Why a centre-back whose contract contains a €60m release clause rejected Newcastle and is unlikely to join Manchester United has been revealed, with a deal now there for the making for confirmed admirers Liverpool.
It’s been a quiet winter window thus far at Anfield and TEAMtalk have been told not to expect any late fireworks. The Reds are content to see out the season with those already at their disposal.
However, summer moves are inevitable and one position in particular could have both arrivals and exits.
Liverpool are well stocked at centre-half, though Joel Matip – who is currently sidelined with an ACL injury – will become a free agent at season’s end.
Matip will turn 33 in the summer and Reds owners FSG will no doubt be wary of offering a new deal to an ageing star coming off major knee surgery.
Even if Matip stays, Liverpool must begin to put the pieces in place to replace both he and Virgil van Dijk down the line. The Dutchman will also turn 33 in the summer and won’t remain world class forever.
Elsewhere, Ibrahima Konate is settled and will be a long-term fixture on Merseyside. Jarell Quansah is developing nicely, though Joe Gomez is often required to cover both full-back positions and especially right-back.
Liverpool make centre-back signing top priority
All in all, a new centre-half looks required and Caught Offside reported earlier in January that a new defender is Liverpool’s No 1 priority for the summer.
A left-footer in particular could be targeted. None of Liverpool’s current options in the position are left-footed.
Reports in Portugal have gone big on Liverpool’s admiration of Sporting centre-back, Goncalo Inacio. Indeed, it was claimed Liverpool scouts have watched the 22-year-old Portugal international extensively this season.
Inacio signed a new contract with Sporting in August that committed his future in Lisbon until 2027.
However, Sporting confirmed the player’s release clause – previously set at €45m – has now risen to €60m (approx. £51.5m).
That is not a gigantic fee for a Portugal starter who could be a key cog in Liverpool’s defence for the better part of the next decade.
Now, according to Portuguese outlet O Jogo, a summer switch to Liverpool could be on the cards in a move that would sting Newcastle and Manchester United.
Newcastle snubbed; Man Utd unable to satisfy key demand?
The report states Newcastle explored a transfer for Inacio last summer, though the player rejected the approach in favour of holding out for a move to a club that can challenge for major titles.
One look at the table suggests Inacio made the right call, with the Magpies falling back down to earth this season and currently laying in 10th spot.
A move to Old Trafford would also appear fanciful given the Red Devils’ struggles this term. Man Utd finished bottom of their Champions League group – as did Newcastle – and are already 13 points off Liverpool in the league who’ve also played a game less.
As such, a move to Liverpool would appear to be Inacio’s best bet of the three if intent on winning major honours like the EPL and UCL.
On the subject of when a move could take shape, O Jogo clarify Sporting will do all they can to resist a mid-season sale. That won’t necessarily affect Liverpool who aren’t intending to make major additions this month anyway.
But the story will be different at season’s end and as a 22-year-old left footed centre-half who is already a regular starter for club and country, the move looks ideal for Liverpool.