Liverpool have identified ex-Newcastle midfielder Mikel Merino as a possible alternative to Jude Bellingham, according to reports.
The Borussia Dortmund teenager has emerged as a leading transfer target for Jurgen Klopp's side.
Bellingham has taken his game to another level this season and is now a key part of Dortmund's first team, despite his tender age.
The 18-year-old has never played in the Premier League, having joined Dortmund from Championship side Birmingham in 2020.
He is expected to one day return to England, though, and several sides are considering a swoop for him next summer.
Liverpool are among his suitors as Klopp seeks midfield reinforcements ahead of the 2022/23 campaign.
The Reds did not sign a replacement for Gini Wijnaldum, who joined PSG earlier this year.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been linked with a move away from Anfield, while James Milner will turn 36 in January and Naby Keita continues to struggle with injuries.
Liverpool are therefore expected to bring in at least one midfielder next summer, and Bellingham seems to be at the top of their wish list.
They could ultimately be priced out of a move for the in-demand England international, though.
And there is no guarantee that Dortmund will be willing to sell Bellingham next summer, particularly as they will almost certainly lose Erling Haaland in the same window.
As such Liverpool have begun to look at alternatives to Bellingham, and Fichajes reports that Merino has emerged as a candidate.
The 25-year-old has been one of Real Sociedad's standout performers so far this season.
La Real sit second in the La Liga table after 12 matches and Merino has missed only nine minutes of action so far.
The former Newcastle midfielder has taken his game to new heights since leaving St James' Park in 2018.
His buyout clause at Real Sociedad is set at £51.4m, but the Basque side could be willing to accept a lower fee.
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