Journalist Steve Kay has said that Liverpool are continuing to work behind the scenes on a potential January move for a player described as Jurgen Klopp’s ‘number one target’.
The Reds had been linked with Goncalo Inacio during the summer transfer window (Football Transfers) but instead he remained at Sporting Lisbon, where he signed a new contract which sees his release clause nearly doubled to €60m (£51.5m).
The Merseysiders’ focus in the winter market is likely to be on defenders, having revamped their midfield since the end of last season, and the 22-year-old is believed to be ‘top of the list’ for LFC.
Speaking exclusively to the Empire of the Kop podcast, Kay said: “I was told yesterday that Liverpool are still very, very interested in signing Goncalo Inacio. According to my sources, talks have continued since deadline day over the possibility of signing him in January.
“I’ve also been told that [a new centre-back is] a priority in the next transfer window for Klopp, and I’ve also been told that a £60m transfer budget has been made available to bring a player in for that position.
“The player that’s still top of the list is Inacio. I’ve been told that he was very close to signing for Liverpool during the last window, but in the end he had decided to stay at Sporting to apparently get them through to the knockout [stages] of the Europa League.”
Kay added: “The deal is definitely still alive. My sources told me that the real reason why Inacio signed a new contract was so that Sporting could [put] up the release clause and therefore get more money out of Liverpool…Similar to [Ryan] Gravenberch, the player is Klopp’s number one target in that area of the pitch, so this is definitely one to keep an eye on.”
When looking at Inacio’s statistics from the past 12 months in comparison to other centre-backs in Europe, his ability on the ball immediately stands out.
As per FBref, he ranks among the top 1% in the above category for progressive passes per game (8.6), the top 3% for progressive carries (1.9 per 90), top 9% for pass completion (89.2%) and top 10% for successful take-ons (0.5 per match).
In addition to his obvious talents in possession, Kay outlined on the Empire of the Kop podcast that the 22-year-old is ‘a beast’ who’s ‘hard in the tackle’, which indicates that he’d have the physical fortitude to complement his talents on the ball.
He’s still young enough that his peak years lie ahead of him, while also boasting the experience of almost 130 senior games for club and country, with 10% of those coming in the Champions League (Transfermarkt).
Taking all that into account, it’s no wonder the Portuguese defender is seemingly ‘top of the list’ for Liverpool, whose ongoing work behind the scenes will hopefully translate into his eventual signing by the time January rolls around.