Liverpool's January push for a centre-back saw them wait until deadline day to eventually make their moves. Indeed, in the dying embers of the window, the defending champions brought in Ben Davies and Ozak Kabak from Preston and Schalke, respectively. The former capture was a left-field signing, while the latter had been linked with a move to the Reds in the past with Jurgen Klopp a huge admirer of the Turk.
Yet despite the new additions, the Reds are still in the market for defensive reinforcements. Sven Botman is believed to be high on the club's wishlist and while the player's agent has moved to deny reports that a deal with an unnamed side over a summer move had been agreed, that's unlikely to deter potential suitors.
Having struggled to make the grade at Ajax, but impressing during a loan stint with Eredivisie side Heerenveen, Botman has come on leaps and bounds in his debut season with Ligue 1 leaders Lille as a replacement for Gabriel. With his stock rising, so too has his list of admirers, with Liverpool towards the top. Of course, the Reds would face hefty competition for the towering Dutchman should Les Dogues entertain offers for one of their prized assets, but it speaks volumes of Botman's impact in one of Europe's top five leagues that a host of elite sides on the continent are chasing his signature.
Only Atletico Madrid (13) and Manchester City (14) have conceded fewer goals than Lille (15) in Europe's top five leagues this season, with Botman essential in that watertight backline that has seen his side rise to the summit of Ligue 1. Indeed, no centre-back has helped to keep more clean sheets than the 21-year-old (13) in Europe's top five leagues in 2020/21.
The ease with which he has stepped up his game from the Eredivisie to Ligue 1 is one of many reasons why a host of teams are keeping tabs on Botman. Another is that he maximises his huge physique to dominate in the air, with one of two WhoScored strengths being 'aerial duels'. Of the 93 players to contest 50 or more headed battles in Ligue 1 this season, only five have a better aerial success rate than Botman (71.7%) in France's top tier this term.
For a Liverpool side that has the third worst aerial success rate in the Premier League (46.8%), a centre-back of Botman's stature would ensure the Reds are rarely troubled in the air by opponents. What's more, a centre-back of Botman's calibre and potential would benefit tremendously from learning under the tutelage of compatriot and fellow defender Virgil van Dijk.
The 29-year-old, like Botman, utilises his standing exceptionally having returned a fine aerial success rate of 75.2% since the start of the 2019/20 Premier League season. However, while Botman is able to repel attacks in the air, in terms of distribution, this remains an area of improvement.
While the youngster averages the fifth most passes per game (71.8) in Ligue 1 this season, a pass success rate of 85.7% ranks 71st in the division. It's a quality, though, that can be refined with the right guidance and coaching, and with Van Dijk as a mentor, fans would bare witness to a centre-back who grows with age and playing time alongside one of the best centre-backs in the world. The pair share similar characteristics, too, which can only be a good thing for both Botman and Liverpool if they are able to lure the player away from Lille.
Should the French side pip PSG to the title, ending a 10-year wait domestic glory, then Lille's resolve will only be strengthened. At present, Botman has four years left to run on his current deal in France, so the French outfit are under no pressure to sell their star centre-back.
Yet interest in such an accomplished centre-back still in the infancy of his playing career will only increase if he continues to shine at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy. In his 50 senior league appearances to date, Botman has committed just one error leading to an opposition goal, a fine return for a centre-back so young and this high level of concentration certainly belies his tender years and lack of top-flight experience. As a defender destined for the top, interested parties should act sooner rather than later to sign Botman as his price tag will only increase as he continues to shine.
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