Following an exciting start to the season, some criticism has been leveled towards Liverpool’s midfield in recent weeks. While Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva are clearly both talented players, their limited mobility and physicality have seen them struggle against more robust opposing midfields. Lucas, in particular, has looked somewhat off the pace since his last injury, and often finds himself dribbled past on opposition’s counterattacks due to his lack of speed and strength. Consequently, Liverpool should consider purchasing a rugged defensive midfielder this January in order to add some competition and depth in the middle of the park.  Here is a list of five players who could fulfill this role.

Blaise Matuidi, Paris Saint-Germain, 26 (£7-13m)

With his current contract running out at the end of the season, and no offer on the table as of yet, Blaise Matuidi might be allowed to leave PSG on the cheap this January. Matuidi has been a stalwart in the Parisian side for the past two seasons – racking up nearly 100 appearances for the club over this period – and would be an excellent signing to add some real grit to the heart of Liverpool’s midfield. Possessing energy, strength, surprising technical ability, and excellent reading of the game, the 26 year old combines some of the best aspects of both Lucas and Jordan Henderson. This type of talent, potentially offered at a lower price, however, will draw suitors from across Europe. If this is the case, Liverpool’s league position at the season’s midpoint could be a deciding factor in their pursuit of the Toulouse-born midfielder. Hopefully, perhaps upon the urging of Liverpool’s own former-PSG player, Mamadou Sakho, Matuidi can be convinced to join the Reds this January.

Fernando, FC Porto, 26 (£6-12m)

Another player in the last year of his contact, Porto’s Fernando – known by fans as “The Octopus” – could add dynamism and muscle next to Steven Gerrard in Liverpool’s midfield. Standing over 6 feet tall (183cm), Fernando has been ever-present in Porto’s dominant midfield since the 2008-09 season, and nearly completed a deadline day switch to Everton last summer. Combative and technically-savvy, the Brazilian would serve as a solid alternative to Matuidi.

Nemanja Matić, Benfica, 25 (£25m)

According to recent reports, Liverpool has actively been scouting Benfica’s towering Serb, Nemanja Matić, over the course of the season. Known for his ruthless tackling and power in the air, the former Chelsea man has earned many plaudits across Europe since his rise last season. While a player of Matić’s ilk would be an ideal signing for Liverpool, the combative midfielder would not come cheap:  his contact has an alleged €45m buyout clause, though the Lisbon-based club could be persuaded to sell closer to the £20m mark. Matić, moreover, recently voiced his interest in returning to the Blues, noting that “if somebody like Mourinho wanted to bring me back to London, it would be difficult to turn down. It would be a great chance to prove that I can play in the Premier League.” Hopefully, Brendan Rodgers can convince him that he looks better in red.

Lars Bender, Bayer Leverkusen, 24 (£25m)

Even casual fans of the Bundesliga know the name of Lars Bender. Brother of Borussia Dortmund’s Sven Bender, Lars is comfortable picking a throughball or tracking back to break up an opponent’s counterattack with a well-weighted tackle. The highly athletic, 24 year old German has also been capped for the German national side 15 times, and has made 115 appearances for Leverkusen since joining the club in 2009. Arguably Leverkusen’s most important player, the cash-strapped club might be forced to consider an offer of £20-25m for Bender. If his development in recent seasons is any indicator, a bid for of this magnitude would certainly be justified.

Gianelli Imbula, Olympique Marseille,  21 (£9-15m)

The final player on this list is Olympique Marseille’s young midfielder, Gianelli Imbula. While he is still relatively unknown, Imbula has been making waves in his first season at Marseille since his summer transfer from En Avant de Guingamp in the French Ligue 2 (where he was named player of the season for the 2012-13 season). Tall and muscular for his age, Imbula is a talented passer of the ball, as well as an accomplished tackler (averaging 3.5 per game in the Champions League this season). Though he is far from the finished product, Liverpool would be wise to snap this player up before Imbula’s profile grows even more.

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About The Author

Alex Beck

is an American student at the University of Wisconsin, studying political science and history. Though he has only followed Liverpool since the 2011 season, he has become a die-hard fan of the Reds. He has a penchant for scouting reports, and loves all things Kolo Toure. He hopes to one day have hair as good as Jordan Henderson.

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