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    Friday, 1 July 2022

    Jurgen Klopp set for closer look at 'next Luka Modric'

    Liverpool are planning to sign a new midfielder in 2023 with one rumoured target set to be granted an audition in front of Jurgen Klopp next month


    With the signings of Luis Diaz, Darwin Nunez and Fabio Carvalho, Liverpool have successfully refreshed their attack this calendar year. Next on the agenda for Reds sporting director Julian Ward will be the club’s midfield in 2023.

    The club would have added to their ranks this summer if possible, having held talks with Aurelien Tchouameni. However, once it quickly became clear that he only had eyes for Real Madrid, Liverpool were willing to put such plans on hold until next year.

    That hasn't stopped speculation, of course, with club sources denying that the Reds had any interest in Porto’s Otavio following reports in Portugal over the weekend claiming talks had been held. Meanwhile, Liverpool are known to have interest in Jude Bellingham ahead of a potential Borussia Dortmund exit next summer.

    However, with the England international attracting interest from the majority of major clubs, if the Reds did wish to move for the England international, it would not be a simple deal to conclude. As a result, they will have other targets on their radar as they weigh up their next move and continue to work two to three windows in advance.

    Goal presented some alternatives that Liverpool are believed to be monitoring on Monday, claiming Jurgen Klopp rates Inter Milan's Nicola Barella, Aston Villa's Carney Chukwuemeka is highly thought of by those inside Anfield while West Ham's Declan Rice also has his admirers in the Reds’ recruitment team, but is perceived to be too expensive.

    However, there was one other name put forward that caught the eyes of Kopites, given some of Liverpool’s recent transfer dealings - Red Bull Salzburg’s Luka Sucic.

    The 19-year-old came through the Austrian outfit's youth academy before starting his senior career with their feeder club, Liefering. Returning to Salzburg ahead of the 2020/21 season, he cemented his place in their starting XI last season and has 13 goals and six assists to date from 71 appearances, with his form earning him a senior international call-up with Croatia last year. Meanwhile, a boyhood Barcelona fan who idolises Luka Modric, comparisons with his compatriot were inevitable.

    Capable of playing anywhere in midfield, Goal reported that the Croatia international is viewed as a potentially-elite prospect, while recent reports have credited Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Lazio, Manchester United and Newcastle United with interest in the teenager along with Liverpool.

    Whether the Reds' rumoured interest actually results in a move for Sucic materialising, only time will tell. But the reason such speculation will have set Kopite tongues wagging is due to Liverpool’s strong relationship with the Red Bull group, which owns the Austrian champions.

    Ibrahima Konate became the latest player to join the Reds from a Red Bull side last summer, signing from RB Leipzig in a £36m deal, with Naby Keita joining directly from the Bundesliga outfit for £52.75m in the summer of 2018, having previously played for Salzburg, and Takumi Minamino signing from Red Bull Salzburg for £7.25m in January 2020.

    And while Sadio Mane didn’t join Liverpool directly from a Red Bull side, he spent two seasons with Salzburg prior to moving to England with Southampton. However, Klopp had held talks with the Senegalese regarding a potential move to his Borussia Dortmund team at that time.

    Meanwhile, the close ties between the Reds and the Red Bull group have seen Liverpool set up friendlies with both Leipzig and Salzburg this month. They travel to the Red Bull Arena in Germany on July 21 before playing at the Stadion Salzburg in Austria on July 27, having also taken on the Austrian outfit in a pre-season friendly in August 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Elsewhere, they have also played both sides in the Champions League in recent seasons.

    As a result, Klopp and the Reds’ recruitment team will get a first-hand look at Sucic in the not too distant future. However, while relations with the Red Bull group could aid negotiations, their previous transfer record should perhaps also act as a warning.

    While Mane, Keita and Konate moved to Liverpool having tested themselves in either the Premier League or Bundesliga in their early-twenties before making such a step, Sucic remains a teenager with no experience outside of Austria. Meanwhile, Minamino, who has now completed a £15.5m move to AS Monaco, joined the Reds directly from the Austrian side but has never been more than a fringe player.

    If the Croatian can live up to this ‘elite prospect’ label, perhaps he would be ready for such a step-up regardless. If not, even the summer of 2023 could come too soon for the midfielder with him perhaps needing a middle step before he can dream of a move to Liverpool.

    Either way, he will be able to test himself against the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara next month when the Reds lock horns with Salzburg. And having seen Diaz, Nunez and Minamino all face off against Liverpool just months before making their own moves to Anfield, at the very least he is being granted an unofficial audition as Klopp watches on.

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