Liverpool are in a difficult position with the looming shadow of Emre Can’s potential departure. The big German has had a sporadic season of highs and lows. However, he is a player who Liverpool have invested four years into developing. To lose him now, and for nothing, would be a disaster.
With his contract due to run out this summer, other European sides are free to reach an agreement with him in less than two months. The rumours out of Anfield suggest that an impasse has been reached with Can. His demands for a low buyout clause in the contract have scuppered any further talks. Liverpool have refused to consider his demands, seeing it as an unhelpful president for future negotiations with other key players.
European clubs have begun to circle with continuous rumours of interest from Juventus and Bayern Munich, where he started his career. In light of this, Liverpool need to be proactive and begin the hunt for a replacement for him now. The difficulty in this is Can’s versatility. Liverpool are left with the decision of replacing him with a specialist midfielder or another flexible player. Whichever option they choose, there are players available who would add to the Liverpool squad.
Emre Can’s Replacement – Five Realistic Options
Can is not the only tall, powerful, young German player whose contract is up at the end of the season. Leon Goretzka has been courting just as much, if not more attention, than Can. With Barcelona, Bayern Munich and other English sides rumoured to be interested, Jürgen Klopp would have to use all his charm to convince him to select Liverpool.
Goretzka is a different type of player to Can and is a more developed attacking midfielder. Even with his size, 1.89 m (6 ft 2 in) he can drift past players and is a serious goal threat. He would most likely struggle to deputise for Jordan Henderson as the most disciplined of the midfield three. However, if Liverpool are looking to replace the box to box midfielder role, there are few players in the world with Goretzka’s potential and none will come with such an appealing price tag.
It seems as if Ruben Loftus Cheek has been around a long time. However, at only 21 he is still a young and talented player. Having made his breakthrough at 18 years of age, his career stalled at Chelsea due to a lack of game time. Now on loan at Crystal Palace, he is one of the few bright sparks in a team that is currently struggling. His recent form has impressed so much that he has been called up to the senior England side.
Loftus-Cheek’s playing style matches up well to Can’s. His physique is even more intimidating at 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in). Yet, he has a turn of pace that Can lacks, allowing him to run away from other midfielders. Experienced in all midfield positions, he could cover all three roles in the Liverpool midfield. Yet, there is still much for him to learn. Like Can two seasons ago, he has a lot of holes in his game. However regular playing time is what is needed to cure this.
Loftus-Cheek is unlikely to inspire the often-fickle Liverpool supporters. However, the club have previously been successful buying players not given a chance at Chelsea with both Daniel Sturridge and Mohammed Salah. They have also lived to regret turning their noses up at talented Chelsea youngsters like Ryan Bertrand
Without a doubt, Loftus-Cheek is a top talent and a player Chelsea would prefer not to lose. However, with a place in the Chelsea midfield unlikely, Loftus-Cheek may be willing to swap West London for the North West.
If Liverpool are looking for a specialist defensive midfield player, Fabinho would provide a great option. The midfielder’s work in Monaco’s title-winning season went by without the great plaudits of Tiémoué Bakayoko, now at Chelsea. Yet, his role was just as vital. He allowed the dynamic players the freedom to play.
Fabinho is a rangy player, much in the style of Fernandinho of Manchester City. This tall and athletic defensive-midfielder would provide a better screen to the Liverpool defence. Yet that is not all he is. With eight goals and five assists last season, he could also add goal scoring and creation to the defensive-midfield role.
Monaco are a team willing to sell players if the timing suits them. However, it is unlikely Fabinho wouldn’t have multiple options. Manchester United were linked heavily with the Brazilian in the last window. Liverpool would need to move aggressively and quickly for Fabinho if they want to bring him to Anfield.
The least well known of the players in the list, Kerem Demirbay, has begun to receive the recognition he deserves in Germany. The Hoffenheim midfielder’s development over the last year has led to a call-up to the German national team. It has also caused bigger teams to take notice.
Demirbay is tidy in possession and moves the ball fast through midfield. Similar in build to Can, Demirbay is a more mobile version of the Liverpool player. He lacks some of the defensive qualities Can has, but would add a greater creative spark to the team.
The question would be over his ability to transition to a bigger team with bigger expectations. At 24 it is only in the last year that he has begun to show his quality. The question is whether in a different side he could replicate this form.
At the less fashionable Hoffenheim, he is a player Liverpool would be confident they could get. This availability would allow for him to be brought in quickly without the protracted transfer saga that plagued Liverpool last summer.
There is also the possibility to provide the replacement for Can from within the club. In his last outing against West Ham, Oxlade-Chamberlain showed a glimpse of his potential as a central-midfielder. He has long made clear his desire to play centrally rather than out wide. The loss of Can may well give him the opportunity to cement himself in that role.
As with other players in this list, Oxlade-Chamberlain would only replace Can’s box to box role. However, he would bring a much more dynamic element to it. His speed and agility would allow for him to offer more to the Reds in an attacking sense.
Oxlade-Chamberlain brings with him the bonus of already being at the club. Liverpool’s transfer budget under owners FSG has been tight. With a large investment required in other positions, the fact that he would cost the club nothing may well win him the job.