Premier League • England

Liverpool backed to sign Kalvin Phillips or Declan Rice with one midfielder going, another not the answer

Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita

Liverpool should disregard signing a direct replacement for Sadio Mane and instead go all out to avert a looming problem in midfield, per one observer.

The Reds are poised to embark on a difficult scrap to retain the services of Sadio Mane this summer. Transfer guru Fabrizio Romano is one of a whole host of reliable sources who have claimed Mane wants out of Anfield. At present, Bayern Munich would appear his likeliest suitor with the forward about to enter the final 12 months of his current deal.

Both the Times and Guardian reported Liverpool will play hardball over an exit. The latter claimed a sale will only be sanctioned if Liverpool receive a bid far greater than £30m and have a replacement already lined up.

But according to talkSPORT pundit and ex-Red Danny Murphy, Klopp’s recruitment team should focus on the midfield instead.

“I don’t think they need to go heavy on forward players,” said Murphy (via the Liverpool Echo).

“They’ve got Jota – who’s shown his worth in terms of goals – I think Firmino will stay another year but they will have to sign someone if Firmino goes.”

Instead, Murphy explained why Liverpool should go “all out” to sign Leeds ace Kalvin Phillips or West Ham talisman Declan Rice.

The Reds are known to be on the hunt for a new all-action midfielder this summer. Monaco’s Aurelien Tchouameni is in their sights, though Real Madrid appear to have stolen a march on that front.

Should the Frenchman move to Madrid, Phillips or Rice would represent more than viable alternatives, though neither will be easy to sign.

Liverpool’s midfield under the microscope

Murphy hailed Liverpool’s current midfield options, especially their starting three. However, he thinks Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s time is up and Naby Keita hasn’t done enough on Merseyside.

The pair both have one more year left on their current contracts, while James Milner will become a free agent on June 30.

“My thing is if you look in the midfield area, defensively they’re fine,” added Murphy. “They’ve got lots of cover, I don’t know if Milner will stay, Ox will probably go, I’m not sure Keita’s the answer.

“So that midfield three of Thiago, Fabinho, Henderson is phenomenal but Thiago does struggle with injuries and you can’t expect Jordan to keep playing 45-50 games, he’s in his 30’s now.

“I’d be going all out for Rice or Phillips. English, hungry, someone you know will be around for a long time, can come in hit the ground running, that’s where I’d be looking.”

Could either deal actually happen?

The Reds have drawn tentative links with Leeds’ Phillips, though the fact they staved off relegation will make any move doubly difficult.

Phillips has drawn links with Aston Villa, Man City, Man Utd and Liverpool. Villa now appear out of the race after landing Boubacar Kamara, while the rivalry between Leeds and Man Utd make a switch to Old Trafford troublesome.

That leaves City and Liverpool as the contenders, though few would be surprised to see Phillips commit to his boyhood club now relegation has been averted.

In Rice’s regard, the type of fee West Ham are commanding makes a deal highly impractical. Both the club and David Moyes have repeatedly said Rice’s value is far north of £100m. In all likelihood, that rules Liverpool out of the running.