Liverpool’s turnaround under Brendan Rodgers was nothing short of amazing. However, one glaring hole in their team was at the back. They have four established central defenders on their books, but in reality only Daniel Agger looks good enough for a title-chasing side. The fact is that with a leader in their defence, a Vincent Kompany or a John Terry, Liverpool may very well have finished the season as Premier League champions. With the World Cup just around the corner, here are five defenders that Brendan Rodgers should keep an eye on.
1) Stefan de Vrij (Netherlands):
The Feyenoord man is a highly sought after player following an excellent year at club level, helping Feyenoord to second in the Eredivisie. The 22-year-old will be very important for Louis Van Gaal’s side if they are to overcome the demons of the 2010 World Cup Final.
With excellent strength and tackling, as well as concentration (something Liverpool have lacked) de Vrij is already being looked at by a host of clubs including Everton, Lazio and most recently Man United. Van Gaal may be tempted to bring the youngster who he gave an international debut to with him to England. If Rodgers wants to snap him up, he will need to act fast.
2) Ezequiel Garay (Argentina):
At 27, the Benfica defender should be in the prime of his career. Having already come to prominence at Racing de Santander before a big move to Real Madrid, he fell down the pecking order under Jose Mourinho and made a €5.5 million move to Benfica. It is with the Portuguese side that Garay has starred.
In his first season he helped his side to a Champions League quarter-final and in the past two seasons he has appeared in two Europa League Finals. In the past year he helped Benfica win the Primeira Liga and was also part of a defence that won the Portuguese Cup without conceding a single goal. Garay also chipped in with eight goals. An in-form defender with Champions League experience may be just what Rodgers needs.
3) Mats Hummels (Germany):
It is unknown whether or not Dortmund would be willing to let their star defender go, but if Liverpool get a chance they should jump at the opportunity to sign Hummels. It is hard to believe he is just 25 years old, given the composure he exudes on the pitch.
Strong, athletic and experienced in the Champions League means he would slot straight into Brendan Rodgers’ team. Not only does he possess all the qualities of a top class defender but he can also play with the ball at his feet and get attacks rolling, which would blend in nicely with the new Liverpool philosophy. He is currently fighting with Per Mertesacker and Jerome Boateng to start at the heart of the German defence but expect him to star if given the opportunity.
4) Toby Alderweireld (Belgium):
He may have recently helped Atletico Madrid to a La Liga title but a move to the Premier League may still interest the Belgian. A centre half who is equally as comfortable at right back, Alderweireld faces stiff competition in an international squad who have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal.
A move to Liverpool who are crying out for defenders would be suitable as the Belgian has struggled to break into an already settled back four since his move to Atleti. He was a star at Ajax and could regain that form at Anfield. Back in January clubs were put on alert that he was unhappy in Madrid and with many a countryman already plying their trade in England, the 25-year-old may be tempted to swap La Liga for the Premier League.
5) Javi Martinez (Spain):
Okay, not strictly a central defender but he can slot in there if needed. Martinez is one of the best defensive players in the game, and even if he plays in his more natural defensive midfield position it would still plug a leaky defence. With Pep Guardiola seeming to prefer Phillip Lahm in the defensive midfield position now may be the time to move for Martinez.
Having already been part of Spain’s recent World Cup and European Championship winning sides, as well as Bayern Munich’s last two trophy packed seasons, Martinez would be a superb addition to Liverpool. With the Spaniard in midfield or defence they would have real steel and aggression when they don’t have the ball. It may not be the most realistic target, and would rely on some loose purse strings but if Liverpool are to challenge for the title again next season and be competitive in Europe, players of Martinez’s calibre is what they need.
Steve Neville, Pundit Arena.