It has been no secret this season that Liverpool have been in desperate need of a quality left back. Roy Hodgson's purchase of Paul Konchesky was quite simply never going to live up to life on Merseyside. In addition, Hodgson allowed Emiliano Insua to leave the club on loan when he was clearly a more promising prospect as to warrant the purchase of another aging defender.
Fabio Aurelio, while providing good quality, attacking presence with his crosses and excellent free kick ability, is far too injury prone to be relied upon for the years to come. He has been a great steward to the club, but his time is being cut short because his body is letting his natural talent down.
Rumors have flown from all corners of the media since January about who Liverpool should be or are possibly courting to come in on the left-hand side of the defense.
From Goal.com to the Guardian to Metro, the speculation continues to increase as only eight games remain for the Reds and the summer transfer window beckons to the fans and club.
Vice captain Jamie Carragher is starting to get up in age, and it will be important for the team to have an additional center back to look to aside from Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel.
Sotirios Kyrgiakos has shown his ability to deputize when needed but doesn't seem to posses the skill to be more than a fringe player at the back for the Reds.
Youngsters Daniel Ayala and Danny Wilson have shown promise, but both are still too raw of prospects to really be considered as ready to step into a more permanent role.
Wilson has done decently in his games under Dalglish, and Ayala had some impressive outings under Rafael Benitez and looks to be one of the Spaniard's favored young defenders to make something of himself at the club.
With all the rumors swirling around, it seemed a good idea to take a look at 10 of the most talked about defenders that have cropped up in Liverpool transfer gossip.
A product of Aston Villa's youth system, Bolton Wanderer's Gary Cahill has been mentioned as a target by many of the big names in English football all season.
The English international has proven to be a hard-working and determined center back who can stand firm and hold the line when needed. He also has the ability to get forward and score. He has 11 goals in just over 100 career appearances for the Trotters.
Liverpool need another young Englishman to come to the club as Jamie Carragher is starting to show his age, and the team will need a long-term replacement for the vice captain.
The 25-year-old is most likely going to have one of the biggest decisions of his life during the next transfer window, and the competition looks steep if the Reds are going to prize away the English National Team's most talented up-and-coming defender.
Estimated Trasfer Value: £18-23 million or greater.
Another English international is on the Liverpool radar in their own city. Just across the way at Goodison Park lies the home of the Reds' greatest rival, Everton.
Everton are also the owners of one of the Reds primary targets to fill the left back void they have suffered with all season.
Leighton Baines has proven to be one of the best and most consistent left backs in the English game for the Blues under David Moyes, and the Toffees would be hard pressed to let him go.
Despite being a local rival, the fact that he is homegrown talent and a local lad gives the Reds a chance.
Baines is also a primary up-and-coming starlet of the English National Team just like Gary Cahill. The idea of the two having a chance to partner, if both acquired, would benefit club and country alike.
With Baines being owned by Everton, it will be no easy bidding war for the Reds to win. The 26-year-old is expected to demand a decent price tag if he can be persuaded to swap Blue for Red and face the boo-boys at every Merseyside Derby he has left to participate in.
Estimate Transfer Value: £12-14 million.
At 31 years old, Aston Villa defender Richard Dunne looks to be beyond the age that new Liverpool owners, Fenway Sports Group, would want to bring into the club.
However, Dunne has proven to be a great center back in his career, and his very modest transfer fee could see the owners look at a short-term deal as cover until a younger player can be acquired.
He recently has been involved with some off-field antics with his team that continue to test the belief that he is happy at Villa. Reports surfaced last season that he has been disgruntled with the team's tactics for some time now, and the new controversies could very well see him quit the Birmingham outfit.
If he came to Liverpool, he would join the list of Ireland internationals to have put on the Liverpool Red, and here's hoping that if he does come to Merseyside, he doesn't go the way of Robbie Keane. He is also being tracked by Liverpool's rival Manchester United.
Estimated Transfer Value: £2-3 million.
The transfer of Jose Enrique has continued to gain speed ever since Andy Carroll joined Liverpool from Newcastle. Having been the target of much criticism during his early days at Newcastle, the Spanish left back has proven to be a solid choice for the Magpies.
Having played a crucial part in the promotion campaign for the club last season and providing great cover and ability on the left side since returning to Premier League action, the belief that he could be on the move is more and more likely to come true.
It was reported in the Daily Mail recently that Enrique was refusing to even enter contract discussions until the Geordie club had guaranteed their status in the English top flight next season. His transfer fee could be subject to inflation as it is also believed AC Milan are looking to attract the 25-year-old.
Another possibility to sweeten the deal that was floated about in January and early February was to include Joe Cole as a makeweight in the offer to lessen the Reds' wage bill and Enrique's transfer fee all at once.
Cole has failed to live up to his former self and, if not used in a transfer deal, is most likely to join Tottenham for around £5 million in the summer.
Estimated Transfer Value: £8-12 million.
Benfica and Portuguese star Fabio Coentrao is rated as one of the best full backs in the world and is quite likely to be one of, if not the most, expensive defenders on the market this summer.
Liverpool appear to have been interested in Coentrao for quite sometime, however, the feeling is that they have too much work to do in the transfer market in order to splash in excess of £20 million when cheaper alternatives are available with the likes of Leighton Baines, Jose Enrique or even in a returning Emiliano Insua.
The 23-year-old is renowned for his tireless attacking, much like what David Luiz has shown at Chelsea since leaving Benfica, and a tenacious and energetic style would perfectly suit Liverpool's philosophy of play since Kenny Dalglish took over in place of Roy Hogdson.
Liverpool would welcome him with open arms, but the fact of the matter is there are many more options with clubs that have bigger purses, not to mention Champion's League action, than the Reds.
