Ozan Kabak arrived at Liverpool on a short-term loan deal in January as the club aimed to put their injury woes behind them, but a decision not to make his stay permanent could prove to be a costly mistake.
According to The Liverpool Echo, Jurgen Klopp’s charges have not yet decided if they will be extending the 21-year-old’s stay on Merseyside and it looks like a move for RB Leipzig’s Ibrahima Konate could take priority over the summer.
During his time with the English giants, Kabak has steadily improved and adapted to the demands of the Premier League, putting in convincing displays against the likes of Wolves, Sheffield United and Arsenal, as well as impressing in the Champions League last-16.
However, the Turkey international’s performances seemingly haven’t been enough to convince Klopp to activate a clause in his contract just yet, one which would allow the Reds to secure his services for just £18m from German giants Schalke in the upcoming transfer window.
Serious injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez have left the Anfield outfit threadbare at centre-back this season, meaning youngsters Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams have had to step up in the trio’s absence, while Fabinho has often been displaced from his usual midfield role to fill in the gaps.
While the stand-ins have performed admirably at times throughout the current campaign, arguably none of them are the long-term solution to Liverpool’s defensive troubles.
Matip and Gomez are top-class players on their day, but their persistent injury issues mean they’re hardly a dependable duo to plan your season around, especially if you’re planning on wrestling back a top-flight title.
Leipzig’s Konate is also susceptible to significant fitness concerns, missing 49 days of 2020/21 with an ankle injury, and has repeatedly suffered from muscle problems during his short career.
His proposed arrival over summer would leave Klopp with a centre-back recovering from a potential career-changing injury in Van Dijk, three injury-prone options in Matip, Gomez and Konate, and three alternatives who are perhaps more suited to lower league football in Phillips, Williams and Ben Davies.
The enigmatic German manager was full of praise for Kabak earlier in the season, though, lauding the youngster’s impact: “Ozan came in at 20 from Germany, was a big prospect but wasn’t lucky with the last two teams he played for, one went down (Stuttgart) and the other will probably go down (Schalke). But nobody really doubted his quality,” said Klopp.
“Then coming here and making this big step and winning more games than before, it’s really good for him that he can show that.”
This obvious admiration, therefore, makes it even more baffling as to why Liverpool have not yet decided to pull the trigger and secure the £22.5-rated man on a permanent basis. He’s now used to the pace and physicality of the Premier League, he has bags of potential, and is undoubtedly value for money in the modern era at a fee of just £18m.
If he chooses to let Kabak go, it’s a decision that Klopp may live to regret should his side experience another injury-riddled campaign, although people will presumably have far less sympathy for his self-inflicted predicaments next time around.