Nikola Maksimovic: Who is the 29-year-old Liverpool target?
Liverpool strolled to their maiden Premier League title last season, ending the campaign 18 points clear of their nearest rivals.
The Reds were firm favourites to retain their crown this time around, but a serious knee injury to star defender Virgil van Dijk has left Jurgen Klopp scouring the transfer market in search of a suitable replacement.
Nikola Maksimovic has been identified as the man to fill Van Dijk's sizeable shoes, according to the Mirror, and help steer the Anfield outfit towards a consecutive top-flight crown.
The Serbia international’s teammate Kalidou Koulibaly has long been admired by Europe’s biggest clubs, although his reported £100m price tag has continuously put potentional suitors off making a move.
However, an injury to Koulibaly has given Maksimovic an opportunity in the starting XI at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, and it’s one that the 29-year-old has taken.
With just six months left to run on his contract, the Serbian could be the ideal short-term solution to Liverpool’s defensive woes, but who is the 6’3 defender?
Maksimovic made his name in his homeland with Red Star Belgrade. The centre-half made 35 appearances in his solitary season at the club, but it was enough for Torino to snap him up on a year-long loan.
After impressing throughout the 2013/14 season in Italy, where Maksimovic eventually established himself as the club’s first-choice centre-back in the second half of the campaign, Torino parted ways with £2.25m to bring him to the Olympic Grande Torino Stadium on a permanent basis.
He quickly established a reputation for carrying the ball out of the defensive third with remarkable grace and control. Despite his frame, the Serbian is quick, good with his feet, and is adept at picking out a teammate with an accurate pass.
His composed, ball-playing nature made him the ideal defender for Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli, and the defender once again spent a campaign on loan at his prospective new club before making the move permanent.
This time though, the fee was much larger. Sarri’s former side spent £19m, as well as a considerable loan fee, to acquire his services in the summer of 2017.
He spent the 2018/19 season on loan at Spartak Moscow before returning to help Napoli lift the Italian Cup in the previous campaign.
Maksimovic has featured 13 times in all competitions in 2020/21, and his performances, along with his contract situation, have made a very attractive prospect for several sides searching for a quick fix to their defensive issues.
He could be the ideal candidate for Liverpool as they plot a route back to the top of the Premier League, and it’s a move that could occur before the January window expires.