Liverpool sporting director Michael Edwards believed he was close to landing Samuel Umtiti on transfer deadline day before rejection by the defender saw them turn to Ozan Kabak instead.
The Reds finally relented and recruited defensive help after high-profile injuries to the rearguard this season. Virgil van Dijk will miss the majority of the campaign while Joe Gomez is another long-term injury victim.
Of the two, Kabak is likely to see more action, having played 55 Bundesliga games despite his tender age. Having started his career at Galatasaray, the moved to Stuttgart in January 2019.
The centre-back then joined Schalke six months later despite having a contract with Stuttgart until 2024. The Turkey international made 42 appearances in all competitions for Die Konigsblauen.
However, it seems Kabak was far from Liverpool’s first choice. Firstly, reports in Italy stated they saw a ‘monstrous bid’ for a Juventus man rebuffed.
Liverpool also made a move to sign Barcelona’s Umtiti, according to The Athletic.
Those claims have now been vindicated in Saturday’s edition of Mundo Deportivo. The Catalan paper has gone on record to state just how close Liverpool were to landing the Frenchman.
They state sporting director Edwards had an offer to sign the World Cup winner accepted by Barcelona. With finances tight at the Nou Camp, the Spanish giants were fully prepared to let him move on.
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As per the report, Liverpool wanted to sign Umtiti on a loan deal with an option to buy.
However, despite having permission to approach the player, the move was killed dead by Umtiti, who point blank refused the move. As per Mundo Deportivo, Umtiti told Barca he had no desire to quit the club halfway through the season.
Furthermore, they claim he wanted the chance to prove himself to Ronald Koeman after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Umtiti has suffered a number of injuries over the past 18 months and has been restricted to just three league starts this season. But they claim Umtiti now hopes to win Koeman round having featured four times since the turn of the year.
Kabak debut questions
Kabak, meanwhile, is reported to have impressed Liverpool’s coaching staff since moving to Anfield.
The Reds face a critical game against league leaders Manchester City on Sunday with the Turk eligible to feature.
Asked if Kabak was ready to face City, Klopp did not rule out a debut for his loan signing.
“I don’t know, we will see who can play again, who should not play again,” he said.
“In an ideal world, you have a few weeks to work on defensive things. On organisation and all these type of things. Ben and Ozan had an analysis meeting yesterday where they were shown all the things that defenders do – a centre-half movie.
“So today they have a proper session, tomorrow a proper session and then we will see. I don’t know yet.”
After the 1-0 reverse to Brighton the champions have slipped seven points behind Sunday’s opponents and leaders Man City.
Asked his thoughts on the title race, Klopp was non-committal: “After two years of this [title] question, I might have made some sense. I just don’t see it in the moment.
“We have to win games. In a specific moment it is clear ‘now we go for it’. Now we are not in that moment, so why should we think about it? It’s not important.”