Liverpool after AC Milan’s Ignazio Abate for right back berth?

Liverpool, evens with Coral to finish in the Premier League’s top four this term, are reportedly keeping tabs on AC Milan and Italy right back Ignazio Abate, because current first-choice option Glen Johnson is almost out of contract at Anfield.

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers is considering 27-year-old Abate as a replacement, according to the tabloid rumour mill. Johnson joined Liverpool in 2009, and is now in his sixth season on Merseyside, following spells at West Ham United, Chelsea and Portsmouth.

Johnson is only 30, but injuries have limited him to 35 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool since the start of last season. His deal with them ends next June.

Only Lazio winger Antonio Candreva has made more assists in Serie A than attack-minded defender Abate. Capped over 20 times by the Azzurri, he has been on Milan’s books since 1999, making his Serie A debut 10 years later following loan stints at Empoli and Torino.

Abate has been a regular for the Rossoneri since breaking into the first team, and should surpass 200 games for them across all competitions before the current campaign ends. Those five assists from him have helped Milan start this term far better under Filippo Inzaghi than their disastrous end to last season.

The Rossoneri are five points being Italian champions and league leaders Juventus, having missed out on European football altogether this year. Liverpool themselves know how that feels, having gone without last term. Abate is also out of contract at the San Siro but, having been with them for so long, is understood to prefer staying with Milan.

Rodgers has talented Spain Under-21 international Javi Manquillo on a two-year loan from La Liga title holders Atletico Madrid, plus injured Anfield academy product Jon Flanagan, as alternatives to Johnson.

Crystal Palace’s versatile defensive player Joel Ward is another reportedly on the Reds boss’ radar. His utility, adept in either full back berth or in a holding midfield role, could be an attractive and homegrown alternative. Odds of 5/2 say Liverpool will win a major trophy this term.