsburg.

The Brazilian side have this week revealed they would be open to the sale of 20-year-old Beraldo, giving Liverpool hope a deal can be done.

Klopp, meanwhile, is also understood to be a huge admirer of French defender Lacroix, having watched his progress since a 2020 move to the Bundesliga.

Klopp plays down Liverpool chances of defender deal

Of the three, however, he is their least favoured option, given he is right-footed, while the other two targets both prefer their left feet.

Liverpool, though, do have a solid track record of excellent recruitment in the January window over the years. And while other clubs have often opted to keep their powder dry, Liverpool have used the winter window to excellent effect down the years with Philippe Coutinho, Luis Suarez, Virgil van Dijk, Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo among their more successful mid-season signings.

Nonetheless, Klopp is keen to play down their chances of another successful January raid.

And the Reds boss offered a now-familiar spiky response when asked by a journalist if they would look to sign a defender in January in light of Matip’s injury.

“You always talk about transfers like it is the easiest thing in the world. They all cost money, it must be the right player. We still have four centre-backs. Tell me a club which wants to sell a top, top centre-half. Tell me one.”

He continued: “Is it now perfect? As long as we can go with those four [centre-backs]. If not, then it will be a bit more tricky with the amount of games coming up. It was never wonderland when you bring a world-class centre-back until the other one is fit again.

“As long as other clubs don’t put them under the Christmas tree for us and say, ‘Take it and use it for as long as you need it’… I didn’t really think about it yet because it was only five days since we had that problem. I don’t think so, to be honest.”

Liverpool are also being linked with a move for Crystal Palace’s Marc Guehi, though the Eagles are determined to hang on to their defensive star until the summer window at least.

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