The Bundesliga is most definitely a hotbed for young talent and the German national team has been reaping the rewards over the last couple of years and will continue to do so for the best part of the next decade.
For my money the Bundesliga is currently the third-best league in Europe after Spain's La Liga and the English Premier League, and in terms of the talent it's producing it's No. 1 on my list.
If you have a look at the current Real Madrid squad you'll see the names of Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira and Nuri Sahin. These are three of the most talented young players in world football right now, all of whom have already proven their quality at the highest levels for both club and country. Madrid signed this trio of players for a combined total of about €40 million.
Take a look at that figure again. Now think of how good those three players are. Now consider the fact that those three players cost about the same amount that Liverpool paid for Andy Carroll.
That shows the type of value for money that can be found in the Bundesliga as opposed to what you get buying in the Premier League.
In the following slides I'll list 15 players that Liverpool should, in my opinion, be keeping a very close eye on between now and January, and especially for next summer.
In the spirit of keeping things realistic, Bastian Schweinsteiger will not be appearing, and I've tried to focus on positions in which Liverpool actually do need reinforcements.
Personally I don't think Liverpool need to sign a new central defender because with Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Sebastian Coates, Danny Wilson, Martin Kelly, Andre Wisdom and Stephen Sama at the club I think there is more than enough quality in that position, not just for the present but for the next decade or so.
However, Liverpool have been linked with a couple of central defenders recently and since the Bundesliga is filled with fantastic central defenders who are of a far higher standard than the ones the Reds are apparently intent on signing, it seemed like a good place to start this list.
First up is the pick of the bunch.
Mats Hummels is on his way to becoming the best central defender in world football. He has been blessed by a talent that is obvious to everyone that has seen him play, other than a couple of very silly people at Bayern Munich who are possibly seeking new employment right now.
He's a commanding presence without a weakness in his defensive game and he's also a very good passer of the ball and a capable goal scorer. The thoughts of Hummels and Agger taking turns at bringing the ball out of defence is a very nice one. Defensively they'd be brilliant together, and they'd also be the best ball-playing central defensive pairing in the world.
Hummels is not the only Dortmund central defender who's making a big name for himself.
Neven Subotic draws regular comparison to his compatriot Nemanja Vidic and it's pretty easy to see why. A giant of a man who's no slouch, Subotic is a complete defender. He's not as good on the ball as Hummels but he doesn't exactly let the side down in that respect either.
If Nemanja Vidic is the most dominant player in the world in terms of aerial challenges, then Subotic is a close second. He's magnificent in the air, and not only that but he as a great ability to find a teammate with his headed clearances.
When, not if but when, Germany become the dominant force in international football, Mats Hummels is going to be playing at centre-back. That's a certainty. In my opinion this is the man who should be playing next to him.
Howedes is a great leader as well as a great defender and while I've seen a lot of Liverpool fans call for the Reds to go and sign Gary Cahill on the grounds that "he's exactly the type of defender we need," I would urge them to look at Howedes for a much better example of that type of defender.
At 23, Howedes is still a long way from his prime and thus this would be a signing that could be seen as both a long-term move as well as an immediate improvement in the current first team. His anticipation is second to none, he reads the game brilliantly and he's an excellent organizer. He reminds me quite a bit of a young Fabio Cannavaro.
Whether or not he'll ever reach the heights of the Italian great remains to be seen but one thing is for certain: Howedes is going to be a top-class defender for many years to come.
Liverpool need a defensive midfielder and for all that Lucas Leiva has improved, they have needed a top-class defensive midfielder since the departure of Javier Mascherano.
Mascherano was the perfect defensive midfielder for Liverpool with his high-energy, all-action style which was coupled with a fantastic efficiency in both his tackling and his passing. Mascherano knew his limitations and he played within them. Given the chance, I would love to see him back at Anfield.
That's unlikely but here's the next best thing, with the potential to be even better.
Tomas Rincon is a hugely underrated player and I can't figure out why. He's fantastic as a defensive midfielder and can also play as both a right-back and a right-sided midfielder to good effect.
At the 2011 Copa America he was one of the stars of the tournament and easily the best defensive midfielder on display. He dominated a midfield battle against Lucas Leiva when Venezuela faced Brazil and following the tournament was voted the best Adidas-endorsed player, in the competition beating off competition from Lionel Messi amongst others.
Rincon would be a great option for Liverpool, and a very affordable one too.
Mario Gotze is the new superstar of Germany and already people are beginning to ask who the next Gotze will be. My answer to them would be to look no further than this youngster, Julian Draxler.
