Richard Hughes could target three Bournemouth players as part of Liverpool's next obvious rebuild

Illia Zabarnyi. Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)Illia Zabarnyi. Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Illia Zabarnyi. Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Richard Hughes could target three Bournemouth players

The expected has been confirmed. An official announcement made.

Richard Hughes' arrival as Liverpool's new sporting director has been approved. After it was revealed that the former Scotland midfielder was to depart his role as Bournemouth's technical director, a switch to Anfield became more and more likely. The return of Michael Edwards ramped up speculation further, having known each other for two decades when working together at Portsmouth. Now they reunite on Merseyside.

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The first task will be to replace Jurgen Klopp as manager. But after the German's successor is found, with Xabi Alonso the present front-runner, a substantial part of Hughes' role will be recruiting new players. When Edwards served as sporting director, he garnered a cult status among Kopites for his prowess in identifying fresh reinforcements along with his negotiation skills.

According to Harry Redknapp, who managed Hughes at Pompey, he has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to players around the world. But Redknapp was famous for recruiting the same players in several of his roles - Jermain Defo, Peter Crouch and Niko Krancjar memorably followed him from Portsmouth to Tottenham.

Perhaps Hughes could do similar. Bournemouth are on their way to surviving in the Premier League for a second season with an average age squad of 25.4 - the fifth lowest in the top flight. In truth, Hughes would have signed the majority of players with an eye to selling them on for profit in the future to clubs higher up the food chain.

Now he is indeed in charge of one of Europe's gentry, Hughes can become the poacher - and may look to raid his former employers.

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There's little chance of Dominic Solanke returning to Anfield. The striker is Bournemouth's talisman, having netted 15 goals and recorded three assists in 28 games this season. Solanke was sold by Liverpool to the Cherries in January 2019 for a fee of £19 million. He struggled to make an impact at Anfield when his career was in its infancy yet has fulfilled his potential on the south coast. But Solanke is now aged 26 and would command a significant fee, while the Reds have Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota and Cody Gakpo as options.

Liverpool's options in the final third are potent while there was a rebuild of the midfield last summer, with Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai and Wataru Endo joining while Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Stefan Bajcetic and Bobby Clark are all options on an upward curve.

The next area of the squad that will need bolstering down the line is defence. There remains uncertainty around the future of Joel Matip, who is out of contract at the end of the campaign. The popular centre-back has been an outstanding servant since arriving on a free transfer from Schalke in 2016, helping the club win seven major trophies including the Champions League (starting the 2019 final against Tottenham) and Premier League.

Matip hasn't played for Liverpool since suffering a devastating ACL injury in December that required surgery. There are no guarantees he'll play again this term. Klopp admitted that he felt FSG would 'show their class' when it came to Matip's future.

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However, he be 33 by the time next season begins - as well Virgil van Dijk. FSG will be aware that they do not want players in one position to age at a similar time. That mistake in midfield last season cost Liverpool their spot in the Champions League.

The former Cameroon international may be offered fresh terms to remain at Anfield but, likely, it will not be lengthy. Joe Gomez, Ibrahima Konate and Jarell Quansah, who has enjoyed a magnificent breakthrough campaign, are the other current options. But there may be another player needed to add strength in depth.

Lloyd Kelly has long been linked with a switch to Liverpool. Indeed, the Reds were said to be keen on the defender before he made the move to Bournemouth from Bristol City for £13 million in the summer of 2019 under Hughes' remit. He's made a total of 119 appearances for the Cherries, helping them earn promotion back to the Premier League in 21-22 and establish themselves in the top flight again.

Kelly has had injury issues this season, limiting him to 16 outings. But despite his fitness issues, the 25-year-old is reportedly coveted by a host of clubs as his contract culminates in the summer. Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United and Italian outfit Juventus are all said to be potential suitors. Hughes' persuasion could see Liverpool win the race in what would be a bargain deal. Kelly has still to hit his peak.

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What's more, fellow centre-half Illia Zabarnyi is still several years from his zenith. The 21-year-old has been ever-present this season, having played 32 games. Zabarnyi was an unpolished gem that Hughes helped recruit in January 2023 for £24 million. Per CIES Football Observatory, the Ukraine international is now valued at around £34 million and his price tag will only increase.

Meanwhile, the position of left-back may be one looked at over the next transfer window or two. Andy Robertson recently turned 30 and will not be able to continue with his high-octane performances week in, week out. Kostas Tsimikas is only two years Robertson's junior.

Milos Kerkez has served as Bournemouth's regular option on the left-hand side of defence this term. He was signed from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar for a fee of £15.5 million last summer, having been wanted by Lazio and Benfica. Kerkez, who plays for Hungary along with Szoboszlai, has swiftly acclimatised to the demands of the Premier League despite being just 20. He has made 26 appearances in all competitions and is said to be on Manchester United and Chelsea's radar.

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