The positivity from what continues to be a successful season for Liverpool took something of a blow following the club’s lack of activity in the January transfer window. There was a continuation of a somewhat worrying trend for the Reds of getting far down the line in negotiations to sign a player before falling apart. With Yevhen Konoplyanka the situation was a complex one for which it’s hard to attach much culpability to Liverpool. But in the case of Mohamed Salah, as it was with Willian and Henrikh Mkhitaryan last summer, it was another club that swopped to take the player away from Liverpool’s clutches. The absence of the Champions League at Anfield continues to be an obvious stumbling block in attracting the world’s prime talent and securing a top four berth will again be a significant factor in the business Liverpool will be able to do this summer. Here are five players they could target to continue the evolution of Brendan Rodgers’ squad.
Yevhen Konoplyanka (Dnipro)
Easily the most obvious name on this list. Despite Dnipro’s owner reportedly refusing to sign the paperwork to a deal after Liverpool had agreed to pay Konoplyanka’s release clause, Rodgers has suggested that they will return to sign the Ukraine winger in the summer. The 24-year-old would be a wise addition with his technical quality and ability to both create and score providing Liverpool with an additional threat in the final third.
Cristian Tello (Barcelona)
As an alternative to Konoplyanka, Liverpool may pursue Barcelona winger Tello. The Reds have been linked to the 22-year-old for some time and his continued lack of action for the Catalans means that he may well be considering his options. While his final product still remains somewhat hit-and-miss, Tello showed his eye for goal with a recent hat-trick in the Copa del Rey.
Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla)
The interest in Mkhitaryan showed that Rodgers was keen to sign a central attacking midfielder, a target that remains unfulfilled. It could be that he has decided that Philipe Coutinho can handle the responsibility of the role, rather than being deployed out wide, but if he still sees it as an area in need of strengthening then he may well have an eye on Sevilla star Rakitic. The Croatia international has repeatedly been linked with an exit from the cash-strapped La Liga club in recent times. That will surely continue in the summer, with the 25-year-old enjoying his most productive season to date -- scoring 10 goals and contributing seven assists in La Liga.
While it appears that Liverpool’s focus in January was on improving their attacking options, arguably their greatest current need is for a holding midfielder. Steven Gerrard has looked vulnerable when trying to adapt to the role and, indeed, Liverpool’s midfield was often overrun against the best teams even when he had the solidity of Lucas Leiva alongside him. A similar, perhaps even more dynamic, player to Lucas is needed. With that aim, they could do a lot worse than exploring the possibility of securing another Brazilian, in Porto’s Fernando. Manchester City failed with a deadline-day move for the 26-year-old in January. Yet, with his contract expiring at the end of the season, he is now up for grabs. If City and some of the other big European clubs thought to be keen take their eye off the ball then Liverpool could pounce.
Will Hughes (Derby County)
He may be just 18-years-old, but Derby starlet Hughes has already been long linked with a move to one of the Premier League’s elite clubs. It is Liverpool, though, where he would perhaps fit best. The England Under-21 international has a much sought after ability to receive the ball under pressure and has a superb short passing game, skills perfectly matched for Rodgers’ philosophy. The fact that Hughes is also a Liverpool supporter and a relationship between the Reds and Derby was established when defender Andre Wisdom moved on loan to Pride Park recently means that Liverpool could also have the edge on their rivals for his coveted signature.