Liverpool have returned to the top of the English Premier League for the first time in years. If recent reports are to be believed, coach Brendan Rodgers could break the bank this summer window to make sure the Reds are here to stay.
Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo (h/t the Liverpool Echo) claims Liverpool are preparing a summer move for Real Madrid's Marcelo, while The Mirror has learned the club will try its hand at Croatian centre-back Dejan Lovren, who was a target for the club last season before joining EPL rivals Southampton.
Both reports indicate Rodgers has his eyes set on improving a defensive unit that has conceded more goals than any other EPL title candidate.
While the Reds defense hasn't necessarily been bad, 39 goals in 32 games are not the numbers normally associated with a potential EPL champion.
Marcelo has enjoyed a phenomenal season in the Spanish capital, playing on the left wing of Carlo Ancelotti's star ensemble. Given the fact that the Brazilian international is only 25 years old and has given very little indication of being unhappy at Real, the rumoured £25 million offer seems very optimistic.
Backup Fabio Coentrao would perhaps be a more realistic transfer target, but as reported by The Guardian's Andy Hunter, Liverpool's eagerness to reward youngster Jon Flanagan with a new contract means the Portuguese international might not be enough of an upgrade to warrant a move.
According to Hunter, Rodgers clearly believes in Flanagan:
Jon will be given a new contract. Come the summer he's got another year so he will definitely be given a new deal in the summer, no question. He has been outstanding. He reminded me of Steve Nicol against Manchester United on Sunday – a right-footed player on the left side, steady, aggressive, no fear; he's been a revelation, and particularly in the big games. It's great when you see a young player develop like that. You can see the confidence he has now. He has made himself an important member of the squad.
Similarly, a move for Croatian international Lovren might not be very likely, with the Daily Star's Adrian Kajumba reporting Southampton aren't planning on selling any of their key players. New director Hans Hofstetter made that very clear:
The most important point is that we are in a position where we do not need to sell any player Mauricio (Pochettino, the coach) wants to keep.
We have a very strong squad and we are still in a situation where we are free enough to act quickly if quick action is asked from us.
Whilst I perceive that we have inherited a difficult situation financially, there are now clear and structured plans in place to progress the club and avoid a similar situation from occurring again.
Lovren was already on the Reds' radar prior to this season, but he no doubt impressed team officials even more when he scored the winner at Anfield in September.
While a move for either player seems unlikely at this point, there's no denying the impact a signing of this caliber could have on the club's defense. Liverpool have won games with a record-breaking offensive unit all season, disguising the fact that the team's defense isn't top-notch.
While that may be enough to compete in the EPL, the top teams in the UEFA Champions League will feast on teams that concede at the rate the Reds do.
Steven Gerrard Official agrees the defense needs some work:
Liverpool have kept only six clean sheets in their last 28 Premier League games. Poor defense should be sorted out this summer— Steven Gerrard (@SG8Official_) March 26, 2014
Liverpool are in the midst of transforming back into a world-class team. A record-breaking attacking unit and a dominant midfield are already in place, and the defense should be the next logical step.
Signings like Marcelo and Lovren, or players of a similar level, would greatly aid in that process.
Will either player move to Anfield this summer? Probably not, but it's these kinds of players the Reds should be aiming for.