Liverpool bolster defence, Minamino off to Saints as window shuts

LONDON (AFP) – Liverpool finally bolstered their defensive options by signing Schalke’s Ozan Kabak and Preston’s Ben Davies before the Premier League transfer window slammed shut on Monday night.

Meanwhile, Premier League champions’ Japanese attacking midfielder Takumi Minamino left for Southampton on loan until the end of the season in one of the few moves between Premier League clubs on a quiet deadline day.

The January window is regarded as a sellers’ market and often a time for stop-gap measures but Liverpool were forced to act.

The champions are missing all of their senior central defenders, with Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip out of action.

Fabinho, who had impressed at centre-back after moving from his usual midfield position, recently joined the injured list while captain Jordan Henderson, who usually plays in midfield, has been forced to deputise at the back.

Japanese international Minamino departed Anfield for Southampton in a surprise move allowed to be completed after the window shut because the Saints had submitted the necessary paperwork in time.

“I am very pleased to welcome Takumi to our squad for the rest of this season,” Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said in a club statement issued two hours after the deadline.

“He will help provide another good attacking option, and is importantly the right profile of player for us. This will give us some additional depth in our squad at an important time.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had been suggesting for several weeks that a replacement centre-back would be a major lift for his team.

Klopp got his wish at last as the Reds brought in two defenders in the final hours of the transfer window.

Kabak joined on loan until the end of the season, subject to international clearance.

The Premier League champions have paid an initial GBP1 million loan fee with the option to buy for GBP18 million at the end of the season.

The 20-year-old arrives after two years in the Bundesliga, where he played for Stuttgart before joining Schalke in July 2019.

He previously gained Champions League experience at Galatasaray and has won seven caps for Turkey.

Davies, 25, signed for an initial fee believed to be GBP500,000, plus future add-ons.

Klopp conceded signing a relatively unknown player from the second tier was a move forced by financial restraints of the pandemic and Liverpool’s injury woes.

“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,” he said.

“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’. We see the quality and we see the potential.”

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

“I’ve never actually been to Anfield and I haven’t had a look around yet.”

Major moves involving ‘Big Six’ Premier League clubs were few and far between in the January window.

Manchester United completed the transfer of teenage Ivorian winger Amad Diallo from Serie A side Atalanta for a fee that could rise to GBP37 million. Midfielder Jesse Lingard has joined West Ham on loan after slipping down the pecking order at Old Trafford.

Real Madrid midfielder Martin Odegaard has arrived at Arsenal, also on a loan deal, while Mesut Ozil joined Turkish giants Fenerbahce. Shkodran Mustafi was allowed to leave, signing a short-term contract at Schalke.

Gedson Fernandes ended his disappointing spell at Tottenham, with the midfielder’s loan from Benfica cancelled so he could join Galatasaray.