Opinion: As the left-back search takes another turn, there's life beyond Chilwell for Liverpool

With hopes of Liverpool landing Leicester City's Ben Chilwell fading fast, the Reds still need another left-back to compete with the enigma that is Alberto Moreno, if Jürgen Klopp is serious about his side finishing in the top four.

Opinion: As the left-back search takes another turn, there's life beyond Chilwell for Liverpool
Liverpool have been after Chilwell for months (photo: Getty)

Seven new faces have already arrived – now just one to go?

In a perfect world, perhaps Liverpool could recruit a tough-tackling defensive midfielder, or an elite striker to compete with an injury-prone Daniel Sturridge.

However, in general these positions are now well-covered and, even if there are some question marks, the ability of this Liverpool squad going forward is undoubtedly there – it just needs to be showcased on a regular basis this season.

Moreno has talent, but needs competition

The only major hole that needs filling is a position many Liverpool fans had hoped Alberto Moreno would have solved when he arrived from Sevilla in the summer of 2014.

Unfortunately, from the outset the 24 year old Spaniard demonstrated both sides of his frustratingly inconsistent game. He almost ran the length of the pitch when scoring in Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in August 2014, but in the previous clash against Manchester City, Moreno’s lack of awareness, positioning and decision-making in defence was exposed in the 3-1 defeat, and has continued to crop up in his two years at the club.

Moreno’s last performance for Liverpool, in the Europa League final capitulation against Sevilla, summed up everything that needs addressing in his game, but Jürgen Klopp seems confident he can fix Moreno’s issues, otherwise the Spanish international would have already been sold by now.

Moreno's UEL final performance has left a bad taste in the mouth (photo: Getty)
Moreno's UEL final performance has left a bad taste in the mouth (photo: Getty)

Nevertheless, as with Simon Mignolet, Moreno has to compete with a figure on a similar, if not higher level, who has greater defensive awareness and can supplant Moreno as Liverpool’s first choice left-back.

Conversely, their competition could push Moreno to realise his full potential and become a top-class full-back for the club.

Loris Karius is perfect in this regard for Mignolet, and someone similar is needed for Moreno. Otherwise, if Liverpool signed a world-class left-back for a massive sum, then Moreno would know his future at Anfield was up, and Klopp would lose the opportunity to perhaps find the player Liverpool spent £12m on two years ago.

Chilwell the man initially...

Ben Chilwell seemed the man Klopp wanted to provide such competition to Moreno, and the German seems highly enthused by the 19 year old, who, despite having not yet featured in the Premier League for Leicester City, was highly recommended by Klopp’s friend and Huddersfield Town boss David Wagner.

However, it appears the England Under-21 international will sign a new deal with Claudio Ranieri’s side, although the Reds are reportedly preparing a third bid.

Should their attempts to sign Chilwell fail, Liverpool must look elsewhere, as a left-back is the final priority signing this summer, and Moreno may soon have no competition at all for the position, given Jon Flanagan’s potential loan move to Burnley and Brad Smith’s impending transfer to Bournemouth.

Flanagan’s departure would mean Joe Gomez acting as cover for both Nathaniel Clyne and Moreno, and Liverpool need more than that for a full Premier League season, even if they are not involved in European competition.

If Moreno starts off this season the way he finished the last, his days at Anfield will be numbered, and Gomez alone cannot fulfil the position yet long-term, given his inexperience and injury issues, and that he is a centre-back at heart, despite his impressive performances at left-back early last season.

Consequently, another left-back is required for the campaign ahead.

What next?

Yet it is unlikely to Hull City’s Andrew Robertson or Aston Villa’s Jordan Amavi – both have been linked with Liverpool but Hull are severely lacking players and Liverpool are supposedly not interested in Amavi, while the new owner at Villa, Dr Tony Xia, does not want to sell the 22 year old.

Furthermore, Scouser Aaron Cresswell would have made this list, as an excellent Premier League performer with West Ham. His fee would have probably been over £20m, had he not suffered a knee injury recently which looks to have ruled the 26 year old out for many months.

Therefore, here are three potential options post-Chilwell that Liverpool should consider to solve the left-back problem:

Jetro Willems (PSV Eindhoven)

There have been a few forces pulling Jetro Willems and Liverpool together, as rumours mount of an impending transfer to Anfield.

