Liverpool fill injury-hit defense with deadline day deals

Liverpool attempted to address its injury crisis in central defense by signing an unheralded player from England’s second division and another from the worst defense in Germany’s Bundesliga on the final day of the January transfer window.

Ben Davies, a 25-year-old left-sided center half who plays for Preston in the second-tier Championship, and Ozan Kabak, a 20-year-old Turkey international at Schalke, were identified by the English champion as stop-gap measures for the second half of the season.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp hadn’t felt the need to bring in reinforcements in the position after the loss of Virgil van Dijk in October and Joe Gomez in November to long-term knee injuries.

But Klopp changed his mind after his other senior center back  Joel Matip was ruled out for the rest of Liverpool’s erratic title defense on Monday with an ankle ligament injury sustained in last week’s win at Tottenham.

Davies joined for an initial fee of only 500,000 pounds ($680,000).

“Obviously it came as a bit of a surprise when it first came but once you start to get your head around it, the opportunity that is in front of me is incredible,” Davies said.

“I’d be silly to not make the most of it and learn off the players. I’ve never actually been to Anfield.”

He had been linked with a move to Celtic and was close to signing a pre-contract with the Scottish champion.

“Obviously we got gazumped at the last minute by Liverpool,” Celtic manager Neil Lennon said. “He lives in that area and I’m sure financially it would have been quite rewarding for him as well, so disappointed but we move on.”

Kabak joined on loan reportedly for a fee of 1 million pounds ($1.4 million) — with an option to buy. He made his first-team debut for Galatasaray at 18, and has played all but one game for Schalke this season — he was suspended for that because he spat at Werder Bremen left back Ludwig Augustinsson.

Last-placed Schalke has conceded 49 goals in the league – nine more than any other team.

Such has been the shortage of senior options available to Klopp that he has fielded central midfielders Fabinho and, more recently, Jordan Henderson at center back this season. Fabinho is currently out injured, too.

Henderson played alongside youngster Nathaniel Phillips on Sunday in the 3-1 win at West Ham, for the 12th different center-back partnership in 21 Premier League games this season.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. (AP)

In a turbulent title defence, Liverpool is third in the league, four points behind first-placed Manchester City, after playing one more game.

It was proving to be one of the quieter deadline days in the English top division, at the end of a month when there has been an outlay of only around 60 million pounds ($85 million) on players mainly due to clubs reining in their spending during the pandemic.

More than half of that is on two players- Amad Diallo to Manchester United and Said Benrahma to West Ham- whose transfers were first announced in the summer window.

Compare that to 2018, when teams splashed out a total of 420 million pounds ($575 million) in January and even last year, when 230 million pounds ($315 million) was spent in the winter window.

In a signing for the future, Brighton bought 19-year-old Ecuador midfielder Moises Caicedo from Ecuadorian side Independiente del Valle for 4.5 million pounds ($6.15 million).

“We’ll have to be patient with him,” Brighton manager Graham Potter said, “let him settle in and adapt to a new country and a new league.”

Much of the business on Monday involved teams trimming their squads and sending players on loan.

Brighton loaned Glenn Murray to Championship team Nottingham Forest, while Man City sent 19-year-old defender Taylor Harwood-Bellis to second-tier Blackburn for the rest of the season.

Man United’s 18-year-old defender, Teden Mengi, was loaned to Derby — managed by former United star Wayne Rooney — and New Zealand defender Winston Reid went to second-tier title hopeful Brentford.

An American arrival to the Championship is Daryl Dike joining Barnsley. The 20-year-old forward moves to the northern English club on loan from Major League Soccer side Orlando City until the end of the season in May, subject to international clearance, with an option to make the deal permanent.