Liverpool will complete a deal to sign Southampton defender Dejan Lovren in the next 48 hours, according to Croatian newspaper, Sportske Novosti. The former Olympique Lyon defender has been one of Liverpool’s top transfer targets during the summer and the Reds are still looking to add to their former Southampton contingent with the signing of Lovren.
After having a tremendous season for the Saints his boots will be big to fill at St Mary’s, but here we take a look at some viable replacements Southampton should target should the Croatian depart from the South Coast.
Fabian Schar – FC Basel, 22
Despite being at the tender age of 22, Swiss and FC Basel centre-back Fabian Schar shows maturity and skill far beyond his years. Three years ago, there was little sign that Schar would ever make it to this kind of level, he was plying his trade for his home town club, FC Wil 1900, as well as studying to become a banker if his football career never materialised. His meteoric rise to becoming one of football’s most sought-after young centre-backs has been nothing short of remarkable.
Schar is the archetype modern defender: he possesses great ball playing ability and has a high football IQ, which allows him to read certain situations. During the 2012-2013 season, Schar and Austrian Aleksandar Dragovic combined to create a sometimes impregnable partnership for Basel. They won the Swiss Super League that year and only conceded 31 goals in 36 games. That summer, Dragovic departed for Dynamo Kyiv in what will likely prove a poor career move from him in the long-run. Schar, to further his development, must be playing regularly and at a high-level.
Antonio Rudiger – Stuttgart, 21
Yet another young German centre-back who has progressed through all of Germany’s youth ranks, Antonio Rudiger is an extremely uncompromising and steely defender who is very versatile and well able to play in a deep midfield role, right-back or his favourite and best position, centre-back.
After signing him from former Bundesliga Champions Borussia Dortmund at the age of 18, it took Rudiger only two years to cement his place in Stuttgart’s first team. While it could be difficult for Southampton to pursue Rudiger considering the German club’s strict policies on letting their best youth talent leave, Rudiger has an elite upside and his tenacious style is more than suited to the Premier League. If Rudiger could cut out some silly mistakes from his game and his ill-discipline, the youngster could turn out to be an extremely good purchase for the Saints.
Bruno Ecuele Manga – FC Lorient, 26
Having bought Lovren from Olympique Lyon in Ligue 1, Southampton may return there to seek a replacement for Lovren – Gabonese interntional Bruno Ecuele Manga would be the ideal replacement. After Laurent Koscielny was purchased by Arsenal in the summer of 2010 for £10m, Ecuele-Manga joined from then Ligue 2 side Angers for £2.2m. Four years into the future, the 26 year old is the linchpin of Lorient’s defence, captain and leader.
Despite seeming like a robust, rugged and old fashioned centre-half, Ecuele Manga is neat in possession and has a superb disciplinary record – only picking up four yellow cards in 35 Ligue 1 games for Lorient. For the price Ecuele-Manga will be available for (in the region of £6m), he would be an absolute steal and over the course of the season, he could prove to be an upgrade on Lovren.
Ron Vlaar – Aston Villa, 29
In the centre of Holland’s defensive trio, Ron Vlaar carried his Aston Villa form onto the international stage to produce an inspired World Cup campaign. Right from the first group stage game versus Spain, Vlaar harried Diego Costa for 90 minutes and ultimately, the Chelsea forward had a seemingly quiet game for his standards. Vlaar is Aston Villa’s leader, captain and when they were without him last year, their defence looked simply lost.
According to foxsports.nl, Koeman wants Vlaar to join him at Southamton and with the pair working with each other at Feyenoord previously there is a chance this transfer could well happen. Also, with Vlaar being on the last year of his contract, Villa may be forced to sell him for a lower price. If Koeman could buy Vlaar in the region of £5m or below, we could be looking at one of the steals of the transfer window thus far.
Steven Caulker – Cardiff City FC, 22
Following Cardiff City’s relegation from the Premier League last season, their captain Steven Caulker is understandably a sought-after transfer target for most mid-table Premier League clubs. 22 year old Caulker was one of the only bright points of what was a dire season from a Cardiff point of view.
Despite being just 22 years old, Caulker showed great leadership and captaincy skills throughout the 2013/2014 Premier League season with the Bluebirds. If Southampton can match the £8m (which they can easily afford) offered by Queens Park Rangers to Cardiff for Caulker’s services, the former Tottenham man could be willing to depart the South of Wales for the South East of England.
Decisively, I believe that there are plenty of alternatives the Saints could purchase should Lovren leave to Liverpool, which does look increasingly likely by the hour. If the Reds do offer in excess of £20m, So’ton should let him leave, especially after his out of line comments and start looking elsewhere for replacements.
In my opinion it would be a lot harder for Southampton to replace someone like Schneiderlin, rather than Lovren.