6 Players for Liverpool to Target Amid Mohamed Salah Transfer Rumors
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How do you replace your fifth all-time top scorer, your top scorer in the last five seasons, a talisman, a club icon and perhaps one of the top 10 players in world football?
That’s a question Liverpool might seriously have to ponder.
On Thursday, The Athletic’s David Ornstein dropped the stunning news that Saudi Pro League team Al-Ittihad has “concrete interest” in signing Mohamed Salah from the Merseyside club.
While Ornstein later added that Liverpool has no intention to sell its prized asset, Saudi riches have proved too tempting to turn down in recent months—Salah need only ask Jordan Henderson and Fabinho about that.
So, realistically, who could Liverpool target to fill the void on the right wing that would be left by the Egyptian?
Ignoring the massively unlikely arrival of Kylian Mbappé, whose status at Paris Saint-Germain remains uncertain, here are six players who Liverpool could target should the Egyptian King depart his throne.
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Eberechi Eze’s stock has risen significantly since his 2020 transfer from Queens Park Rangers to Crystal Palace.
Despite his progress being curtailed by an Achilles problem in the 2020/21 campaign, Eze bounced back last season to become the star name at Selhurst Park.
In 38 Premier League games for the Eagles—a team that flirted with relegation for much of last season—the 25-year-old notched 10 goals and four assists and frequently left opposing defenders breaking out in hives.
A move to Anfield may necessitate a slight change in position. While he’s typically a right-footed left winger (the mirror of the role Salah performs at Liverpool), he should be adaptable enough to fill the role the Egyptian made his own for so long. Eze has also been playing centrally at Palace in recent times, a position Salah often glides into in Liverpool’s adaptable front line.
Looking at his highlight reel from last season, Eze chipped in with headers, poacher’s finishes, laser-guided shots from outside the box and penalties. Does that sound familiar?
The Reds may be scuppered by Manchester City, though, with Dom Smith and Nizaar Kinsella of the Evening Standard reporting the reigning Premier League champions are considering a bid.
And he won’t come cheap, with the report adding an $88 million price tag has been attached to the one-cap England international.
That might be a little too much for Liverpool’s typically frugal ownership, but the funds generated from a potential Salah sale might just tempt FSG into opening the vault.
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Another Palace player who could be on the Reds’ radar is Michael Olise.
It’s been an interesting summer for the France under-21 international. He looked all-but certain to move across London to Chelsea after the Blues reportedly triggered the release clause in his contract, per Jacob Steinberg and Sid Lowe of the Guardian.
However, Palace dug in their heels and convinced the 21-year-old to sign a four-year deal, retaining the services of a player who scored twice and provided 11 assists in the Premier League last season.
But that’s not to say he’s completely unobtainable. It just might take more than the $44 million he was reportedly previously available for.
Olise is positionally more similar to Salah than Eze as a left-footed right winger. While the fit is more seamless, the low goal output is some way from filling the free-scoring exploits of his Egyptian counterpart.
That assist total is enticing, though. With only one assist fewer than Salah and coming only four assists behind the league-leading Kevin De Bruyne in the last campaign, all while playing in a Palace team that was dreadful until the return of Roy Hodgson, Olise shows significant promise. The rest of Liverpool’s forward line would welcome the service.
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Bradley Barcola has also reportedly been drawing admiring glances from some big teams.
Fabrizio Romano pegged Chelsea as one of the interested parties for the 20-year-old France under-21 international.
But, then again, has any player been safe from Chelsea in 2023?
Transfer specialist Romano suggested that a swap deal and a player would be needed to tempt Olympique Lyon into letting Barcola go.
After five goals and nine assists in Ligue 1 last season, it’s easy to see why the 20-year-old could soon make a step up. And at least Lyon has signified a reported willingness to make a deal.
While predominantly a right winger, Barcola can slot in at any of the three points of attack in Liverpool’s front line, and his age and relative availability could persuade the Reds’ ownership to pursue a deal.
Randal Kolo Muani
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Randal Kolo Muani made a name for himself at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
While the 24-year-old may have been known by few before the tournament, a goal for France in the semifinal and an assist in the final is sure to bring some eyes to your talents.
