Fullback is a tricky position to get good players for. The combination of defensive and attacking responsibilities are unlike any other position, and the stamina and work rate required to keep up the effort that the position asks for is immense. Finding fullbacks that can do that and are left footed to boot seems to be an even bigger challenge, given the dearth of quality left backs in the world.
That makes it understandable that Jose Enrique is still Livepool's starter despite his shortcomings, and why Aly Cissokho still has a job despite being unconvincing for the past two years. That just makes it all the more important, however, to identify and acquire someone who can, at the least, push Enrique for the starting job and potentially take the reins of the left side of the pitch for themselves.
Someone young enough to be able to give the club several good years, at the least, is a must, but he also needs to be someone ready to contribute to at least some extent right away given Enrique's injury and Cissokho generally performing below even the most pessimistic of expectations. With that in mind, here are six names to watch for.
Jetro Willems, 19, PSV Eindhoven
Willems is the youngest on this list by a fair ways, but that doesn't change how ready he is to contribute now. While the jump from the Eredivise to the English Premier League is a significant one, he's already one of the best left backs in his division and looks to be on a path to be one of the best in the world at his position by the time he reaches his ceiling.
PSV knows this, and he won't come at bargain-basement prices as a result, but it'd be worth the cost to secure his services. Willems is fast and reads play remarkably well for his age and experience level, and has routinely shut down some of the best wingers in the Eredivise over the last year and a half. Going forward, the Dutchman is fast, picks out his crosses well, and plays well around the box in support of his side's attack.
Many point to Willems' disappointing Euro 2012 performance with the Netherlands side that crashed out of the group stage as reason to avoid him. While that certainly should be considered, the fact is that despite his generous talents, Willems just wasn't ready for that level of football yet. He had just turned 18 three months before the tournament started, for crying out loud. He has, however, used that disappointment as a springboard and vehicle to drive his improvement as a player, and the results have shown in resounding fashion.
Fábio Coentrão, 25, Real Madrid
Coentrão is one of the better left backs around, but he doesn't play much because he's stuck behind Marcelo, who's one of the best left backs in the world. Such is the risk of being with a mega-club. Coentrão has been linked with Liverpool several times in the last couple of years, and it's easy to see why: fast, physically strong, and a menace going forward, the Portuguese defender has a profile that makes managers drool.
Despite his lack of games, Madrid won't sell on the cheap, with previous rumored price tags for Coentrão being in the neighborhood of £15 million. Still, its known that Coentrão wants out of Madrid, and he was all set to leave on a loan deal to Manchester United at the deadline of the summer window before David Moyes' top-notch transfer team bungled up the paperwork and turned it in to the league office late. Helpful of them.
Ricardo Rodriguez, 21, VfL Wolfsburg
This is a bit of a long-shot as Wolfsburg has been reticent to sell Rodriguez in the past. There has, however, been some indication that the German club might consider the right offer for the young star-in-the-making despite their strong position in the Bundesliga table. If that's the case, then Liverpool should think long and hard about joining in the bidding.
Rodriguez is a marvelous package of tools for the position: strong on the ball, quick on his feet, puts in a quality challenge, aggressive in attack... there's not much else you could ask for. He does need to improve his reads, but at his age that's hardly a surprise. He has a wonderfully bright future ahead of him, and if he could have that future in a red shirt I'd be all the happier for it.
Other Names To Consider: Jose Angel, 24, Real Sociedad (Spain); Alberto Moreno, 21, Sevilla (Spain); Ryan Bertrand, 24, Chelsea