Liverpool: 5 Key Free Transfer Targets This Summer

Jack Lusby@jacklusby_Featured ColumnistMarch 15, 2014

Liverpool: 5 Key Free Transfer Targets This Summer

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    Atletico Madrid's Diego celebrates a goal.
    Atletico Madrid's Diego celebrates a goal.Associated Press

    This week, the International Business Times reported that Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is set to be awarded with a £60m "war chest" if his club were to reach the Champions League this season. However, part of a notoriously frugal transfer committee, Rodgers may perhaps remain prudent and look to the free transfer market; this summer some low-cost gems are there to be unearthed.

    The summer acquisition of Kolo Toure proves that the Northern Irishman isn't afraid of dipping his toes in the Bosman waters, with the occasionally-erratic Ivorian an inexpensive solution to the retirement of Jamie Carragher.

    With Liverpool so far set to be challenging on a further front next season - in Europe - Rodgers can look to the free transfer market to bolster his ranks without breaking the bank.

    Here are five free transfer targets that Liverpool may look to in the future; all contract information courtesy of Transfermarkt.

Goalkeeper: Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City)

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    Kasper Schmeichel in action for Leicester City
    Kasper Schmeichel in action for Leicester CityAlastair Grant/Associated Press

    27-year-old Dane Kasper Schmeichel is currently plying his trade below his station in the Championship with Leicester City.

    Whilst the Midlands club are currently on track for automatic promotion to the Premier League, the towering goalkeeper's contract remains set to expire at the end of the season.

    The Leicester Mercury, reporting back in January, quoted Schmeichel regarding his contract situation:

    I don't need to (get his contract sorted). There is no need at the moment to cloud what is going on. There is no need for distractions. For the players, it is about getting to the Premier League and then contracts will sort themselves out.

    A refreshingly pragmatic approach, this suggests that Schmeichel would be happy to remain with the club if they were to be promoted this season.

    From Liverpool's perspective, their current back-up goalkeeper, Australian Brad Jones, remains a cause for concern; looking ahead to a testing 2014/15 season, Rodgers may look for a more capable number two.

    A composed shot-stopper, Schmeichel, as per Squawka, has so far this season kept 13 clean sheets for his club, with an average saves per goal ratio of 2.68 and an average claim success of 94 percent.

    If Liverpool were sign Schmeichel on a free transfer this would represent a marked step up from Jones, along with providing current number one Simon Mignolet with some competition between the sticks.

Left-Back: Caner Erkin (Fenerbahçe)

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    Fenerbahçe's Caner Erkin in action against Arsenal in this season's Champions League.
    Fenerbahçe's Caner Erkin in action against Arsenal in this season's Champions League.Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    Perhaps the least familiar name on this list, Turkish left-back Caner Erkin was rumoured to be interesting Brendan Rodgers back in December.

    Nick Lustig, writing for the Daily Star, wrote: "With Jose Enrique expected to be on sidelines until next year after undergoing knee surgery, Rodgers is hoping to bring a new experienced full-back to Anfield in January."

    Naturally, that hope didn't come to fruition, and Rodgers has often employed a makeshift full-back pairing this season.

    However, with Erkin's contract set to expire at the end of this season, Rodgers may look to the 26-cap Turkish international to fill the role next season—particularly with the lowly Aly Cissokho looking likely to trudge back to his parent club Valencia at the end of the season.

    Max Munton, of This is Anfield, provided a scout report for this site when the initial rumours circulated in December, opining:

    "Erkin, who infamously wears the number 88 for Fenerbahce, is a very attack-minded left-back, having regularly played in left midfield earlier in his career."

    With Brendan Rodgers favouring full-backs who are able to function adeptly both in attack and defence, Erkin may slot in nicely.

    Will Haine, of GiveMeSport, recently wrote on Bayern Munich's reported interest in the left-back, suggesting that Liverpool would face tough competition for Erkin's signature.

    Whilst not necessarily the first choice, Erkin would be a solid option for Rodgers this summer.

Right-Back: Martin Montoya (Barcelona)

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    Barcelona's Martin Montoya jostles for possession.
    Barcelona's Martin Montoya jostles for possession.Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press

    22-year-old Barcelona full-back Martin Montoya has been reportedly interesting the Anfield club since last year.

    Andy Hunter, writing for The Guardian, suggested back in November that Montoya was one of the Reds' primary targets in an unfortunate January transfer window:

    The Spain Under-21 international, who can operate in both full-back positions, is out of contract at the end of this season and his availability has alerted leading clubs throughout Europe. The 22-year-old and his agent have both claimed recently that he hopes to sign a contract extension with the Spanish champions but Liverpool are exploring the prospect of a permanent deal in January.

    Behind the imperious Dani Alves in the right-back pecking order, it wouldn't be remiss to suggest that Montoya would be wise to look elsewhere for first-team opportunities.

    According to WhoScored, however, the Catalan disciple has made 12 appearances so far this season in La Liga, with a further two appearances in the Champions League, only players of significant talent make this much of an impact at Barcelona.

