Five World Cup standout players Liverpool could sign - who aren’t called Jude Bellingham

World Cup standout players: Amrabat, Mitoma, Fernandez, Kudus, Gvardiol
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ask anyone connected to Liverpool over three controversial years in the early 2000s and they will hold up El Hadji Diouf as a prime example of why buying players off the back of a World Cup can be a bad idea.

Of course, that £10 million deal with Lens was in the works before his heroics for Senegal in 2002, but the arrivals of Diouf and compatriot Salif Diao are now firmly tied to that iconic run to the quarter-finals. The striker made 80 appearances for the club, scoring eight goals, before being sold to Bolton in 2005.

There are cases to the contrary, though, with Gilberto Silva another to shine that summer in Japan and South Korea before going on to cement himself as a key figure for Arsenal, and 20 years on, top-level recruitment is, particularly for a club of Liverpool’s sophistication, less haphazard.

So while a handful of performances at the World Cup may not convince Liverpool to sign a player, they can certainly strengthen their conviction over a transfer.

Despite the upheaval taking place in the club’s boardroom, with sporting director Julian Ward preparing to depart in the summer, there will have been a strong presence throughout this year’s tournament in Qatar, keeping an eye on players long considered potential targets.

Here are five players who have shone at the World Cup and could be smart signings for Liverpool - not including priority target Jude Bellingham.

Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina and Morocco)

Sofyan Amrabat

(Image credit: Getty)

During Morocco’s inspiring run to the semi-finals, where they were knocked out by France, all-action midfielder Amrabat earned admirers as one of the players of the tournament.

Stationed at the base of Walid Regragui’s midfield, the 26-year-old produced a series of dominant performances as Morocco kept clean sheets in a draw with Croatia and wins over Belgium, Spain and Portugal.

A tough tackler tasked with breaking up play and moving his side up the pitch, Amrabat’s heart and desire kept him thriving in Qatar, with an incredible recovery tackle on Kylian Mbappe in the semi-finals providing a standout moment.

There is a gap to fill in Jurgen Klopp’s squad that would suit Amrabat’s skillset, particularly after Fabinho’s struggle for form without a specialist backup, and with his contract due to expire in 2024, a cut-price deal could be agreed.

However, there may be reservations over his transition from a slower-paced, defensive-minded setup to Liverpool’s front-footed system, but there are clear signs he could adapt.

Karou Mitoma (Brighton and Japan)

Mitoma Japan Brighton

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Brighton winger Mitoma barely featured during Japan’s captivating campaign, coming off the bench in all four games, but he offered a glimpse of his vibrant, game-changing potential.

Liverpool would already have been aware of this following an influential cameo in the Seagulls’ 3-3 draw at Anfield in October, but the lightning-fast 25-year-old reinforced that up against a variety of challenges in Qatar.

It was his unrelenting desire that set up the winner as Japan fought back for a 2-1 victory over Spain to turn Group E on its head, while his commitment to the defensive cause saw him relied upon as substitute by manager Hajime Moriyasu.

Mitoma is only months into his time in the Premier League, having spent his first season at Brighton on loan with Union SG in Belgium, but it is unlikely to be long before bigger clubs consider moves.

Liverpool could be among those to register their interest in the future, with Mitoma able to bolster an attacking group that includes the likes of Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez as left-sided options. 

Mohammed Kudus (Ajax and Ghana)

Mohammed Kudus celebrates scoring against South Korea

(Image credit: Getty)

While the versatile younger was flirting with a move to Everton in the last transfer window, there had been “informal contact” between Kudus and Liverpool, too, according to The Athletic (opens in new tab)’s David Ornstein.

Ajax were reluctant to allow another key player depart in the same summer that saw Anthony, Sebastien Haller, Ryan Gravenberch and Lisandro Martinez all move on, though, and the Ghanaian stayed put.

For his club, Kudus has largely operated as a central striker, which saw him hammer home an equaliser during the 2-1 loss to Liverpool in September, but for his country, he shifts between central midfielder, No. 10, striker and winger, with a brace from the right flank against South Korea at the World Cup.

That flexibility would no doubt endear him to Klopp, as would his upside as a 22-year-old with 120 appearances for FC Nordsjaelland and Ajax along with 21 caps and counting for Ghana.

Ajax are, for all intents and purposes, a selling club, and it is unlikely that the price tag for their No. 20 would be prohibitive for Liverpool.

Josko Gvardiol (RB Leipzig and Croatia)

Josko Gvardiol wearing a protective face covering

(Image credit: Getty)

Ahead of the World Cup, legendary manager - and Klopp’s inspiration - Arrigo Sacchi named two Liverpool centre-backs in his ideal tournament XI, with Virgil van Dijk joined by Ibrahima Konate.

That speaks to the regard in which the Reds’ first-choice pairing is held, and though there are concerns over the fitness of Joel Matip and the form of Joe Gomez behind them, centre-back is far from the Reds’ priority in the transfer market.

If they were to reshuffle and bolster their ranks further, though, complementing Konate with another of the world’s best young defenders, Leipzig successor Gvardiol, would be a wise decision.

Gvardiol arrived at Leipzig in 2021, following a year back on loan with Dinamo Zagreb, and it didn’t take him long to secure a starting spot and attract widespread acclaim; a physical, front-footed, left-sided centre-back, he has risen to the fore with Croatia, as well.

Weeks before his arrival at Leipzig, Gvardiol admitted he “definitely wants” to play for Liverpool in the future - it just depends whether circumstances and finances get in the 20-year-old’s way.

Enzo Fernandez (Benfica and Argentina)

Enzo Fernandez of Argentina poses for a photo with the FIFA Young Player award during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Final match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar.

(Image credit: Alex Caparros - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Bellingham may be the priority for Liverpool as they oversee the evolution of their midfield, but 21-year-old Fernandez has emerged as a popular alternative - or, in an ideal world, counterpart - to the England prodigy. 

Fernandez only joined Benfica from River Plate in June, but it has been maintained that those within the Reds’ recruitment staff were already monitoring his progress ahead of the step to Europe.

Now excelling in the Primeira Liga and hailed as a “spectacular player” for Argentina by none other than Lionel Messi, the youngster appears primed to shift up another level, with reports in Portugal even claiming an agreement has already been reached with Liverpool.

It would take a sizeable fee, with Fernandez’s release clause standing at €120 million (£104.6m), but his ability to shine in a plethora of roles makes him an ideal candidate for a midfield in need of regeneration.

Whether it is instead of or as well as Bellingham remains to be seen, but it is certainly feasible that Fernandez figures prominently in Liverpool’s transfer plans for 2023.

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Jack Lusby writes for This Is Anfield, the independent Liverpool website, and has been a regular FourFourTwo contributor since 2018. He is an expert on Liverpool's youth academy players and has a keen eye on ensuring transfer stories are sourced correctly, which means he is a proficient user of Google Translate.