Exclusive - Liverpool have told manager Jürgen Klopp that they are prepared to sign a new centre-back in January, but only if a deal makes financial sense for the club.
The Reds are expected to play the majority of the 2020/21 season without star defender Virgil van Dijk, who is set for surgery on a nasty knee injury, leaving just Joe Gomez and Joël Matip as the only senior centre-backs in the squad.
Midfielder Fabinho has impressed as an emergency defender, but an injury to any of that trio would leave Liverpool in the lurch, and a source has confirmed to 90min that the signing of a new defender in January has not been ruled out.
Liverpool see their current situation as a chance to plan for a long-term future without Van Dijk, who turned 29 back in July, so they are expected to pursue a younger defender, but club officials are reluctant to spend big.
They would prefer to stick closer to the £40m mark, although there is an awareness that that budget may need to be blown if Liverpool are to find a top-quality option capable of leading the defence for years to come.
Scouts have been looking for a new centre-back ever since Dejan Lovren's move away from Anfield in the summer, and among those on the list are Schalke's Ozan Kabak, Villarreal's Pau Torres, Shakhtar Donetsk's Mykola Matvienko, Sevilla's Jules Koundé and RB Leipzig's Dayot Upamecano.
The most expensive names on that list are Koundé and Upamecano. The former was touted at closer to £70m during the summer, while Upamecano's bargain release clause of around £38m does not become active until the summer of 2021, so Liverpool would have to break the bank to sign either in January.
The idea of waiting until the summer has been suggested. The Liverpool Echo add club officials could delay making a move and instead keep faith in academy stars Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams, who have offered cover for the first team thus far.
Club officials are reluctant to panic about losing one of the world's premier defenders, so the idea of spending in excess of £70m on a player like 29-year-old Kalidou Koulibaly has already been ruled out. Such a deal is seen as too expensive for a short-term fix.
Klopp has made no secret of his delight towards Fabinho, Gomez and Matip and is prepared to stick by that group if needed, but an affordable alternative would be welcomed with open arms.