Draxler has less than a year's first-team football under his belt having come through the ranks at Schalke and made his first-team debut in January of last year, but he's already earned rave reviews.
If players like Gotze, Eriksen and Hazard are out of reach for Liverpool then Draxler is definitely a player they should consider because he has the potential to become truly world class.
Without wanting to overhype him, I could see this lad as a long-term replacement for Steven Gerrard. He has a similar style of play to our great captain and if he can realize his great potential he could reach Stevie's level someday.
Staying at Schalke for a moment...
Lewis Holtby was born in Germany to an English father who was stationed in Monchangladbach during his time in the army. Not only is Holtby's father English, he's a Scouser and has brought his son up with a good understanding of the Scouse way of life.
Holtby is a very talented midfielder who can do a bit of everything. A good tackler, an inventive and accurate passer, a tricky dribbler and a good finisher, Holtby is developing into an excellent all-round midfielder.
There is one only bad thing about this boy: He's an Everton fan.
Marco Reus has been linked with Liverpool on and off for about a year now, and I would urge Damien Comolli to follow through if the rumoured interest is real.
With his lightning pace, creativity, passing ability and finishing ability, Reus really possesses all the traits to become a top-class player. He's also young and his potential still outweighs his existing performance level, which is a scary thought for anyone who has to play against him on a regular basis over the next decade.
Reus has improved each year since joining 'Gladbach in 2009, and this season he has really stepped up his game. Last season, he finished the campaign with double figures in both goals and assists, and already this season he has 10 goals in only 14 appearances.
His contract contains a £15 million buy-out clause which kicks in at the end of the season, and Bayern Munich are expected to nab him then. Should Liverpool make an offer of a couple of million above that buy-out clause, you would have to think that 'Gladbach would be willing to accept rather than lose him for less to a Bundesliga rival.
Here's another player that Liverpool have been linked with on numerous occasions.
Before Mario Gotze came along, Marin was known as the "German Messi" and while that title was a bit of a stretch he's certainly a very talented player who could do well at Liverpool. His versatility, pace and trickery would give Liverpool an extra dimension to their current predictable style of play.
Marin is a much better version of Aaron Lennon and his ability to play either wing in either a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation and create chances in more ways than just smashing crosses into the centre would really give Kenny Dalglish some good options.
He's gone off the boil a bit over the last year and it might very well be time for him to move on from Bremen. Liverpool would be a good destination for him.
I've mentioned him twice before so I had to include him. Gotze is the new superstar of German football and, along with Mesut Ozil, is going to be the key to their national team for a long time to come.
Gotze can play a multitude of positions but his best position long-term will likely be "in the hole" where he can use his full range of abilities to dictate play for his country and whichever club is lucky enough to land him when Dortmund decide to cash in.
Liverpool would need to spend big to get Gotze but it would be worth every penny both short-term and long-term. I would love to see Liverpool sign him and Mesut Ozil and not bother with a new striker. With the amount of chances those two would create, Luis Suarez would score 30 a season just in tap-ins alone.
There have often been accusations aimed at Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard that he never reproduces his club form for his national team. John Barnes used to get accused of the same. Truth be told, there are good reasons for those accusations.
Lukas Podolski, on the other hand, has been the exact opposite throughout his career. His goal-scoring record for the German national team is a very impressive 43 goals in 95 games. That becomes even more impressive when you consider that in roughly 30 of those games he has played as a left winger.
Since leaving Koln the first time, Podolski struggled to reproduce his international form for Bayern Munich, and those struggles continued when he returned to Koln in 2009.
Until this season, that is.
This season Podolski is scoring a rate of almost a goal each game.
Podolski is similar in many ways to Robin van Persie, and I would imagine he would do very well in the English Premier League. He hasn't been widely linked to Liverpool and Arsenal are believed to be favourites to secure his signature, but I would hope that Damien Comolli has done his due diligence and is monitoring the situation because Podolski would represent a very good signing for Liverpool. Even if the Reds were to sign another striker, Podolski would make a great addition on the left wing.
Thomas Muller is the most underrated player in world football for my money and it truly baffles me as to why he does not get the credit he deserves.
Muller exploded onto the world scene with his performances at 2010 World Cup and he continued to impress since. He's established himself as a vital member of the Bayern Munich team and his versatility is the key to his game.
Muller can play right wing, central midfield, left wing, in the hole or up front and he's a top-class player in all but central midfield, where he does a decent job. He's a player who make goals as well as scores them and he works hard for his team every time he takes the field.
