Liverpool are going to focus their efforts in the upcoming summer transfer window on reinforcing their defensive unit.
It isn’t necessarily clear on what they actually need. After all, there are a lot of moving parts.
For example, is Jarell Quansah viewed as a right-sided centre-back or a left-sided centre-back? What is the long-term plan with Trent Alexander-Arnold? If he’s being moved into midfield, does Joe Gomez transition into a full-time full-back? If so, there’s an argument to be made that the Reds need multiple centre-back additions.
Lots to consider. Lots to ponder. Lots to overthink.
There are already multiple names being linked with a switch to Merseyside. Sporting CP duo Goncalo Inacio and Ousmane Diomande are reportedly on the club’s radar, while the Reds also retain an interest in Chelsea defender Levi Colwill. Now, Anfield Watch has learned Piero Hincapie is once again under consideration.
Reports last summer suggested that the versatile Bayer Leverkusen man was being courted by Liverpool but injury prevented a move from happening.
It also felt like an unlikely deal at the time given his agent is Manuel Sierra. For those who aren’t familiar with the name, he also represents Moises Caicedo and played a pivotal role in his switch to Chelsea ahead of a move to Anfield. When links first emerged, the Caicedo debacle was still fresh. Doing business with Sierra would’ve been difficult. It might be a little easier now.
The Anfield Watch exclusive revealed Liverpool had enquired about bringing Hincapie to the club in January but Bayer Leverkusen aren’t entertaining offers for him while they are in a title race. Xabi Alonso’s men sit top of the Bundesliga and while Hincapie hasn’t been a regular, he’s still an important squad member.
In fact, he recently scored a last-minute winner against RB Leipzig, a goal that ensured they maintained a four-point lead at the top.
— Bayer 04 Leverkusen (@bayer04_en) January 23, 2024
I suppose the big question is why are the Reds interested in someone who isn’t a first-team starter for Bayer Leverkusen?
For starters, he’s extremely versatile and Liverpool fans know how important these types of players can be.
James Milner played a key role over many years and Joe Gomez has been, as Jurgen Klopp said after the Carabao Cup semi-final, a life-saver over recent months. The fact he’s able to play across the defensive line has meant the Reds have been able to cope with the injuries.
Hincapie isn’t as versatile as the Liverpool No. 2 but he’s played multiple roles in Germany and he’s impressed in all of them.
The 22-year-old has turned out at centre-back in a three, in a four, as a left-back and as a wing-back. This is what gives him an advantage over, say, Kostas Tsimikas. The Ecuador international could play in place of Andrew Robertson and alongside him.
I’m not suggesting Hincapie could be a long-term heir to Virgil Van Dijk, but if the Dutchman ever needed a rest, the 30-cap international could come in and play as the left-sided centre-back.
Obviously, the standard would drop a little as he’s nowhere near as dominant as the Liverpool skipper, but it is an option the club wouldn’t otherwise have. You aren’t sticking Robertson or Tsimikas at centre-back, are you? But the six foot Hincapie has the experience of playing there and he’d be able to compete physically.
Hincapie is quite dominant in one-on-one duels, winning 70% of them, but his aerial success rate (57%) isn't the best. It would be absolutely fine for a full-back but if he’s in at centre-back, there’d be a bullseye on his back with those numbers.
The 22-year-old is very progressive and aggressive in possession. He carries the ball well into space, can beat a man and is quite adept at playing the ball into the feet of his teammates. For added context, he’s a high volume passes (74 per 90) so would be able to seamlessly fit in with the on-ball demands of a Liverpool defender.
He’s fairly safe in possession too, finding a teammate 87% of the time. These are good, solid foundations for a Jurgen Klopp centre-back, as detailed last week.
FBref actually has Colwill down as a similar player, which suggests Liverpool have a clear type in mind.
Previous reports have put Hincpie's price tag at around €50m (£42.5m), which seems steep, but he does have a long-term deal at the BayArena until 2027, so he won’t be available on the cheap. And with him being able to cover multiple roles, you can almost write off the cost across two positions.
It might make the deal easier to justify. It is one to keep an eye on.