Liverpool join three-horse race for new centre-back target but AC Milan close to transfer

Liverpool: Klopp opens up on if new defender will be signed

Liverpool have reportedly entered the race for Strasbourg centre-back Mohamed Simakan, who has attracted plenty of attention across Europe since the transfer window reopened at the turn of the year. The 20-year-old has emerged as one of the brightest defensive prospects in Ligue 1 this season, with scouts flocking to France to see him in action.

The 20-year-old, who is conformable playing out from the back, came through the youth ranks at Marseille before being released in 2015.

Yet Simakan fought his way back into the professional game through spells as JO St Gabriel and Air Bel before arriving at Strasbourg in 2017.

The 6ft 2″ centre-half didn’t take long to work his way into the first-team and now he is a regular for Strasbourg and France Under-20s.

According to Telefoot journalist Julien Maynard, Liverpool have now entered a three-horse race for Simakan with RB Leipzig and AC Milan.

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Serie A leaders Milan appear to be in the driving seat though after tabling an offer of £13.5million.

The Italian giants want to take Simakan from Strasbourg immediately, meaning he could be part of their squad for the second half of the season as they look to pip Inter Milan and Juventus to the Scudetto.

Meanwhile, Leipzig are keen to buy the player and let him stay in Ligue 1 on loan for the rest of the campaign to continue his impressive development.

Last season’s Champions League semi-finalists have a track record for mining top young talent from France.

Nordi Mukiele was signed from Montpellier while his defensive colleague Ibrahima Konate was signed from Sochaux in 2017.

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Simakan fits the profile that Liverpool’s recruitment team, led by Michael Edwards, are looking for.

The Reds will only make their move for a centre-back this month if any potential target also fits their long-term plans.

Liverpool currently have no senior centre-backs available at their disposal.

Youngsters Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips are on stand by but Fabinho and Jordan Henderson slotted in at the heart of defence in Monday’s 1-0 defeat at Southampton.

Simakan would represent a smart investment for the future while helping Liverpool bolster their current options.

However, Jurgen Klopp has already made it clear the club’s finances may prohibit a new arrival this month.

He said earlier this week: “In good times everyone thinks our owners are really generous – ‘My God, big signings, whatever’ – and in bad times everyone thinks they are really tight – maybe because they are from a different country – but they are not, they are absolutely concerned about the club and success of the club,” he said.

“And that is an understanding how we have it. They see exactly the same things I see about necessity of players and stuff – it’s not that I say ‘By the way a centre-half would be really nice’ and they say ‘Wow, a centre-half. Really? Why?’.

“It is all clear, all on the table, we work on that. It is the situation and on top of that we have January, not the easiest transfer window, having not the money exactly like we want.

“It is a window where other clubs say ‘No, we have enough (money) to survive’ so we don’t do anything on our targets.

“It is nothing to do with worrying (about whether it affects their chances of defending their title) or not. These are the facts.

“My job is to deal with the circumstances which I always do. If the world would be in a completely normal place, we would try everything to do the right stuff now but the world is not in a normal place so I don’t know why we constantly try to treat the football like it is independent of other issues around.”

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