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bargain buys Liverpool find a €1.7m quick-fix solution as Virgil Van Dijk ruled out for rest of this season


Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk: Out for season. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk: Out for season. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk: Out for season. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

First, the bright side. When Liverpool eased their injury crisis at centre-back by signing Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies for a combined initial fee of £1.5m (€1.7m), crisp analysis of the deadline-day scramble came from an unlikely source: the UK and Ireland’s Twitter account for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Michael Edwards could walk into KFC for a Snackbox, but end up walking out with the secret recipe, two of our fryers and the shirt off my back,” was their response to the sporting director somehow managing to get two deals done for the shortest of change even though every football executive and their dog knew of the club’s desperation for defenders.

The champions secured two players with high ceilings, aged 20 and 25, without financially hampering themselves or hindering their long-term planning for the position.

Not a shabby result given the complexities of a coronavirus-shaped window, evident by the lack of mega action across Europe’s top leagues, especially considering Liverpool were forced into the market after injuries late last week to Joel Matip and Fabinho. The former will miss the rest of the season after suffering ankle ligament damage while Klopp admitted Virgil van Dijk is unlikely to play again this season. Joe Gomez’s lengthy absences brings the list of walking wounded to four.

Liverpool accepted it was a gamble allowing Dejan Lovren to exit in the summer without replacing him as they were confident Fabinho could fill in at centre-back when Gomez or Matip were unavailable. Their plan, however, obviously could not and did not account for the loss of their mainstay.

Van Dijk continues to recover from cruciate knee surgery and images of him in rehabilitation in Dubai offered hope of the Dutchman featuring in the final games of the season. But Klopp said that would be a “miracle” and he was not anticipating calling upon his centre-back until the start of the next campaign.

“Nobody, no doctor, nobody really told me there’s a chance for Virgil to play in this season again,” Klopp said. “I don’t want to say that’s absolutely impossible but it’s not likely."

When the extent of Matip’s injury was known, there had been unsuccessful attempts to fast track targets for the future. Marseille’s Duje Caleta-Car was one such example, but the Ligue 1 side understandably refused to sanction a move as there was not enough time for them to source a replacement.

They rebuffed a £20m proposal for the left-sided, right-footed player, while Braga’s David Carmo and Bayer Leverkusen’s Edmond Tapsoba were also considered.

Kabak was the option most likely to materialise with Schalke interested in Shkodran Mustafi as a replacement.

Liverpool had assessed the Turkey international for 18 months after he had been strongly recommended to Klopp by the manager’s best friend David Wagner, who coached the 20-year-old at the Veltins-Arena.

Davies, rated as one of the best left-sided centre-halves in the Championship, would never have been on Liverpool’s radar if it wasn’t for the unprecedented situation they find themselves in.

“What I like about Ben is it just shows that each situation creates opportunities,” Klopp said.

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“I think it’s probably clear that in a normal transfer window, without any issues, we would not look at Preston if there’s a player for us or something like that. It’s not really likely. But since we saw him and since our situation got clearer and clearer – the problems we had – when we saw him we got really excited about it and thought, ‘Wow’.”

Liverpool have ultimately got two interesting players - one very aerially dominant in Kabak and the other highly comfortable in possession, with recovery pace - who have the desire to improve and have come in cheaply.

Despite the double signing on deadline day, Klopp hinted he would have no option but to stick with Jordan Henderson and Nat Phillips at centre-back for the visit of Brighton tonight.

Liverpool v Brighton, Live, BT Sport 1, 8.15

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