He plays mostly down the middle for club team Eintracht Frankfurt, but he starred from the right wing with France in its ultimately unsuccessful bid to win back-to-back world titles.
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp loves positional versatility, so Kolo Muani could be an enticing prospect.
He had 15 goals and 14 assists in the Bundesliga last season, and Reds sporting director Jörg Schmadtke would likely have spotted the young France international’s abilities when the German was managing director of Wolfsburg last season.
But Liverpool will have to act fast. Romano reported Paris Saint-Germain are hopeful of striking a deal for the attacker before the close of the summer window.
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Romano—being the all-seeing, all-knowing transfer legend that he is—told us all to keep an eye on Ansu Fati’s situation as the summer window progresses.
With the English and Spanish transfer periods set to close on September 1, we’re running out of time to see any movement.
Fati burst on to the scene at the Camp Nou as a 16-year-old, leading many to believe he would be the best thing to come out of La Masia since a guy named Lionel Messi.
But injuries have curbed that promise, and the now-20-year-old’s star perhaps doesn’t shine quite as brightly as it once did.
However, seven goals and four assists in 36 La Liga appearances last year (12 starts) shows there’s still some spark left, and perhaps a change of scenery could reignite a career that was once set to go supernova.
Fati could take Salah’s place directly or fill another forward position and leave the right clear for someone else—more on that later. But in terms of excitement and potential to become a legend at the club, there are few players available who would fit the bill quite like Fati.
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Ignoring the goals, assists and fear he instils in the hearts of Premier League defenders, one of the reasons Salah will be so difficult to replace is the role he fulfils.
World-class right wingers are difficult to come by, not least left-footed ones, so perhaps expectations should be tempered just a little.
Jarrod Bowen doesn’t exactly fit that “world-class” status, but he ticks every other box. While he might not set the pulses racing of Liverpool fans on name recognition alone, it’s difficult to argue he’d be a great fit.
The 26-year-old had six goals and six assists for West Ham United in 38 Premier League appearances last season despite the club having domestic difficulties.
In the Hammers’ altogether more successful Europa Conference League campaign, the four-capped England international notched five goals and two assists.
His durability, work rate and selflessness are all traits that will appeal to Klopp, but West Ham are unlikely to want to part with such a key player with the Europa League on the horizon.
But the success of Diogo Jota at Liverpool when healthy should be an encouraging sign that Bowen can make the step up. Jota was seen as a functional, if not thrilling forward at Wolverhampton Wanderers, but he’s now a key player for the Reds when available (42 goals and 17 assists in 115 Liverpool appearances is nothing to be sniffed at).
Bowen could at least replicate that success in a Red shirt.
Bonus Slide: No Forward Signings Needed
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Liverpool’s forward line has too many names and too few positions in the starting XI to satisfy everyone. A front three as it stands leaves at least two of Cody Gakpo, Darwin Núñez, Jota, Luis Díaz or, as unlikely as it’s been, Salah as a disappointed sub warming the Reds’ bench.
That shoehorning in of players has seen Gakpo find most of his minutes in midfield so far this season, despite the fact he’s perhaps more suited to a No. 10, center forward or left-wing role. Núñez, meanwhile, has had just 28 minutes of competitive action.
So freeing up a spot in the lineup would create opportunities for other players to thrive. While the club has an abundance of players suited to the other side of the pitch, most should be able to function on right if given time. Or maybe a change of formation could be considered.
And that’s not to mention Harvey Elliott, who was seemingly brought in as a long-term replacement for Salah as a 16-year-old but has since been plying his trade in midfield.
In the opening game of the season, Elliott came off the bench to replace Salah on the right wing, so perhaps that’s a signal his future will be away from the center of the park and he could fill the shoes of the 31-year-old.
Ben Doak has also been causing a stir, getting some minutes of his own against Chelsea on the opening day of the Premier League season. While his time isn’t now, it will at least allow him to get more experience of senior football without another player blocking his path.
Adding another forward player if Salah departs might not be as pressing for Liverpool this season. With needs in midfield and defense still to be addressed, perhaps the funds from the Egyptian’s potential sale could be better spent elsewhere. If FSG decides to spend any at all.