Six short-term fixes for Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool defence in January

Liverpool’s January shopping list: The Toon stopper who knows how to shut out Salah, an AC Milan veteran and the defender branded a ‘donkey’ by his own fans… Jurgen Klopp’s options after John Barnes urged him to sign a ‘stop-gap’

  • Liverpool were urged to sign a ‘stop-gap’ in defence during the January window
  • Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are both out injured while Joel Matip is unreliable
  • Fabinho has been immense in defence and Jordan Henderson is having to cover
  • So who are some of the short-term solutions Jurgen Klopp could buy this month?

Will they or won’t they? That is the question surrounding Liverpool in the January transfer window as they mull over whether or not to buy a centre-back.

Jurgen Klopp has been without Virgil van Dijk since October 17 and Joe Gomez since November and after months of getting by with makeshift defenders, it looks like they are starting to feel their absence. 

Fabinho has been immense in his conversion from anchor man to centre-back while youngsters Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips have performed admirably. Even Jordan Henderson did a fine job in defence at Southampton on Monday. 

Jurgen Klopp has been urged to find a ‘stop-gap’ for his defensive woes in the January window

Fabinho and others have had to plug holes after the injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez

But with Joel Matip still struggling to put together a run of games, is it time Klopp acted and brought in a new defender this month so his midfielders can return to their usual positions?

Liverpool legend John Barnes made an interesting point this week, insisting the Reds should buy a ‘stop-gap’ defender this month to plug the hole until Van Dijk and Gomez are fit again. 

‘Long-term, Liverpool need better quality in defensive areas,’ Barnes told

‘Liverpool need a stop-gap defender – they’re probably not going to get the best centre-back in the world in January as that is not always the best time to buy and the best players are in the Champions League for their clubs.

‘Liverpool need a centre-back, but they won’t get one for £60m who is going to come and play alongside Van Dijk when he’s fit. It is clear they need numbers in defensive positions because influential midfield players, Henderson and Fabinho, are playing in defence and you would much rather have them in midfield.’

With that in mind, Sportsmail has identified six defenders whose current contracts expire this summer and could therefore be available in a cut-price deal this month. 

Aissa Mandi – Real Betis

Mandi was heavily linked with a move to Anfield as a replacement for Dejan Lovren, who left for Zenit St Petersburg in the summer.

He featured regularly for Betis last season, making 30 appearances in all competitions, and has played 12 games this time around.

Mandi’s versatility is believed to be an attractive proposition for the Reds with the centre-back also capable of filling in as a full-back.

He looks destined to leave the Spanish side, given he was likely to go in the summer and has still not signed new terms.

Liverpool valued him around £9m a few months ago and that price will have probably dropped even further with six months left on his current deal.

Aissa Mandi was a Liverpool target in the summer and they could come back in for him now

Mateo Musacchio – AC Milan

Musacchio has always been a talented defender and made a £16m move from Villarreal to AC Milan in 2017 but it hasn’t quite worked out.

The 30-year-old is yet to make an appearance in any competition so far this season due to the impressive from Alessio Romagnoli and Simon Kjaer.

Musacchio was a key player in the early stages of last season for Milan but did not feature after the coronavirus break because he needed surgery on his ankle. 

He is comfortable in possession, good in the air, strong in the tackle and has plenty of experience. 

With just six months left on his deal, and having barely played in the last 12 months, he could be a very cheap option for Klopp. 

Mateo Musacchio has not featured for AC Milan this season after suffering an ankle injury

Nikola Maksimovic – Napoli

Maksimovic was signed from Torino in 2016 as the new jewel of Napoli’s defence but he has found regular first-team football hard to come by.

That is understandable given they have Kalidou Koulibaly and Kosta Manolas, two of the best centre-backs in the world, within their ranks.

Maksimovic now really only starts when somebody is injured, in European games or cup competitions and his desire to get more action could be to Liverpool’s advantage.

He’s 29 years old, 6ft 3in but no slouch across the turf and loves to aggressively defend aerial balls into the box.

Valued at around £6m, Napoli could probably be tempted into letting him go and, after playing three games in a row due to Koulibaly’s absence, he is ready for action now. 

Nikola Maksimovic is covering for Napoli at present but has fallen down the pecking order 

Aleksandar Dragovic – Bayer Leverkusen

Dragovic joined Leverkusen in 2016 after impressing in spells at both Basel and Dynamo Kiev.  

But he has only made 94 appearances for the club over his four full seasons there, even being sent out on loan to Leicester in 2017-18.

Under Claude Puel he failed to break into the first team and regularly was left on the bench with Harry Maguire and Wes Morgan the preferred pairing. 

The 29-year-old has been playing reserve to impressive young pairing Jonathan Tah and Edmond Tapsoba but has still been getting game time under Peter Bosz in recent weeks.

His future is up in the air with his contract expiring this summer and that previous experience in English football could make him attractive to Klopp.  

Aleksandar Dragovic has played in England before and is third choice for Bayer Leverkusen

Fabian Schar – Newcastle 

Klopp could turn his attention a little closer to home and target someone currently playing in the Premier League.

Schar has been a key component of Newcastle’s defence since he joined from Deportivo La Coruna in 2018.

In fact, Klopp would have got a good look at him over the festive period when he played in the Magpies team that shut Liverpool out at St James’ Park.

The 29-year-old Swiss international is comfortable on the ball and fairly quick across the ground but his knowledge of English football would be a real boost. 

Fabian Schar was impressive as he helped Newcastle shut Liverpool out last month

Marcelo – Lyon

Now 33, Marcelo is definitely edging towards retirement but does he have one big final move in him?

He made his professional debut with Santos in 2007 and has since gone on to feature at Wisla Krakow, PSV, Hannover and Besiktas, playing over 500 professional games in total. 

Marcelo has formed a terrific partnership with Jason Denayer in Lyon’s defence and they were key in beating Manchester City in last season’s Champions League quarter-final.

In December 2019, Marcelo was described as a donkey by Lyon fans who demanded he ‘get lost’ but he has turned his form around sensationally.

It seems crazy Lyon haven’t given him a contract extension with six months until he leaves but Marcelo could be just the man Klopp is looking for. 

Marcelo has formed a terrific partnership with Jason Denayer in Lyon’s defence, shining at 33

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