Opinion: Five potential alternatives to Dahoud and Zielinski for Liverpool

With deals for Mahmoud Dahoud and Piotr Zielinski appearing increasingly unlikely, Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp need a Plan B, as midfield remains a position in vital need of strengthening. Plenty of other options are available however...

Opinion: Five potential alternatives to Dahoud and Zielinski for Liverpool
(Picture: Getty Images)

Already, four new faces have arrived at Anfield this summer, and we are not yet halfway through July.

Yet Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp had desired to have all of his targets signed in time for the beginning of pre-season, and considering he remains a few players short of his full summer activity, negotiations for filling the final few positions have evidently stalled.

In particular, Liverpool have become frustrated in their efforts to sign Mahmoud Dahoud from Borussia Mönchengladbach and Piotr Zielinski from Udinese.

Dahoud seems set for another season at the German club, although Klopp may sign the 20-year-old in a year’s time, while Zielinski is reportedly on the verge of a move to Italian giants AC Milan, with Napoli also interested.

Therefore, in order to finish their transfer business as quickly as possible, allowing Klopp time to work with all of the new arrivals ahead of the start of the Premier League campaign, the Reds have to turn towards different targets for the midfield, with left-back another position that has to be addressed before the transfer window slams shut.

However, instead of Dahoud or Zielinski, here are five potential midfielders Liverpool could consider as viable alternatives:

Axel Witsel (Zenit Saint Petersburg)

Seemingly ready to end his stay in Russia, Axel Witsel is one of the best midfielders around not currently operating in one of Europe’s top leagues.

A number of clubs have been linked with the 27-year-old, with Napoli and Everton apparently the favourites, although the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea have been mentioned as well.

Witsel in action for Belgium at Euro 2016. (Picture: Getty Images)
Witsel in action for Belgium at Euro 2016. (Picture: Getty Images)

Witsel enjoyed a productive Euro 2016, and is a consistent and powerful force in midfield – a key player for Belgium even with all of their quality and strength in depth, a testament to Witsel’s own abilities.

A price tag of between £20-30 million has been mentioned, which in today’s market appears a bargain, and Witsel would provide experience alongside Emre Can in midfield.

However, the competition does seem fierce, therefore Liverpool will have to work hard and work quickly in order to land the Belgian, and even then that may not be enough.

Ruben Neves (FC Porto)

A teenage sensation, Ruben Neves is the youngest player to start as captain in a Champions League fixture, at just 18 years of age, and is also FC Porto’s youngest player to reach 50 appearances.

No wonder then that Neves has been mentioned with a transfer to almost every major club side in Europe in the last 12 months.

However, recently, it appears old rivals Manchester United and Liverpool could be competing for the 19-year-old, as Jose Mourinho is also on the lookout for top-class midfielders.

Also touted at around a similar fee to Witsel, Neves is another defensive midfielder, although he is happy to roam forward and has a wide passing range, which has resulted in comparisons with Portuguese star Joao Moutinho.

Surprisingly, Neves missed out on a squad place for Euro 2016, but if he continues his progression then inevitably Neves will become a key player for the Portuguese national side - who are of course now European champions until at least 2020.

For someone of his age, the amount of experience gained last season, playing at the highest level, will only help Neves settle quicker at a new club. If he arrives, and succeeds, at Anfield, Klopp would have a midfield partnership in Can and Neves that he could rely on for effectively the next decade.

William Carvalho (Sporting Lisbon)

Carvalho was a key part of Portugal's Euro 2016 winning side. (Picture: Getty Images)
Carvalho was a key part of Portugal's Euro 2016 winning side. (Picture: Getty Images)

Another player with long-standing links to the Premier League, William Carvalho flourished at Euro 2016 – not just collectively, as Portugal won their first ever major trophy, but individually as well. Now the tournament has finished, Carvalho seems set for a move away from Sporting Lisbon.

Carvalho has represented Portugal as a full international for almost three years despite only being 24, and for the last two years Arsenal have especially been linked heavily with a transfer, but Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool have all also been rumoured admirers.

After such a successful summer, and having only just held onto him for the past couple of seasons, Lisbon may have to finally concede defeat and allow Carvalho to move away, most likely to England, though he will certainly not come cheap.

Carvalho recently signed a new contract with Sporting Lisbon until 2020, containing a £35 million release clause. Given his recent triumph with Portugal, plus the level of competition and the fact that Carvalho is beginning to enter his prime years, the midfielder’s fee is unlikely to be negotiated below that release clause.

However, such is the transfer market at the moment, nearly all of the Premier League clubs could afford that transfer, should they desire it.

Carvalho is a proper defensive midfielder, with his strength, stamina and tackling all main assets. Consequently, that could allow Can to play a box-to-box role, adding numbers to Liverpool’s attack in a strong midfield partnership that employs a solid, secure base in front of the defence.

Ante Coric (Dinamo Zagreb)

More of a replacement for Zielinski than Dahoud, Ante Coric is an attacking midfielder who has quickly become linked with the majority of Europe’s elite this summer, yet Liverpool appear to have taken additional steps to secure the 19-year-old talent.

A phone call between Klopp and Coric reportedly took place, while the Reds have also apparently made a bid exceeding £12 million for the Croatian international.

Coric in action against Arsenal last season in the Champions League. (Picture: Getty Images)
Coric in action against Arsenal last season in the Champions League. (Picture: Getty Images)

Coric was selected in Croatia’s 23-man squad for Euro 2016, yet did not play for a single minute on the pitch. Nevertheless, that has not stopped the likes of Manchester City, Napoli, Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea and West Ham from supposedly tracking the player.

With Jordon Ibe on his way out of Anfield, heading for Bournemouth in a £15m deal, Coric could take his place in the squad, competing behind Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana for those attacking positions, especially as Lazar Markovic could also yet depart.

His speed, dribbling, control and passing have all caught the eye, and Croatia have seen plenty of its young stars rise up in Europe’s big leagues in recent years, such as Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic.

With plenty of potential, a fairly reasonable price tag and at an age where he will be happy as a squad player, developing his ability alongside quality first-team players, Coric appears the perfect alternative to Zielinski, but again does not come without hefty competition.

Joe Allen/Lucas Leiva (Liverpool)

How about solutions closer to home? The futures of Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva at Liverpool appear bleak, with Allen’s performances in 2016, particularly for Wales at the Euros, drawing numerous suitors, while Lucas seems doubtful about his position at Anfield and could be on the move to Turkey or Italy.

Yet should Klopp fail to sign any further midfielders, surely the pair are needed for the season ahead, as, despite Liverpool’s lack of European competition this season, the squad would lack quality in depth if Lucas and Allen also departed the club.

Lucas and Allen in Liverpool training last term. (Picture: Getty Images)
Lucas and Allen in Liverpool training last term. (Picture: Getty Images)

They may not like it, but Allen would be a useful squad member to keep the midfield ticking over in matches where the Reds are not being overrun, while Lucas can provide cover in defensive midfield and in the centre of defence.

In addition, both have vast experience of the Premier League and of playing for Liverpool, with Allen entering his fifth season at the club, while Lucas is Liverpool’s longest-serving player.

The only issue concerns the 26-year-old Welshman, who has just a year left on his contract and would likely leave on a free should the Reds decide to keep him beyond this summer.

Liverpool have the money to buy what they need, but if they cannot bring in Dahoud, Zielinski or any other targets, then fewer players can be sold, and Allen and Lucas are two perfect examples who Liverpool should hold onto if they cannot sign anyone better.  

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