• Liverpool and AC Milan are both linked to Lionel Messi's Argentina teammate and friend, Ezequiel Garay
  • The Reds are considering signing Garay in January, but Milan is looking to close a deal next week
  • The Argentine defender is viewed as an alternative for injured Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool could compete with AC Milan in signing Lionel Messi’s longtime Argentina teammate and close friend, Ezequiel Garay, in the January transfer window.

Virgil van Dijk’s devastating injury left a void in Jurgen Klopp’s squad early in the season. A number of possible replacements emerged to fill the shoes of the world-class center-back, including Garay, a seasoned defender who has been a free agent since summer, according to a report by Spanish outlet Todo Fichajes.

Should Liverpool really decide to acquire the services of Garay, an array of clubs from Europe’s top leagues are expected to join the race.

Lazio, Real Sociedad, River Plate and Benfica are interested in signing the 34-year-old, but an update from the outlet revealed that AC Milan is hoping to secure a deal with the player “next week.”

The Argentine defender appears to be a good signing for both Liverpool and Milan as he could arrive for free in the next transfer window. Garay is also unlikely to demand big wages for a one-year contract, the report added.

Ezequiel Garay
Ezequiel Garay's goal helped Benfica to beat Juventus in the Europa League semifinals. Reuters

However, there are some underlying factors that could hinder Garay’s move to the English Premier League.

Aside from his age, a report suggests that the fast-paced and physical style of play in the aforementioned league is seen as a possible challenge for the veteran defender.

Even more interesting, Garay has shared the dressing room with an array of top-tier players including Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi. The former Real Madrid star once revealed that he has known the Barcelona captain since their teenage years in Argentina.

“I’ve known him since I was fourteen years old when we first started to play together for Argentina’s national team,” Garay said of Messi in 2015. “I should say that [Lionel] Messi is good not only on the pitch but also with his character too.”

After international duty, Lionel Messi could be rested for Barcelona this weekend with the Clasico coming up
Lionel Messi POOL / Javier MAMANI

Having left La Liga side Valencia this past summer, Garay remains a free agent with no concrete offers from any European clubs.

He spent a long spell at Valencia where he also suffered a ligament injury to his right knee this past February.

The said injury led to Garay being sidelined for up to six months, which led to his departure from the Spanish club.

Apart from Garay, Liverpool is believed to be also keeping an eye on other notable targets such as Brighton star Ben White . The 22-year-old is also viewed as a potential alternative for Van Dijk, but the Merseyside club would have to match his £50 million ($65 million) price tag.