    A versatile defender, capable of performing adeptly across the back-four, Montoya would seemingly fit the bill in terms of Rodgers' tactical remit; coming from Barcelona, a team who naturally favour an intelligent passing style, would help him further.

    From their perspective, any chance of Liverpool signing a new first-choice right-back depends on the future of Glen Johnson, who continues to under-perform seemingly amid his own contractual issues.

    Also, the International Business Times recently reported that Liverpool would have to compete with interest from Italian clubs Inter and Roma for Montoya's signature.

    Signing this versatile full-back would represent a genuine coup for Liverpool, and Montoya would deservedly demand a first-team place—a must-sign for Rodgers in the free transfer market.

Centre-Back: Younes Kaboul (Spurs)

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    Spurs defender Younes Kaboul in action against Manchester City in the Premier League
    Spurs defender Younes Kaboul in action against Manchester City in the Premier LeagueJon Super/Associated Press

    Possibly a surprise inclusion on this list, a ready-made backup centre-back option for Liverpool this summer would be Spurs' French defender Younes Kaboul, who is currently seeing out his contract with the London club.

    Boasting over six years of Premier League experience, Kaboul would be an adept solution to the diminishing powers of Kolo Toure as second-choice right-sided centre-back, and at only 28 years old, he could provide current first-choice Martin Skrtel with some genuine competition.

    Tom Collomosse, writing for the London Evening Standard, suggested that for Kaboul to have a chance of a future at Spurs he would have to prove his fitness amid an injury-stricken spell with the club:

    Kaboul is highly regarded by the Spurs coaching staff – he was one of the club’s outstanding players in the 2011/12 campaign – but his injury difficulties mean they have had fewer opportunities to evaluate him than they would have liked.

    Naturally, this is a situation that Rodgers himself would have to factor in considering Kaboul as a free transfer option, however when the French international has made appearances this season he has impressed.

    As per Squawka, in five Premier League appearances Kaboul has won 71 percent of tackles attempted, along with winning 64 percent of his headed duels.

    Collomosse reports that Kaboul currently earns "around £35,000 a week", a wage which would comply with Liverpool's low-cost efforts.

    Fitness issues aside, Kaboul would prove a decent backup option for Rodgers' Reds side, as a fine ball-playing centre-back on the right side of defence; however, whether or not the Frenchman would accept another squad-player role would remain to be seen.

Centre Midfield: Diego (Atlético Madrid)

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    Atletico Madrid's Diego.
    Atletico Madrid's Diego.Daniel Ochoa de Olza/Associated Press

    Brazilian play-maker Diego re-signed with Spanish club Atletico Madrid in the January transfer window, on a short-term deal as reported by Sky Sports.

    However, with the Xabi Alonso-lookalike's contract only running till the end of this season, Liverpool would be wise to monitor this player's progress.

    In 2012, when Diego was still with German side Wolfsburg, Alex Di Mascio wrote for Sabotage Times imploring the Reds to sign the Brazilian:

    Diego is an excellent creative presence and could be the link between the attack and midfield Liverpool have lacked so badly this season. For Liverpool fans that crave a return to an attacking pass and move style, Diego would be an ideal buy as he enjoys possession and has a sublime passing range abetted by tremendous peripheral vision.

    This appraisal of Diego is reminiscent of the currently enduring qualities of Liverpool charge Coutinho, a fellow Brazilian.

    Di Mascio continues:

    His range of passing is a lot more complete than Gerrard who often resorts to long balls and, despite not being quick, it is the areas in which he moves that would make him a good signing for Liverpool.

    With the evolution of Steven Gerrard this season into a more reserved role, this comparison also suggests that Diego bears similar qualities to Liverpool's captain.

    At only 29 years old, and with international, European, and league-challenging experience, Diego would be a perfect addition to thicken up a hopefully title-challenging squad as cover for both Coutinho and Gerrard.

Best of the Rest

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    Arsenal's Bacary Sagna holds off Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard in this season's Premier League.
    Arsenal's Bacary Sagna holds off Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard in this season's Premier League.Associated Press

    As previously mentioned, this summer has the potential to produce a wealth of quality in the free transfer market.

    Other than the options previously detailed, there are plenty of other options for Brendan Rodgers to consider in the free transfer market this summer.

    Goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa (AC Ajaccio); Diego Cavalieri (Fluminense)

    Defenders: Bacary Sagna (Arsenal); Ashley Cole (Chelsea); Alex (PSG)

    Midfielders: Urby Emanuelson (AC Milan); Jeremy Menez (PSG); Aaron Hunt (Werder Bremen)

    Forwards: Mame Biram Diouf (Hannover 96); Eduardo (Shakhtar Donetsk)

    Whilst Rodgers is likely to dip his toes into the transfer market with some high-profile high-priced signings, he would surely be advised to take a look at those transfer that are a likely to pose less of a financial risk: as mentioned, there is plenty of quality to be found.