Why Liverpool should go back in the market for Aissa Mandi
Back in August, a report from the Guardian had claimed that Liverpool were close to completing a deal for Algerian international centre-back Aissa Mandi. It was understood that the Reds were prepared to snap up the Real Betis ace for a bargain £9million but a move to Anfield never really materialised.
Aissa Mandi rose through the youth ranks of Stade Reims in France and started his professional career in Ligue 2 during the 2010-11 campaign. He eventually guided his club to top-flight promotion and went on to make 169 appearances for Reims in all competitions, scoring 14 goals over the course of six seasons.
The 29-year-old completed a move to Real Betis in the summer of 2016 and has blossomed into one of the most consistent defenders in the La Liga in recent years. Mandi has made 148 appearances for Betis in all competitions and has started 7 out of the club’s 9 opening league fixtures so far this season.
Mandi has also enjoyed an illustrious career with Algeria on the international front. The versatile defender was a part of his nation’s squad at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and has subsequently featured at the 2017 and 2019 editions of the Africa Cup of Nations, winning the latter tournament.
Mandi would add more depth to Liverpool’s backline
Liverpool went into the 2020-21 campaign a tad light in the centre-back department following the departure of Dejan Lovren to Zenit St. Petersburg in the summer. The Reds roped in Kostas Tsimikas before the deadline as the designated understudy to Andy Robertson at left-back but they didn’t bolster their central defence.
That wasn’t expected to bother Jurgen Klopp too much until Virgil van Dijk suffered a long-term knee injury against Everton in October. The Dutchman has been one of the key architects of Liverpool’s recent successes on all fronts, meaning his long injury layoff comes as a massive blow to the club’s hopes of defending their Premier League crown.
Liverpool still have Joe Gomez and Joel Matip as trusted lieutenants at the back but it’s worth pointing out that both players have had their fair share of struggles with injuries over the years. The likes of Nathaniel Phillips, Rhys Williams and Fabinho have filled in admirably but the Reds can certainly do with a bit more experienced cover in that department.
To put things into perspective, the reigning PL champions need not look any further beyond one of their summer targets, Aissa Mandi. The Algerian will have only six months remaining on his contract at Real Betis when the market reopens, thus leaving the door open for the Reds to line him up on a cut-price deal.
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Aissa Mandi boasts of more than 250 top-flight career appearances in France and Spain while he has also played 57 times for Algeria, participating at several major tournaments. Hence, it’s a no-brainer that the 29-year-old would represent a massive upgrade on unproven players like Phillips and Williams at Anfield.
Mandi has just the right kind of profile to help Liverpool cope with the absence of van Dijk and compete with Matip and Gomez for a place in the ranks. The Real Betis man still has several years remaining in his prime and looks more than capable of establishing himself as a key squad player under Klopp.