Over the relatively barren last few years, some of the players who have graced Anfield’s terrain have been good enough to make you think they could end the years of waiting for a league title. Gerrard, Suarez, Torres, the list goes on. Then, in the overwhelming majority of cases, it becomes clear that the player is in fact more likely to move elsewhere for a huge amount of money that is then inefficiently invested.
Torres moved on, and although Suarez arrived at the same time, his direct replacement was Andy Carroll. The less said about that, the better. When Suarez moved on, it was Mario Ballotelli that arrived, a deal so bad that it went a long way to getting Brendan Rodgers the sack.
So while most realists on the Kop realise that Philippe Coutinho is off to Barcelona, that’s only part of the worry. The bigger concern may be that — as surely as an early Huddersfield set-piece goal will make some bookies regret their long odds for Saturday — the replacement will disappoint.
So let’s look at the runners and riders to replace Coutinho, and see who may have the pedigree to fill his not inconsiderable boots.
Julian Draxler (PSG)
Draxler has many advantages as a potential new Phil: he’s two-footed and an excellent dribbler. He has a powerful shot and, like Jurgen Klopp, he’s German. That’s not a flippant point– while Klopp was managing Dortmund to the Bundesliga title, Draxler was performing at a high level for Schalke, so the two will not be strangers to one another. This should cut down any settling-in period if Draxler signs. Also, PSG may be willing to deal at a bargain price – the need to meet FFP regulations saw them sell Blaise Matuidi to Juventus for relatively small change.
Thomas Lemar (Monaco)
Most recently seen not moving to Arsenal on deadline day, Thomas Lemar was seen by the Gunners as a replacement for Alexis Sanchez if he had left the club in the summer. He didn’t, so Arsenal were reluctant to pay the £50million Monaco wanted. Should Coutinho leave, it will be for at least twice that amount, and Lemar is young, skilful and French enough to be a huge success in the Premier League. Let’s just hope Arsenal don’t get cash for Sanchez in January.
Max Meyer (Schalke)
It’s genuinely a surprise that the German market has remained largely untapped for Premier League clubs; Bundesliga players rarely fetch the fees that a similar option from La Liga or Serie A would cost. They’re also usually ready to plug and play almost immediately: Dietmar Hamann is an example to remember fondly (even if he did come via Newcastle, he hit the ground running there).
Meyer comes with the benefit of being just 21, playing in the high-pressing style Klopp favours, and being at a club who consistently underachieve. Schalke are unlikely to be hard to deal with on this one.
Of course, there is also the option of promoting from within, with Ben Woodburn a prospect, and then investing the Coutinho money in a defence. The way things are going, that would be the smart move.