A former club colleague of Georginio Wijnaldum, the links to Willems have intensified since Wijnaldum completed his £25m move from Newcastle United, with the public knowledge that Liverpool want a left-back making Willems an easy target for speculation.

However, should PSV’s valuation hover around £15m, then it would represent an excellent deal for Liverpool in a summer where they have been very prudent financially.

Could Willems be the man? (photo: Reuters)
Could Willems be the man? (photo: Reuters)

Klopp has only bought or sold players when he has felt value for money, even with today’s market, and it has led to smart departures such as Jordon Ibe and Martin Skrtel, while Karius and Joel Matip for under £5m combined are a steal in any window, let alone this one.

These actions have allowed Liverpool to go big on other Klopp targets, such as Sadio Mane from Southampton and Wijnaldum, and hold their ground on Christian Benteke and, until recently, Joe Allen.

Willems would likely add to this sensible, practical and strong summer window that Klopp is enjoying ahead of his first full season with the Reds.

The 22 year old brings pace and attacking qualities, though that immediately leads to comparisons with Moreno in prioritising offence over defence, while the success rate for products from the Eredivisie is patchy at best.

Regardless, Willems is highly regarded in Holland, and is the youngest player ever to appear at a European Championship, playing for the Dutch national team in Euro 2012 at just 18 years of age.

Previously tracked by Manchester United, and also linked with Arsenal and AS Monaco, Willems’ potential is obvious, and he would provide the right type of competition to Moreno.

Moreover, Klopp would possess two exciting, flamboyant left-backs – and he would surely fancy his chances of improving at least one of them significantly.

Jonas Hector (FC Koln)

Linked with Liverpool for much of 2016, Jonas Hector is a popular choice among Liverpool fans.

First choice for Germany at Euro 2016, Hector enjoyed a productive and memorable tournament, including scoring the winning penalty against Italy in the quarter-finals.

Since, the 26 year old has been linked with Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal and even Barcelona, before they captured Lucas Digne, and with the increasing interest Hector’s price tag has continued to rise. Before the end of last season, there were suggestions that Hector would cost little, around £8-12m, but now the minimum fee that FC Koln would likely accept seems upwards of £20m.

Hector was first choice for World Champions Germany at Euro 2016 (photo: Reuters)
Hector was first choice for World Champions Germany at Euro 2016 (photo: Reuters)

Hector has been with the German club for effectively his entire career and certainly during his recent rise to prominence, where he was named their Player of the Season for the 2014-15 campaign, and he has been dubbed ‘Mr Reliable’ by the Cologne press.

Ironically, unlike many modern-day full-backs, Hector is adept defensively, especially concerning blocks and one-on-ones, alongside his improving attacking skills.

In addition, he is used to fast, counter-attacking football with Koln, breaking out of defence at pace, and he would fit well with Klopp’s ‘gegenpressing’ style, while Hector’s height would be an added asset for set-pieces.

The fee may be high for a full-back, but Hector is an old-school defender – low-key, knuckles down, works hard, rarely injured and always looking for ways to progress.

Hector provides the perfect depth at left-back, with Moreno the attacking option and Hector the steadier, more defensive alternative.

Wendell (Bayer Leverkusen)

Signed for only £5m in 2014, Wendell has gone on to become one of the brightest young talents in Germany, with Manchester City and Real Madrid linked with the 23 year old.

Now quoted at £25m, Wendell carries bags of pace and skill but can be inexperienced when going forward, making poor decisions and being ill-disciplined.

However, for someone of such clear attacking potential, Wendell is also a great defender – especially with interceptions – hence the high fee and interest from all over Europe, and the Brazilian is comfortable with Leverkusen’s high-intensity pressing.

It is understandable why Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane are so keen, given that Manchester City lack a top left-back with only Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov at the club, while Madrid are seeking a long-term successor to Marcelo.

Wendell has Champions League experience (photo: Getty)
Wendell has Champions League experience (photo: Getty)

Liverpool may struggle to head the queue, but if there is a chance to sign Wendell Klopp should seriously consider it, as he could easily become a world-class left-back and would provide stern competition for Moreno.

However, should he move to Anfield, Wendell would likely want to be undisputed first-choice immediately upon arrival, so he might not be the right purchase if Klopp wants to keep hold of Moreno as well.

Unquestionably, Hector and Willems are more likely to arrive at Anfield this summer, and the former duo offer greater balance with Moreno at left-back and would leave Liverpool’s squad in healthy shape for the new season.