Liverpool could be set for Real Madrid repeat as $107m transfer lesson must be learned

Leny Yoro in action for France U21s.
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Hugo Pfeiffer/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

The number one priority for Liverpool in the transfer market this summer was always likely to be a defender. After spending a significant amount in 2023 on a new midfield department, it's now the defense's turn for a revamp.

Joel Matip has left at the end of his contract and while Jarell Quansah was superb last season, the youngster cannot be overly relied upon. Neither can Ibrahima Konate's fitness given his patchy injury history.

As a result, the Reds' recruitment team has been looking into possible solutions to add more depth in that area of the pitch for new head coach Arne Slot. Lille wonderkid Leny Yoro is well-liked, but a familiar problem has emerged: he favors a move to Real Madrid.

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Indeed, the Daily Express has even claimed that after a mystery $54m (£42m/€50m) bid was submitted by an unknown Premier League club, Yoro made it clear that he only wants to join Real Madrid and has no interest in a switch to England. Liverpool and Manchester United are both admirers but neither has been able to turn his head, it seems.

Liverpool has been here before. Aurelien Tchouameni moved to Real Madrid for a fee that could reach $107m (£85m/€100m) including add-ons two summers ago when the Reds were also keen on the former AS Monaco man. On that occasion, Liverpool missed out because the player favored a switch to Spain.

A year later, Jude Bellingham moved from Borussia Dortmund to Los Blancos for another substantial fee: $110m (£87m/€103m). Again, Liverpool would have brought him in had it been possible. Instead, it had to spread the investment over four players to ensure that its midfield department was sufficiently rebuilt.

In the case of Tchouameni, Liverpool decided that it would be the French midfielder or no one and ended up paying the price. The season that followed saw Fabinho's performance levels drop off a cliff and Jordan Henderson declined as well. Liverpool finished outside of the Champions League places 12 months after reaching the final.

Jude Bellingham and Aurelien Tchouameni were both Liverpool targets before joining Real Madrid
Jude Bellingham and Aurelien Tchouameni were both Liverpool targets before joining Real Madrid -Credit:Antonio Villalba/Real Madrid via Getty Images

It would be fair to say that had an alternative option been found when Tchouameni rejected its advances, Liverpool might not have missed out on a year in UEFA's top competition. The revenues and prestige attached to that were costly, as was the missed chance to win a seventh European Cup. It only missed out by a whisker after a late charge and it wouldn't have taken much for that to be different.

While Liverpool learned the lesson when it missed out on Bellingham it was, after all, pretty obvious to everyone that several midfield additions were a must at that stage — it must do the same again with Yoro. The 18-year-old defender might have looked ideal to add to the Liverpool ranks but if that proves impossible, there needs to be an alternative.

Not signing a center-back would still leave Quansah, Konate, Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez on the Reds' roster, but with an expanded Champions League format coming, there are more games than ever before. Liverpool simply cannot afford to leave itself short and take the chance that it can go without an addition, though it must be added that it is not expected to do so.

As Liverpool found the last time it left itself short of center-back options (in the 2020/21 campaign), the number of players available can quickly dwindle, and when that happens, a season can swiftly unravel. In Slot's first in charge, that isn't a gamble worth taking — hence why the smart money is on a Yoro alternative being signed.