Now that the January transfer window is upon us, David Alaba will be free to negotiate with clubs to join on a free transfer in the summer. Given Alaba’s quality and versatility – he’s starred at left-back for Bayern before becoming a strong option at center back and even in midfield – it’s no wonder that Liverpool was one of the teams mentioned as interested in the Austrian in David Ornstein’s transfer mailbag on The Athletic.
But I’m not buying the rumours yet. Would Alaba be an excellent addition to the squad? He could be. As Fabinho has shown with excellent displays at center back, Jurgen Klopp values versatility and wouldn’t hesitate to use Alaba in a variety of positions.
However, Alaba is 28 and would turn 29 before he ever played a competitive match for the Reds presuming he joined on a free in the summer of 2021. It’s also well established that sporting director Michael Edwards’ philosophy has been to sign younger players entering their peak who will possess strong resale value. Though exceptions have been with James Milner and, more recently, Thiago, the circumstances were different.
With Milner, Edwards was not yet the sporting director and Liverpool needed a player with his consistency and leadership. In the case of Thiago, his contract only having a year left meant he was available for a cut-price deal while the Spaniard possesses qualities to unlock defences.
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Alaba would command significant wages, yet would not be guaranteed a starter in Klopp’s starting lineup assuming everyone is fit. There is no displacing Andy Robertson from the side and with Virgil Van Dijk preferring to play as a left-sided center half, Alaba would not be a natural fit on the right with Joe Gomez and Joel Matip more sensible options.
It would also further limit opportunities for summer signing Kostas Tsimikas, whose time at Liverpool has been hampered by injuries so far. With the current injury crisis at the back, either a short-term option (hopefully a bit better than Steven Caulker) or a long-term buy with the sell-on value Edwards covets would be a better fit for all parties. Look for Manchester City and Pep Guardiola, who managed Alaba at Bayern, to swoop in for the Austrian to fix City’s issues at left-back.
Still, if Liverpool don’t move for Alaba, fans could understandably be concerned if the void left by Dejan Lovren as the Reds’ fourth center back isn’t filled either in January or the summer. Klopp has always put his faith in youth, and it may be the spot is permanently taken by Rhys Williams. But Williams’ sample-size is small and with Klopp often opting for Nat Phillips over Williams, he may be better served by another loan where he can get regular game-time.
And with Joel Matip’s injury issues persisting, it’s clear a center half should be Liverpool’s next signing. While fans have clamored for Dayot Upamecano, Bayern Munich are reportedly keen on him to potentially to replace Alaba. A far more likely signing could be Brighton’s Ben White. He’s often been linked with the Reds following his impressive stint with Leeds in 2019-20 and possesses the ball-playing ability and versatility to shift out to right back or even into defensive midfield that would surely appeal to Klopp.
Liverpool absolutely needs a defender. But whoever it ends up being, don’t expect it to be Alaba.
Journalism student at Syracuse University and a monthly columnist at Anfield Watch.