With Daniel Sturridge rumoured to be pushing for a January departure, a hole would be left in Liverpool’s attack. Recent reports linking Liverpool to superstar strikers such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang seem unrealistic. Liverpool’s chief requirement from the January transfer window is further defensive reinforcement. Any forward would, therefore, need to be funded by the fee received from Sturridge’s sale. Liverpool will look to hold out for £30 million for the England international. However, with only 18 months left to run on his contract, they may have to settle for £25 million.
Finding a forward for that type of fee will be a tall order. Yet, each year we see there are bargains to be had. Here are six potential forwards who are attainable around that £25-£30 million price tag.
Five Daniel Sturridge Replacements That Would Cost Nothing
Mariano Diaz – Lyon
Estimated Price: £20 million
Mariano Diaz has had an unusual career. Real Madrid snapped up the young Dominican player only to not play him. Diaz was farmed out to Real Madrid’s development team where he scored 32 goals in only 44 games. However, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale ahead of him he was never given more than substitute appearances at the Bernabeu. After moving to Lyon this summer, he is starting to show the quality he has. In 16 league games this season Diaz has scored 12 goals and provided two assists. That would normally warrant Diaz more attention. However, the performances of Nabil Fekir for Lyon have caused Diaz to escape the limelight.
Diaz has a bit of everything to his game. He is good in the air, fast and able to take players on. Doubts about his ability to score at this rate exist, as it is his first season. Yet, that is the reason his fee wouldn’t be astronomical. Having cost Lyon €8 million in the summer, any sale would offer a great profit on their investment. Yet, if Premier League teams wait and he continues to perform to this level, Lyon will be demanding a lot more by the summer.
Luan Vieira – Gremio
Estimated Price: £25 million
Luan is someone that Liverpool have been linked with multiple times in the last 12 months. There is a reason for this. He is a quality attacking player. His flexibility would make him the typical Klopp forward, able to play across the three front positions. At 24-years-old he has so far resisted the allure of moving to Europe, staying with Gremio who he has played for during the last four seasons. In that time Luan has made 103 appearances, scoring 25 goals.
Luan is very much in the model of Roberto Firmino. He is great at picking up the ball and bringing fellow forwards into the game. Luan has the ability to pull off the spectacular and has a number of goals that look great in highlight reels. Yet, like Firmino he is not a top goal scorer, rather a quality all-around player. If Jurgen Klopp wanted to bring in a forward to act as a backup to Firmino, Luan would do an excellent job. However, if he desires an out and out goal scorer, he would be better off looking at other options on the list.
Bas Dost – Sporting Lisbon
Estimated Price: £30 million
Bas Dost is that out and out goal scorer and is the absolute opposite to the skilful Firmino. Yet, the Dutchman has an eye for a goal. Since moving to Sporting Lisbon, he has managed 45 goals in 45 games. This has brought him to the attention of a number of Premier League teams such as Everton and Newcastle. Dost has stated that he is not looking for a move this winter. However, the option of joining a club the size of Liverpool may well be appealing enough to get him to change his mind
At 6”5 Dost is completely different to anything Liverpool have in attack at the moment. He is powerfully built and able to bully defenders around him. Liverpool have players such as Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold at full-back and Phillipe Coutinho in midfield who deliver quality crosses into the box. Yet, with Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohammed Salah, Liverpool offer little aerial threat. A player like Dost would enable Liverpool to attack in a completely different way and offer a solution against teams that sit deep. At 28, Dost is at the peak of his powers. However, that is older than the usual profile of player Liverpool moves for. Whether Liverpool would be willing to break the rules for Dost is debatable.
Antonio Sanabria – Real Betis
Estimated Price: £20 million
Born in Paraguay, Antonio Sanabria is the second South American to have made the list. The young Paraguayan striker is currently lighting up La Liga. So far this season he has managed seven goals in only 12 appearances. But what makes his figures more impressive is that six of the 12 appearances have come from the bench. Sanabria is averaging a goal every 91 minutes at the age of 21 in a mid-level La Liga side.
As an ex-Futsal player, Sanabria has excellent ability on the ball. However, he has scored a wide range of goals, with a number of them headed. He really has a bit of everything to his game. For his age, he is experienced, with over 80 appearances, although his prolific scoring rate is relatively new. Sanabria was sold to Betis by Roma who inserted a buy-back clause in the contract. Liverpool have profited in the past by taking advantage of players bigger teams have sold to develop. Emre Can was bought from Bayer Leverkusen for a low fee after Bayern Munich let him leave to develop. Roma would be angry, just as Bayern were, if Liverpool stole away such a talented young player. Yet, with an inexperienced Dominic Solanke as the other replacement forward, Klopp may well be wary about bringing in another 21-year-old forward.
Dries Mertens – Napoli
Estimated Price: £25m
The fact that a player like Driers Mertens makes this list is shocking. Not due to his quality, but rather the unbelievably low price he is available at. Mertens insisted on a £28 million buy-out clause in his last contract which is only applicable to non-domestic clubs. That means that one of the deadliest forwards in world football is available for less than Marko Arnautovic. Mertens has been reborn after his swap from a wide position into the striker role a season ago. He registered, in Seria A, 47 goals in his last 65 games and doesn’t look like stopping. Short, with explosive pace, excellent finishing and a great work ethic, Mertens would make Liverpool’s already rapid attack into probably the fastest front three in world football. Mertens’ ability to pull wide would allow for the three forwards to swap roles. It would be a nightmare for opposition defenders to track his, Mane and Salah’s movement.
At 30-years-old he is the oldest player on the list and would be a dramatic break with the usual transfer policy. He would also require a hefty weekly wage. However, with Sturridge’s fee covering the transfer and his wages off the wage bill, it is a financially realistic move. With no other major team in Europe currently hunting for a new forward, Liverpool is probably the top team Mertens could join as a guaranteed starter. This is where a potential issue arises. Sturridge has mainly been used as the first substitute. Mertens would come expecting to start. Klopp is a huge fan of Firmino. The question is, does Klopp view the Brazilian as so vital to Liverpool’s way of playing that he wouldn’t be willing to drop him if a talent of the quality of Mertens became available?