- Kabak loaned from Schalke: Davies costs £1.6m from Preston
- Jürgen Klopp forced to act after Joël Matip ruled out for season
Ozan Kabak (left) and Preston’s Ben Davies give Jürgen Klopp two more options for his injury-hit defence. Composite: Getty Images
The Guardian- Andy Hunter
Liverpool bolstered Jürgen Klopp’s central defensive options on deadline day with the signings of Ozan Kabak from Schalke and Ben Davies from Preston only to lose Joël Matip for the rest of the season with an ankle ligament injury.
The Premier League champions completed a loan move for Kabak, with an option to buy the 20-year-old Turkey international for an initial £18m in the summer, after gazumping Celtic with a £1.6m deal for Davies. The 25-year-old would have been out of contract at Preston at the end of the season and was destined for Glasgow until Liverpool moved in with an up-front payment of £500,000 plus £1.1m in bonuses. The Championship club will also receive 20% of a future sell-on fee for the left-sided central defender, who had loan spells at York, Tranmere, Southport, Newport and Fleetwood before establishing himself in Preston’s first team.
As part of the deal, Liverpool’s 19-year-old Dutch defender Sepp van den Berg has gone to Deepdale on loan. Late on Monday, Takumi Minamino the Japanese forward, joined Southampton on loan until the end of the season, while Saints’ Shane Long headed along the south coast to Bournemouth, on loan until the end of the season.
Davies is understood to have signed a five-year contract and Klopp admitted the deal would not have happened but for Liverpool’s limited options. “What I like about Ben is it just shows that each situation creates opportunities,” he said. “I think it’s probably clear that in a normal transfer window, without any issues, we would not look at Preston if there’s a player for us or something like that. It’s not really likely.
“But since we saw him and since our situation got clearer and clearer – the problems we had – when we saw him we got really excited about it and thought: ‘Wow.’ He’s a boy who played his whole life for Preston, is around the corner pretty much. We see the potential really. I love a lot about his play. He’s a really good footballer, looks like a proper leader in this Preston team.”
Liverpool intensified efforts to land a second centre-back once Matip suffered a recurrence of an ankle ligament injury against Tottenham on Thursday. Klopp confirmed on Monday that the unfortunate defender will not be available again until pre-season.
Attempts to sign Marseille’s Croatian defender Duje Caleta-Car were thwarted by the French club, who were unable to secure a replacement, but Schalke were willing to let Kabak leave once they signed Shkodran Mustafi from Arsenal on a six-month contract. Kabak was among several targets for Liverpool, although he had been under consideration at Anfield since last summer. He had been recommended to Klopp by the former Schalke head coach David Wagner, a close friend of the Liverpool manager, and Schalke’s former sporting director, Christian Heidel, who worked with Klopp at Mainz. A graduate of Galatasaray’s academy, Kabak underwent a medical in Germany on Monday morning in order to complete the transfer before the deadline.
“Dave was already very, very positive about him,”Klopp said. “He came very young to Germany and everybody was clear he was a massive talent. He is only 20 now. He plays in his second club [in Germany]; he is at Schalke and unfortunately they are in a bad position in the moment. For him, I think it’s a really good moment to make the move because, like each player in the world, you need a stable team around you and that’s what we can deliver.
“We deliver a stable team and you can play your position, you don’t have to be 20 with pretty much everything on the pitch and not allowed to make mistakes any more.
“He’s really a big, big talent and we are really looking forward to working with him.”
Schalke, struggling at the bottom of the Bundesliga and threatened by the financial impact of relegation, had proposed a loan deal with an obligation to buy. That was rejected by Liverpool’s sporting director, Michael Edwards, and Kabak, who cites Virgil van Dijk as his idol, will be only an option for the summer as Klopp evaluates his long-term plans.
Liverpool have been reluctant to operate in the January market or offer short-term contracts previously under Klopp – Steven Caulker, his first signing, was a rare exception – but a concentration of injuries in central defence forced a late rethink in this window. Despite losing Van Dijk and Joe Gomez to serious knee injuries in October and November respectively, not replacing Dejan Lovren last summer and Matip’s poor injury record, Klopp had insisted a new central defender was unlikely in January due to a lack of availability, inflated asking prices and the pandemic’s impact on Liverpool’s finances. Matip’s latest injury, however, combined with Fabinho’s recent absence with a muscle problem, left Klopp without an established central defender and heightened the need to strengthen for the title defence. Nat Phillips and Jordan Henderson were Liverpool’s 12th different central defensive partnership in the Premier League this season in Sunday’s win over West Ham.
With Davies signed for a cut-price sum due to his contractual situation and Kabak due to cost a £1m loan fee, plus £500,000 based on appearances, Liverpool have finally addressed their defensive shortage at relatively minimal expense.