The January transfer window is now approaching the final stretch, and while there is still plenty of time for Liverpool to make a move, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that Jurgen Klopp will do anything dramatic over the coming weeks.
Defence is surely the priority in the market but with the emergence of Jarell Quansah, it looks like the pursuit of a new star is on pause until the summer, though potential arrivals have been earmarked.
Liverpool looking at signing a Bundesliga star
Sporting Lisbon defensive duo Goncalo Inacio and Ousmane Diomande are reportedly both on Liverpool’s radar but neither would come cheap, and if Klopp and co desire a shrewder alternative, then advancing negotiations for Japan international Ko Itakura might be the best move.
According to Sky Sports reporter Patrick Berger, the Borussia Monchengladbach star – who has a €15m (£13m) release clause in his contract, active in the summer – is being considered by the Anfield side, with Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur also interested.
How Ko Itakura would fit in at Liverpool
In 2022, Gladbach signed Itakura from Manchester City for €5m (£4m), though he had never actually reached Pep Guardiola’s first team during his time at the Etihad Stadium.
Nonetheless, numerous loan spells – including a stint in the Netherlands that led pundit Hans Kraay to dub him “one of the very best central defenders in the Eredivisie” – culminated in a promotion-clinching campaign in Germany’s second tier with FC Schalke, convincing his current club to swoop in and sign him on a permanent.
The 26-year-old has been injured for large parts of the 2023/24 season but has bagged two goals from just seven outings, though a better reflection of his defensive armoury can be pulled from last season, having completed 91% of his passes in the German Bundesliga, also winning 62% of his duels and succeeding with 89% of his dribbles, as per Sofascore.
As per FBref, he ranks among the top 16% of centre-backs across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for goals scored, the top 13% for pass completion and the top 5% for blocks per 90.
Such metrics underscore the player’s excellent ability to thrive across different facets of the defensive game, and with the £31k-per-week ace also noted for his “incredibly fast” pace by Kraay, he could prove to be Virgil van Dijk’s next Joe Gomez in the Liverpool rearguard.
Gomez and the Dutchman were once considered the finest partnership in English football and won the Premier League and Champions League under Klopp’s guidance with some imperious and dynamic displays together, serving as foils to each other’s skill sets.
While Van Dijk is arguably the best defender in the world right now, Gomez fell by the wayside last year and while he has now picked himself back up, his protean talent is being used at full-back with greater regularity this season.
But Itakura could serve the England international’s former role and provide the Reds captain with a fleet-footed presence beside him to ensure that Liverpool’s multi-dimensional system maintains its fluidity.
Gomez ranks among the top 5% of positional peers for progressive carries and the top 6% for successful take-ons per 90 to emphasise this point.
Given the small outlay that would be required to secure Itakura’s services, this might be the move to make for Liverpool as they look to add depth and something different to their ranks, maintaining the cohesive and free-flowing nature of their squad.