Liverpool's top priority heading into the summer was always going to be in defence, with Jamie Carragher's retirement and continuing uncertainty surrounding Martin Skrtel and Sebastian Coates leaving plenty of room for speculation as to who Brendan Rodgers might bring in. In an ocean of rumours, suggestions the club was looking to bring Kolo Toure in on a free to provide depth and experience quickly rose to the surface. And as an option for bench, it remains a move that could make sense.
However, it isn't a move that would provide a long-term answer, and it's difficult to imagine the Toure of the past few seasons leading Liverpool back into the top four. Soon, though, those Toure rumours were joined by reports the club had launched a £12M bid for Kyriakos Papadopoulos, the 21-year-old international who impressed at the heart of Greece's backline at the last Euros and started more than forty matches for Schalke in a 2011-12 season that saw him turn 20 at its mid-way mark.
Before leaving Olympiacos for the Bundesliga, Papadopoulos became the youngest ever player to earn a cap in the Greek league at 15 years of age. It was no mere cameo appearance for a promising youngster, and the defender followed it up by playing in 14 games in his debut season. Five years later, he was one of Greece's best performers at the Euros and had secured his place near the top of the teamsheet as a guaranteed starter for a Schalke side that finished third in Germany.
In the past, Papadopoulos has been linked strongly to Chelsea, and last summer Schalke's untenable financial situation led them to accept a £16M offer for him from Zenit St. Petersburg. At the time, the player turned down the chance at a payday the move to Russia would have meant. It is widely believed, though, that a club in one of Europe's top leagues could tempt him away from a Schalke side facing another season where administration will be a genuine concern.
Technically sound, Papadopoulos can command a backline like a ten-year veteran, and despite his young age he has a wealth of experience and a near flawless ability to read the game defensively. Not the fastest player on the pitch over distance, that ability to read the game and an imposing physical presence have nevertheless gained him a reputation as one of the most promising defensive prospects anywhere in football.
His lack top end speed remains a concern, as does a knee injury that sidelined him for much of 2012-13. Still, of all the young defenders Liverpool have been linked to, Papadopoulos is by far the one most ready to start from day one. While the likes of Stefan de Vrij and Tiago Ilori could end up projects similar to Sebastian Coates—too inexperienced to be fully trusted yet desperately in need of playing time to develop—Papadopoulos would arrive at least penciled in to start alongside Daniel Agger.
Video by MrBoywunder