It's unlikely that Bayern would want to sell him, but if they were to sign Marco Reus it could be possible. With Toni Kroos now establishing himself in the attacking midfield role behind an in-form Mario Gomez, and Reus taking one wing position, then Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Muller would be left competing for the other and since it's the left wing position, Ribery is the most likely to take that role and Muller isn't the type to be happy on the bench.
Although, with that being said, if I was in charge at Bayern I'd sell Ribery and Robben before Muller because in the long run he's going to be far better for them than they will be. Muller on the right with Reus on the left would certainly work.
Still though, Muller up front with Suarez would also work and if Liverpool wanted to go out and spend big money on a 22-year-old striker who would actually be worth the money, they could do a lot worse than Thomas Muller.
Demba Ba is currently scoring for fun in the Premier League and I've seen a few Liverpool fans suggest that he would be a good buy. He would, but I think we've given Newcastle more than enough money over the last year.
Besides, as good as Ba is there are better players available who cost less and this is one of them, Papiss Cisse—the man who will partner Ba up front for Senegal in the upcoming African Cup of Nations if Amara Traore has any sense.
Cisse is an excellent finisher with a great instinct for being in the right place at the right time. He's powerful, pacey and lives on the defender's shoulder. He's the type of player who would do well in the Premier League.
The only problem with signing him in January is the aforementioned African Cup of Nations, so he might be a better target for the summer.
What do Liverpool need? Someone who scores goals
What does Klaas-Jan Huntelaar do on a football pitch? He scores goals.
Seems like a pretty obvious fit to me. Huntelaar was born to score goals and he has a proven track record that makes good reading. He's had a bit of a nomadic career; Schalke 04 are the eighth club he's played for, and he could do with a nice long spell at a top club where he can show the world what he can do.
He's best-known for his time at Ajax where he spent a season-and-a-half alongside current Liverpool star Luis Suarez. In their only full season together they scored 50 league goals between them, as they showed themselves to be one of the best strike pairings in Europe.
The chance to put that partnership back together is something Damien Comolli and Kenny Dalglish should be looking at, because Suarez needs a partner and he needs a reason to be cheerful right now. His friend Klaas-Jan can provide both.
Although Liverpool do not need a goalkeeper I simply could not do a list of potential signings from the Bundesliga without including at least one. I've gone for the man who, in my opinion, is the best goalkeeper in the Bundesliga, one of the best in the world and unquestionably the most underrated.
Rene Adler is a fantastic goalkeeper who, if not for injuries, would be the German No. 1 and likely would have moved from Bayer Leverkusen to a major club by now. Adler is the total package—a great shot-stopper, good with his feet, a commanding presence and a great talker.
When Manchester United needed a goalkeeper in the summer, this is the man they should have bought. If Liverpool find themselves in need of a goalkeeper either due to a serious injury to Pepe Reina or Reina wanting to leave for any reason, this is the man they should buy.
A fantastically talented player with bags of potential, pace like you wouldn't believe and plenty of experience.
Developed at one of the world's greatest academies he has thus far played for two of the world's great clubs although he has failed to truly live up to his potential, due for the most part to managers refusing to play him in his natural position.
At the age of 25 he has already amassed over 40 caps for one of the world's strongest footballing nations and once tore Glen Johnson to absolute shreds in an international friendly.
Sounds good doesn't he? Can you guess who he is?
So there you have it, my list of 15 potential signings that Liverpool could make from the Bundesliga. As you can see the level of talent currently playing in Germany is staggering. When I started putting this list together I actually had a list of over thirty players that I considered including and the hardest part of writing the article was whittling it down to 15.
It is my belief that when Damien Comolli and Kenny Dalglish do their January shopping they should do it in Germany because the talent is simply fantastic, and the cost of that talent is very reasonable. If Liverpool want to contend for a top four place this season, and the title next season, they will need three or four players. I'm sure they can find them on this list.
If you feel I've missed out on anyone who deserves to be on this list, feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below.
Oh, for those of you who haven't guessed who I was talking about on the previous slide, I was referring to this guy.
I would like to take a moment to ask you to consider donating to this very worthy cause. Any amount will help and what better way to start a new year than to help a young boy to walk?
I'd like to thank you for taking the time to read this article; feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below. And if you've got a minute to spare, don't forget to vote for who YOU believe is the greatest Liverpool goalkeeper of all time. I've decided to make the greatest-ever articles a fortnightly feature, rather than a weekly one so you've still got a week left to vote.