Football Features

AC Milan transfer raid or sign ex-Real Madrid wonderkid? How Liverpool could replace Salah

By Squawka News

Published: 12:45, 31 January 2024

We found the perfect replacements for Mohamed Salah.

The Egypt international has rewritten the record books since joining Liverpool in 2017, but he’s now entered into the final 18 months of his contract. Whether he stays or goes at the end of that deal — or, indeed, in the wake of manager Jürgen Klopp announcing this will be his final campaign at the club — Liverpool need to find an heir.

A prolific dribbling winger at Roma, Salah’s volume of take-ons has been on the decline while his shot and chance-creation output has exploded in a wide-forward role. So, these are the key stats we used to find the next in line for the throne:

  • Expected Goals + Assists
  • Big Chances created
  • Big Chances scored
  • Touches inside the opposition box
  • Fast Breaks
  • Through-balls

We’re using more metrics to drill down deeper, of course. For example, looking specifically at the percentage of chances created as Big Chances and shots inside the box will help us find forwards that match Salah’s obscene quality and quantity.

The top result from this query was Mohamed Salah himself. Leroy Sané was the next best left-footed match after some guy called Lionel Messi while Jarrod Bowen has often been suggested by many. However, all three miss out on the shortlist as we’re using an under-26 policy to match the age profile of Salah’s initial signing.

So, let’s see who did make the cut.

The absolute dream signing is Kylian Mbappé. Number two on the search and the only player that can truly match Salah’s output. Although right-footed, Liverpool could invert their current set-up to funnel the ball down the opposite flank — this tweak would be easier due to Trent Alexander-Arnold’s new quarter-back role. But if the Frenchman does become available, Real Madrid would seem the most likely destination.

Bukayo Saka would be the dream left-footed option for obvious reasons but signing Saka seems even more far-fetched than Mbappé.

For now, we’re going to suggest another right-footer. Rafael Leão is one of the most frightening transition players in world football. He matches Salah’s core strength, allowing him to brush past full-backs and centre-backs alike. The Portuguese also combines goalscoring and playmaking, a key part of the Salah brief. If he were to join this summer, he would be coming from the same league at the same age Salah made his move to Merseyside.

But if Liverpool want to mirror Salah’s output on the left, then they already have two in-house options: Cody Gakpo operated from that side at PSV while Darwin Núñez could thrive in that role. So, let’s make the wildcard picks left-footed only.

The highest Squawka Score from an under-26 left-footer was Cole Palmer. If Chelsea continue to finish outside of the European places, this move might not seem so crazy. Palmer is more playmaker than goalscorer right now but since early October last year – when he netted his first Premier League goal against Burnley – only Salah (11) has scored more Premier League goals than the Chelsea man (9).

Plus he’s already proven he would have no issue inheriting the penalty-taking duties.

We can stay in West London for a more realistic option. Bryan Mbeumo is Premier League-proven, lightning on the break, and another polished penalty-taker. While every other club focuses on trying to sign Ivan Toney, Liverpool should be asking Brentford about his strike partner.

But you’re here for the wonderkid wildcards, aren’t you? Well, you could be watching both of them in the Premier League next season.

Yankuba Minteh spent the first half of 2023 at Odense before signing for Newcastle in the summer and being sent on loan to Feyenoord. Minteh has not yet made an appearance for his parent club, but we could not ignore the Gambian’s underlying numbers, especially his 10.6 touches in the opposition box per 90. A strong showing at St. James’ Park next season could lead straight to a bid from Liverpool.

Another teenager you need to keep an eye on is Abdul Fatawu. On loan at Leicester City from Sporting CP, the Foxes have a €17m obligation to buy if they secure promotion, which looks very likely. Although the Ghanaian ranked first for Big Chances created per 90 minutes in our search, Liverpool will want to assess Fatawu in the Premier League and see if he can add more goals to his game before making a move.

So if the Reds want a ready-made replacement with top-flight and Champions League experience, Squawka Suggests another two picks.

Liverpool’s intra-Premier League signings have been a staple of their recruitment in recent years — just look at Sadio Mané and Diogo Jota. That means Moussa Diaby not only fits the Salah stat brief, but also the club’s transfer policy. A devastating transition threat that can play as an out-and-out winger — on both sides — or dovetail as a forward. Diaby’s versatility and experience make him an intriguing option. Yet, that could all be irrelevant when you see the next option.

Takefusa Kubo has been schooled at Barcelona and Real Madrid but is now reaching his full potential in San Sebastian. The Japanese prodigy has put Europe’s elite clubs on alert since moving to Real Sociedad at the start of 2022/23, ranking in the top 10 in La Liga for fast breaks, Big Chances created, take-ons completed, possession won in the final third and touches in the opposition box.

Still only 22 years old, Take combines an exciting, well-rounded statistical profile with the football and life experience necessary to thrive under the demands placed on any Liverpool player.

Over to you, Agent Endo.