Coentrao is expected to receive heavy offers from Barcelona, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
Estimated Transfer Value: £22-25 million.
Celtic's Honduran left back, Emilio Izaguirre, has also caught the eye of the Liverpool staff. He only just joined the Old Firm in August following the World Cup in South Africa, but it is said that the Reds have been watching him the last several months quite extensively.
He is believed to be a possible star if brought to the English Premier League, but current Celtic boss Neil Lennon insists Izaguirre is not for sale. However, the Glasgow club would find it hard to turn down an offer of around £8 million with the knowledge that the player would like to test himself at a higher level than in Scotland.
Although he will still have three years left of his four-year contract with the Hoops, he is still looking to move on and Arsenal have also been linked with a move for the South American. However, if the Gunners do make the first move, it could open a possible door for the exit of another possible Reds' target.
Estimated Transfer Value: £7-9 million.
If the Gunners were to sign Emilio Izaguirre from Celtic, that would give 25-year-old French international Gaël Clichy the belief that he should move on. If so, a move to Merseyside might be an attractive offering in the long run, and the new owners would have the monetary sway to possibly land him.
Arsene Wenger has relied on Clichy to make more that 180 appearances for the Gunners since he was purchased from Cannes in 2003.
However, with eight years of service in the squad, there is no silverware to account for in the last six since the 2005 FA Cup. Unless they pull of a comeback for the ages and beat Manchester United to the title, Clichy may feel it is time for a change.
Wenger is always on the hunt for a deal or a way to bring more balance to the books, and an outlay of around £7-9 million for the possibility of bringing in £11-13 million or more for Clichy could tempt the astute old Frenchman.
Estimate Transfer Value: £11-13 million.
After seven years with Marseille, Nigerian left back Taye Taiwo has decided to leave his club. This would easily make him the greatest value at left back for the Reds as he will be a Bosman free transfer in the summer.
Taiwo is renowned as a solid defender with a thunderous left foot, much like former Red and current AS Roma star John Arne Riise, and his 16 goals in 173 appearances for the club prove that. Taiwo has been perpetually linked with a move away from France.
However, despite the belief that he has made up his mind to leave France in the summer, his teammate Stéphane Mbia has recently spoken out that Taiwo wants to stay at Marseille.
Liverpool have expressed an interest in Taiwo but could be beaten to the punch by other clubs, with AC Milan, Aston Villa, Newcastle and Benfica believed to have already started negotiations.
Estimate Transfer Value: FREE
The young Danish international central defender Simon Kjær has been linked with Liverpool for several months now. Having never gotten his career of the ground with Germany's VfL Wolfsburg after moving from a bright few years in Palermo at the start of the season.
His time in Italy showcased his rise to fame as he scored five goals in 62 appearances for the Aquile as he helped them to a fifth-placed finish and a Europa League birth in the the Serie A.
With only 18 appearances for his new club and what appears as countless breakdowns between communication with his German outfit, the 21-year-old seems to have become disillusioned and is in need of a change.
Liverpool offer an attractive option for the youngster, as he would link up with fellow national teammates Daniel Agger and Christian Poulsen. He would also have the tutelage of Steve Clark as his first team coach, and the former Chelsea man was one of the most decorated Premier League defenders in the last 20 years.
Estimated Transfer Value: £10-12 million.
The second "free" option for the Reds, behind that of Taya Taiwo, is the return of one of their own players from loan this season.
Emiliano Insua has spent the season seemingly in exile since Roy Hodgson believed him excess to his needs following the purchase of Paul Konchesky.
Insua proved a great prospect for the Reds last season as he made 31 appearances for Rafael Benitez in the 2009-2010 campaign. However, he was sent out on loan to Turkish side Galatasaray where he has only been allowed 12 appearances for the Aslanlar, thanks to in-club political and managerial strife.
In January, he was thought to be returning from the loan in January when Galatasaray manager Gheorghe Hagi made it clear he wanted no loan players in his squad, and Insua stated he wanted to return to Liverpool under Kenny Dalglish. It is unclear what will happen now as Hagi was sacked just yesterday.
If anything, Insua will provide a great second option at left back to whomever the Reds attempt to bring in.
If Liverpool fail to bring in an additional left back, which would be a real problem, Insua would likely be backup to Glen Johnson and then Fabio Aurelio. Dalglish has preferred Martin Kelly on the right and pushing Johnson to the left side.
Estimated Transfer Value: FREE as he returns from loan.
The problem for the Reds however, is their budget. They are willing to splash the cash as was seen with the addition of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez for £35 million and £22 million, respectively.
But, those purchases cost the Reds nothing as they received £7 million due to the sale of Ryan Babel to TSG Hoffenheim and £50 million for Fernando Torres to go to Chelsea.
The summer window will most likely see one of the biggest shake ups in Liverpool's club history as players will have to be sold to assist in the creation of capital for the team to add additional strength.
There will still have to be an injection of cash as the players going out will not net the amount of capital that is needed to be available.
With the gaping hole at left back on equal terms as the black hole on the wings, the Reds will need all the money they can scrape together to make way this summer, as the prospect of no European football also looks to make getting players in a little more difficult than before.
However, the forward direction of the club will hopefully balance some of the doubt over missing out on one season of Europe and getting to focus on rebuilding and maybe even getting some better cup runs as of late.
The chopping block looks to include many players brought in during the last two seasons. Maxi Rodriguez, Joe Cole, Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Christian Poulsen to name a few, look most likely to make way for incoming players.
In all likelihood, I see the Reds putting out at least £60 million, plus or minus additional revenue from the sale of players, to secure around five players including at least two defenders.