Overhauling the midfield was the priority for Liverpool during the 2023 summer transfer window.
Having already refreshed their attack over a 12-month period, the Reds are set to focus almost exclusively on the defence once the 2023/24 campaign comes to an end.
A number of players have already been linked with a move to Merseyside. As discussed in a feature earlier this week, it can be a little tricky to decipher who exactly ticks the boxes for Jurgen Klopp’s side and who doesn’t.
However, with centre-backs, it can be fairly straightforward.
Liverpool like their defenders to dominate all areas; on the ground, in the air and on the ball.
With the exception of Joe Gomez, the centre-backs Klopp has had at his disposal during his time at Anfield have all had a similar profile. Yes, even Dejan Lovren, though the one-time Southampton man did have some moments you would want to forget about, he did share some key traits with Joel Matip, Virgil Van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate.
It is safe to assume that the next centre-back signing will be closer to Van Dijk, Matip, Konate and Lovren in profile than they are to Gomez.
With this in mind, we’re going to focus on one particular player linked with the Reds recently: Ousmane Diomande.
The Sporting CP centre-back reportedly has a £69m release clause in his contract and the suggestion is that the Portuguese giants won’t negotiate.
If you want to pry the recently turned 20-year-old away from the José Alvalade Stadium, you are going to have to pay the release clause. On one hand, it is a fairly hefty fee for a player with fewer than 30 appearances in the Portuguese top flight to his name.
On the other hand, it could prove to be a bargain fee if he fulfils the abundance of possession he possesses. It would be a massive risk, but if all goes to plan, it could be an inspired gamble.
A little over 12 months ago, Diomande was plying his trade in the second tier of Portuguese football, on loan at Mafra from Danish club FC Midtjylland. Sporting were impressed enough to part with £5m in January 2023 and he went on to make 17 appearances for Ruben Amorim’s men. This season, he’s been key for the Lisbon-based side and they are currently top of the table.
He’s played as a right-sided centre-back in a three as well as the central centre-back.
His development over the past year has been nothing short of remarkable. At times he’ll play as the middle man in a back three but he’s also comfortable on the right-side of the defensive trio.
Diomande is comparable to Matip and Konate.
He’s 6ft 3in with a powerful build, pace and confidence on the ball. He carries the ball into midfield and he’s a competent dribbler. He doesn’t have the slaloming trait possessed by Matip but he’s not afraid to carry possession through the thirds in a way that forces the opposition to engage. The 20-year-old opens up space for others, all while being low-key really good in possession.
With and without the ball, he’s a juggernaut.
In possession, he’s averaging 80 passes per 90 in the Portuguese league and finding a teammate with 91%.
He’s in the 95th percentile for defenders when looking at progressive passes and the 92nd for progressive carries, per FBref.
What I really like about Diomande is his ability to get off an incisive pass.
It doesn’t always look pretty, but it is so effective. He sort of lulls the opposition into a false sense of security by slowing down the game before prodding a pass through the lines. At first, I thought it was a one-off but, does it time and time again.
Defensively, he’s great in one-on-one situations. He’s won 64% of his tackles, 65% of his ground duels and 72% of his aerial duels.
If Liverpool opt for him, or someone of his profile, it likely means they view Jarell Quansah as someone who can fill in for Van Dijk in the long-term, as Diomande would be the man to battle it out with Konate for that right-sided centre-back role.