Liverpool’s priority heading into this summer’s transfer window has understandably been their long-awaited midfield rebuild.
The Reds’ struggles in their engine-room last season were well-documented, and even before it was confirmed that James Milner, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Juventus loanee Arthur Melo would all be departing the club, it was obvious that Liverpool needed to straighten their midfield.
By signing Alexis Mac Allister within 11 days after they finished their 2022/23 season, club managers did not waste time in starting to address such issues. However, the World Cup winner is just the beginning of the Reds’ recruitment drive.
Further midfield signings are anticipated, with France Under-21s internationals Khephren Thuram and Manu Kone currently leading the speculation in the Liverpool gossip columns. But, according to reports in Germany, the Reds could sign another Frenchman in a different position entirely this summer.
Beyond midfield, centre-back was also a position of concern for Liverpool in the most recent campaign. Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konate, Joel Matip, and Joe Gomez would all suffer injuries at at least one point during the season, with the Dutchman and Cameroonian, who is out of contract next summer and has been linked with a move away, both not attaining their previous heights.
Also both the wrong side of 30, with Gomez also struggling to live up to expectation, Jurgen Klopp has already hinted he will strengthen at centre-back this summer as a result.
“We look in all departments apart from goalkeeper at the moment,” the German said to reporters last month. “Yes, if there is a good one (centre-back) out there, I would not deny it. That’s all. We look at all areas of the pitch, definitely.”
The Reds have been linked with a move for Ajax’s Jurrien Timber, VfL Wolfsburg’s Micky van de Ven, and Everton’s Jarrad Branthwaite, while Chelsea’s Levi Colwill has his admirers at Anfield. But while all four defenders are under the age of 22, reports in Germany suggest Liverpool are interested in a more senior option in Bayern Munich star Benjamin Pavard.
With a year left on his contract in Bavaria, the 27-year-old wants to leave Munich this summer with Sky Sports Germany reporting that Bayern would be willing to let him go. They also claim that the Reds are one of the sides interested in the France international, along with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Man City, and Inter Milan, and that he could be allowed to move on for £25m-£35m.
Meanwhile, BILD’s Christian Falk has since claimed that ‘Liverpool is now a hot candidate’ for Pavard’s signature and that the club are in talks with the defender’s representatives. Club sources have distanced Liverpool from such reports, insisting that the club aren’t in the market for a new right-back this summer. But the versatile France international is more than just a right-back.
Admittedly, it would be understandable if onlookers raised eyebrows at such reports with the 27-year-old hardly fitting the go-to profile of Reds signings under Klopp. With Alexis Mac Allister the German’s 33rd signing since he arrived at Anfield, only five of those players were over the age of 27 when they joined the club.
Ragnar Klavan, Alex Manninger, Adrian, and Andy Lonergan were all over 30 when they joined the club. AKA a £4.2m reserve centre-back and three back-up goalkeepers, two of which never played competitively for the club.
Elsewhere, Virgil van Dijk, Xherdan Shaqiri, Thiago Alcantara, and Arthur Melo are the only other signings actually over the age of 25 when signed, and even then three of them were 26 with the Spaniard the odd one out at 29. Admittedly he is a rare exception to Liverpool’s transfer policy as they snapped up a world class player for an initial £20m.
Meanwhile, Gini Wijnaldum, Mohamed Salah, Alisson, and Ben Davies are the only 25 year olds brought in. In other words, the rest, including Mac Allister, were not yet entering their peak years upon arrival at Anfield.
In contrast, Pavard is at his peak. But could he follow in Thiago’s footsteps and become a rare exception to Liverpool’s transfer policy by swapping Bavaria for Anfield?
There would be some sense to signing the 2018 World Cup winner. He is a versatile player after all, equally comfortable at playing at right-back and at centre-back. While not the fastest, he is very good on the ball and passing out from the back, even if he can’t compete with the assist records of a Trent Alexander-Arnold.
But it is because of the England international that a move for Pavard could make sense, due to his versatility, with it still unclear how the Reds will line up formation-wise next season. They would of course finish the 2022/23 campaign playing with an inverted full-back, with Alexander-Arnold pressing central into midfield when Liverpool were on the ball with the right-sided centre-back covering his right-back position.
If such a formation is here to stay, Pavard could be the perfect fit considering his comfort at both centre-back and right-back. From his 43 appearances for Bayern last season, 23 would come at the heart of defence with the other 20 on the right-flank.
Such experience makes him the perfect profile for the Reds’ overlooked defensive hybrid role. While Konate certainly has the pace to cover both positions, he has still had to slowly adapt to his change of role. With Pavard also capable of lining up on the left if necessary, it would be possible to play him in that defence trio with his compatriot and Van Dijk.
However, his presence would offer more than just a suitable fit to the new-look 3-2-2-3 system. If Liverpool reverted to their traditional 4-3-3, Pavard would be a proven option at both centre-back and right-back.
The latter role would be particularly beneficial following Milner’s summer exit, with teenagers Conor Bradley and Calvin Ramsay the only natural alternatives to Alexander-Arnold on the right. While Gomez can play there, Pavard’s presence would enable Klopp to switch the Reds’ number 66 with a senior option, as Kostas Tsimikas offers for Andy Robertson on the left, while also offering the possibility of a full-switch into midfield if desired.
And by breaking away from the traditional younger profile of player, signing a 27-year-old wouldn’t actually block the path of Bradley or Ramsay, with the young pair ready to step up full-time themselves once the Frenchman is approaching 30.
As it stands, suggestions of Liverpool interest in Pavard has not grown beyond German reports and speculation, with club sources dismissing such suggestions with the midfield their ongoing priority. But with the defender still set to leave Bayern Munich this summer, only time will tell if the Reds could lure a second World Cup winner to Anfield.