Liverpool man who is desperate to leave could be answer to summer transfer dilemma

Arne Slot has been utilizing his new Liverpool FC work phone, with Richard Hughes on speed dial ever since the Dutchman was appointed the club’s new manager last month.

And while much of those conversations have centred around the hiring of a strong backroom team to support him when the work begins on the Kirkby training pitches, Slot and Hughes have been discussing ways to improve upon the squad Jurgen Klopp left behind.

Indeed, Slot revealed that he and Liverpool’s newly appointed sporting directed are talking “almost every day” to “make sure the team is ready”.

No doubt some of those conversations have centred around Lille’s teenage centre-back Leny Yoro, a player who Liverpool are pushing to sign this summer.

But the concern among Anfield insiders that Yoro will find the overtures of Real Madrid, should the Spanish giants firm up their interest, too much too resist.

Should that happen, Liverpool may need to rethink their plans to buy a centre-back in the summer transfer window, and with the club currently understood not to be prioritising that position, beyond the signing of an exceptional talent such as Yoro, it leaves the Reds in an intriguing place going into the new season.

Stances can change, of course, and Liverpool have shown they are ready to change transfer plans quickly should targets become available, with Alisson Becker’s switch from Roma in 2018 a good example of that, and it’d be a brave move for Slot to go into the new campaign without signing a new centre-back.

He does have options there, with captain Virgil van Dijk supported by Ibrahima Konate, Jarell Quansah and the versatile Joe Gomez, but with Gomez and Konate both proving to be fairly injury prone in recent years and Van Dijk now with just a year left on his contract with the club, that area of the pitch starts to look far more fragile.

And so further strengthening is surely needed. But perhaps Liverpool have an option there right under their noses.

Because it wasn’t too long ago that Sepp van den Berg was being praised as one of the ‘top six defenders in Europe’ while on loan with Mainz.

Indeed, figures collated by Comparisonator in March showed the 22-year-old bettered only by William Saliba (Arsenal), Nico Schotterbeck (Borussia Dortmund), Kim Min-Jae (Bayern Munich) and Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk, The comparison website for player performance used its AI index to find the best centre-backs via their averages.

His performances were such that Mainz boss Bo Henriksen hailed the defender as “a leader and the boss in the middle”, adding “he’s getting better and better”.

Van den Berg has made no secret of his desire now to depart Anfield, accusing the club of “hindering his future” and demanding to be sold. Liverpool have subsequently set a £20m price-tag for interested clubs, but perhaps everyone could be best suited by him giving it another year.

Game time will be available should he stay put, with Liverpool fighting on four fronts and facing an expanded Champions League format in the year to come. And Liverpool will have in their ranks another young defender with potential, able to fight for a place in the first team.

It may well be a test of Slot’s impressive communication skills to convince Van den Berg to stick it out at Liverpool a while longer, but should he do so then perhaps FSG’s money will be better spent elsewhere, with a new attacker, full-back and versatile midfielder all potential targets.

If they don’t try, they won’t know. Slot only needs to pick up the phone and find out.



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