Liverpool Should Be Readying Firmino Replacement
Roberto Firmino has been an outstanding player for Liverpool since his move to Anfield from Bayer Leverkusen in 2015. The Brazilian’s prowess in front of goal and link-up play in the final third has been a large part of the Reds’ success in the Champions League and Premier League. Firmino also brings out the best in Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
Jurgen Klopp does not have a direct replacement for the 29-year-old in his ranks, highlighting the importance of the Brazilian, but also the role in the side to free up space for those potent attackers. Firmino is on pace to reach double figures in the Premier League this term, notching five goals after 17 matches along with three assists. He has never been prolific in the final third, but has always notched important strikes – none more so than his late header against Tottenham Hotspur that secured three vital points for the Reds. Moments of that nature could be vital in a tight title race where Klopp’s men are backed in the Premier League betting odds at 3/1 to defend their crown.
However, Liverpool may begin to wonder whether they have seen the best of Firmino. At the age of 29, he is unlikely to improve aspects of his game. Klopp and his staff were on point in allowing Philippe Coutinho to leave for Barcelona, gaining maximum value for the midfielder to spend elsewhere in the squad. It could be time to consider the future of Firmino to allow the Reds to remain a dominant force in the final third. Liverpool could change tact and line-up in a different formation without Firmino, but his role eases the pressure on Salah and Mane, allowing the two players to drift in from the wide areas at their leisure.
There are not many players that have that skill set and an unselfish attitude to boot. Erling Haaland will be top of the wishlist. The Norwegian can do it all and would be top of the list to replace Firmino through the middle of the line. There will be a host of clubs interested in Haaland, and Liverpool do have the financial clout and the ability to attract the services of the Borussia Dortmund striker.
If they are unable to get Haaland onside, there are other intriguing alternatives. Luka Jovic moved back on loan to Eintracht Frankfurt after failing to force his way into the Real Madrid starting line-up. Jovic enjoyed a brilliant 2018/19 season at Frankfurt while on loan from Benfica. The Serb scored 27 goals in 48 appearances, including 17 in the Bundesliga. Jovic was also effective in supporting his team-mates, notching five assists over the course of the league campaign.
The form of Karim Benzema kept him out of the Madrid team over the last 18 months and the 23-year-old has now gone back to the Bundesliga. Liverpool should be keeping close tabs on the situation to see whether he was a flash in the pan or has true quality in the final third. Jovic should certainly be on a shortlist for potential replacements for Firmino when Klopp decides that the time has come.
Liverpool reached the top of English and European football with a proactive approach on and off the field. The future of Firmino is an issue on the horizon and their handling situation could determine whether they remain one of the deadliest teams in Europe for the next five years.