It looks as if Dejan Lovren's Liverpool career may finally be coming to its end, as widespread reports claim Zenit St Petersburg have approached the Reds about a deal.
Lovren has been Liverpool's third-most used centre-back this season, but hasn't started a league game since his nightmare-inducing Sotirios Kyrgiakos tribute act against Watford. Despite Jurgen Klopp's liberal rotation policy since returning from lockdown, the Croatian has featured just once, from the bench against Everton.
He was close to leaving Anfield in the summer, but a deal could not be struck with Roma, who prioritised a loan deal while Liverpool wanted to sell. The Romans instead signed Chris Smalling from Manchester United, who has hit the ground running in remarkable style.
Despite the general feeling that Lovren is below the level Liverpool are at currently, having just been crowned Premier League champions for the first time in 30 years, they are not believed to be actively pursuing a sale. Klopp has made no secret of the fact he is delighted with the balance of the squad, and Lovren has done nothing to rock the boat, conducting himself like a model professional despite his lack of appearances.
All that said, should the Reds receive an acceptable offer, they are unlikely to stand in the player's way. The Liverpool Echo, among a host of other outlets, report that Russian champions Zenit will put that resolve to the test, and have already opened a constructive dialogue over a potential deal, though are yet to formalise their interest with a concrete offer.
Goal note that reports he could leave for free are wide of the mark, with a fee in the region of £15m seeming likely to be sought.
If the player is to leave for Russia, then it is unclear if Liverpool will seek a replacement. The emergence of Neco Williams as a backup full-back has eased the load on Joe Gomez, who is now the bona fide first-choice partner to the immovable Virgil van Dijk. The aforementioned Matip sits as a competent reserve, while Nat Phillips - a favourite of Klopp's - could return from Stuttgart as fourth choice.
Klopp has hinted that promotion from within will take precedence to external recruitment given the current financial climate. Ki-Jana Hoever and Sepp van den Berg are two other central defensive options who could step into more senior roles, in the increasingly likely scenario of Lovren's departure.