Liverpool are reportedly eyeing Real Sociedad star Mikel Merino as a potential Plan B in case their attempt to sign Jude Bellingham falls through.

According to a report from Spanish publication Fichajes, Premier League giants Liverpool have set their sights on Real Sociedad and Spain midfielder Mikel Merino as an alternative for primary transfer target Jude Bellingham for the summer next year.

Liverpool are keen on strengthening their midfield unit in the summer of 2022 having failed to do so this year, despite the departure of mainstay Georginio Wijnaldum, who left the club on a free transfer to sign for Paris Saint-Germain.

Harvey Elliott has been entrusted with a role in midfield by Jurgen Klopp of late, but the youngster suffered a horrific injury in the win against Leeds United. With Thiago, Jordan Henderson and James Milner not getting any younger, Klopp and Liverpool would be benefitted by looking to refresh their options in midfield.

Jude Bellingham, to that end, has emerged as the top transfer target for the Merseyside giants, with Liverpool even ready to make a club-record bid for the English sensation. However, signing the 18-year-old midfielder from Borussia Dortmund will be anything but easy given that the Germans have no intention of selling him, while there is interest from the likes of Manchester City as well.

Mikel Merino (L) on Liverpool's radar (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Mikel Merino (L) on Liverpool’s radar (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

Liverpool, as a result, seem to be keeping their options open, with Merino now emerging as an alternative should a move for Bellingham not pan out. The Spaniard came through the ranks at Osasuna before making the switch to Dortmund at a very young age, where he rose to prominence as a promising young midfielder.

A move to Newcastle United followed in 2017, but a year later Merino returned to Spain, signing for Real Sociedad where he has achieved great progress. Widely regarded as one of the best central midfielders on display in La Liga currently, the 25-year-old has made his breakthrough into the Spanish national team and has also attracted interest from the likes of Barcelona in the past.

The report adds that Liverpool see Merino as the perfect option for the profile of the midfielder that manager Klopp is looking for. Any move for the 25-year-old, however, will not come cheap as he is contracted with La Real till the summer of 2025, meaning the La Liga club are very well-positioned and can demand a hefty transfer fee for his services.

Apart from Bellingham and Merino, Liverpool also have their eyes on AC Milan superstar Franck Kessie, who, unlike the two, would be available on a free transfer next year, having entered the final twelve months of his contract with the Serie A giants. It will certainly be interesting to see who the Reds go after to fill the gap left by Wijnaldum’s exit.

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