Liverpool need to be signing another leader at the back if they decide to find cover for Virgil van Dijk in the January transfer window, says Neil Mellor, although said qualities will not come cheap.

Jurgen Klopp decided to make do, but has seen his worst fears realised after Van Dijk suffered knee ligament damage in a dramatic Merseyside derby date with Everton.

The reigning Premier League champions are now relying on Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and makeshift defender Fabinho to provide cover for a commanding Netherlands international.

Mellor admits moves could be made to address that situation over the winter, if the necessary funds are available, with the Reds already being linked with the likes of Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly and Brighton’s former Leeds loanee Ben White.

“If Liverpool had signed a top-class defender as a priority in the summer then one of either Matip or Gomez would have missed out – both of whom have formed an excellent partnership with Van Dijk. Although playing with Van Dijk will always make you a better player,” Mellor told Gentingbet.

“You can’t legislate for these injuries – the timing is awful being only a couple of weeks after the transfer window shut but Liverpool will have to survive until January with what they have and then look to recruit well in January to support that position.

“They still have two recognised centre-halves, and the support of Fabinho, so they will hope that they can get through the game load until then.

“In terms of who Liverpool should be looking to sign, that will be left to those in charge of recruitment but what I would say is that they need to look for someone who can lead from the back and be comfortable on the ball, in order to replace Van Dijk’s qualities. But there will be a premium to pay for those players.”

Liverpool find themselves in this position courtesy of a reckless challenge from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford that left Van Dijk requiring surgery.

The England international faced no punishment for his tackle at the time or in the wake of an eventful contest at Goodison Park, with the opinion of match officials on the day proving final.

Mellor believes Pickford should have been pulled up, despite the pleas of innocence that have been sounded, with the ex-Reds striker saying: “Pickford’s foul on Van Dijk was a huge moment in the game, even though it was so early on.

“The frustration with the tackle comes, and not just from Liverpool fans but football fans in general, from VAR, which was introduced to correct a decision that wasn’t given.

“We’ve all seen the incident and it took three minutes for the officials to determine that there was no offside. He’s marginally offside, last season it might not have been, but it is still a sending off offence.

“That’s where the frustration comes from. Of course, the referee might not have been sure with the angle he was standing but VAR is sure.

“I’ve not spoken to anybody who doesn’t think it was a red card and that is what VAR is for.

“Pickford has ended up being Everton’s best player, making three or four brilliant saves and was the difference as to why Everton got something from the game.

“So, Pickford should have been red carded and in terms of retrospective action, I’m not sure of the full ruling behind it but as it was a dangerous and mistimed challenge, whether a one game or three game ban – then so be it.

“It wasn’t that Pickford was malicious, we’ll always see these challenges in football – that is the way it is.

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