Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has been urged to snap up a deal for Dayot Upamecano in January, if the German truly regards the Frenchman as a target. The RB Leipzig defender has been heavily linked with Arsenal and Manchester United in the past.
The France international, 21, is one of Europe’s highest-rated young defenders at a time when top-class operators at the back are few and far between.
The scarcity of elite-level centre-halves at a young age means Upamecano is in great demand and the release clause in his Leipzig contract that makes him available for around £38million next summer will be hugely tempting to multiple clubs.
United are thought be one of those weighing up a summer move for Upamecano, who is tied down with the Bundesliga club until 2023, as a partner to captain Harry Maguire at Old Trafford.
But Carragher thinks Liverpool could look to jump in before United and test Leipzig’s resolve in January by paying a higher fee than his release clause to tempt the German club into doing business midway through the season.
The Reds are down to just two fit senior centre-halves in Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, though Fabinho can fill in, following the news that Virgil van Dijk would be out for a significant period of time with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
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No time-frame has been given for the Dutchman’s return – with a better idea of when he will be fit again expected once he undergoes ACL surgery – but he faces a massive battle to play again this season and to be fit for the Euros.
“There’s a young guy who everyone’s talking about, called Upamecano at Leipzig. There’s talk of him,” former Liverpool centre-back Carragher declared on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football.
“He’s not the profile of Van Dijk, I think he’s only 6ft 1, 6ft 2. He’s not that aerial presence. But if that’s the one that Liverpool wanted, next summer, bring it forward, pay extra money and do it on January 1.
“That means Liverpool would have to get the next 11 league games without Van Dijk.
“One more thing I should mention about Van Dijk to give encouragement, in the last 23 games, Liverpool have only kept five clean sheets, Van Dijk started every one of them.
“It’s not like everything was perfect. They conceded seven at Aston Villa, the Leeds result. I think they have to go big in terms of signing [a new centre-back].
“The thing with Liverpool is you will not need 99 points to win the league, I think it’s going to be in the 80s. Liverpool or Man City have already dropped five points.
“For it to be a 99-point season again they can only afford to drop another 10, that is not going to happen.
“Liverpool’s drop from a 98 average the last two seasons, if they drop, 10, 12 or maybe even 15 points from there, they will be there or thereabouts for the title.”
Speaking the previous night during coverage of Tottenham’s draw with West Ham, Carragher similarly said: “I think it’s blown the title race wide open. I really do. I felt at the start of the season that Liverpool were still the team to beat.
“But I think with Van Dijk being out for a whole season now, Liverpool have to go into the market in January, not just because of Van Dijk’s injury but they were weak in that area anyway having lost Dejan Lovren at the start of the season.
“The two they have got now [Joe Gomez and Joel Matip] are very injury prone. It’s devastating news for Van Dijk but I think for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp it’s now right away.
“I know the transfer window has just finished by they have to be ready on January 1 to bring someone in.
“They are really weak in that area and that could stop them trying to achieve what they want to achieve.”
Offering his prediction of Liverpool’s title prospects after Van Dijk’s injury, Carragher continued: “”I still can’t see anyone else winning the league besides Liverpool or Manchester City. I now think on the back of van Dijk, Man City are favourites.
“What I’ve said before is Chelsea, Manchester United, Spurs, Arsenal, Everton are up there at this moment. They couldn’t get to 98, 99 points.
“They needed the top two to drop. City dropped last season to 82, are Liverpool going to drop this season to the 80s?
“That’s where the gap is bridged then and then can these teams make a much stronger challenge? I still can’t see one of those sides winning the league but I think we’re going to have a great title race.”
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