What next for Liverpool: Mohamed Salah exploring exit routes, Roberto Firmino's future, Mbappe?
Liverpool's season is crumbling around them after a fifth successive home defeat in the Premier League and there could be changes afoot in the summer. In the latest Inside Football, Dean Jones digs into the future of Jurgen Klopp's misfiring attack, with new information on Mohamed Salah, plus insight into the situations around Roberto Firmino and Kylian Mbappe.
A despairing Mohamed Salah of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Liverpool a
Published 05/03/2021 at 11:19 GMT | Updated 05/03/2021 at 20:54 GMT
The future of Liverpool’s attack is under the microscope right now and there are three emerging storylines worth assessing.
We have seen reports that the club will seek a new No.9 to make up for Roberto Firmino’s lack of goals. Star player Mohamed Salah has been starting to agitate over a new contract amid suggestions he is ready to find a fresh challenge. Meanwhile, there are also rumours Kylian Mbappe has informed Paris Saint-Germain that Liverpool is his first-choice destination for a summer transfer.
From afar it has been pretty easy to identify the fact that Sadio Mane, Firmino and Salah are not the threat they once were - yet what is more tricky is solving such a problem.
This has been a season like no other, with games crammed into a tight schedule, injuries taking a hold like never before, and matchday and merchandise revenues taking a dive along with any new sponsorship opportunities. Liverpool are up against it as they attempt to find a fix.
A slump in form - and five successive home defeats - also means they are in danger of missing out on Champions League football next season, a scenario that would leave them at least €40 million down on their expected financial target.
So what can we truly expect of them when the market opens in the summer?
Firmino's future, and a new goalscorer
Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the English Premier League football match between Sheffield United and Liverpool at Bramall Lane in Sheffield
Image credit: Getty Images
Let’s start by assessing Firmino, who has scored six times from 37 games this season.
A simple fact to begin with here is that Jurgen Klopp is highly unlikely to part ways with the Brazilian because he has been so important to the team's evolution. His role has always been less about goals and more about setting the tone for a certain style of play. This team's system is not going to change overnight so while some fans are beginning to call for him to be replaced, we should recognise that is probably not going to happen and, instead, a new striker would most likely be used in rotation with him.
Divock Origi will be on his way out of Anfield in the summer - so that’s where the spot will open up.
At this stage identifying a new goalscorer is difficult because even Liverpool do not know what their budget is going to be. The issues on and off the pitch mean Liverpool are unsure whether they will be able to compete for a very top star or if their best hope is to find a player whose data and statistics show that he has the potential to reach the top.
With Liverpool this is always key to keep in mind. They have clear analysis on different types of players in similar positions and choose targets from a shortlist that is then created.
At this stage it would be difficult to see them competing for a top player like Erling Haaland or Mbappe, although recently there has been news suggesting otherwise.
Mbappe coup looks unlikely
Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint-Germain poses for a photo with the match ball and the player of the match award after the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match between FC Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain at Camp Nou on February 16, 2021 in Barcelona,
Image credit: Getty Images
It has been claimed that Mbappe loves the idea of playing under Klopp and if he were to move to England, that would be his choice. Perhaps that truly is the case, but some sources think this story could also be an example of mischief making. It could be a story created, in part, to show Real Madrid they will not have a free run at him if Mbappe decides against signing a new contract in Paris.
It might seem a cynical stance yet it is a leak tactic that has been used many times before. And while Liverpool probably does make sense from a stylistic point of view - as well as the fact they have the status in European football to potentially convince him that major silverware would be possible - there is still that big question: How would Liverpool deal with this financially?
Messages from sources around Liverpool this season have insisted they do not have the budget you would normally expect of a club that have won the Champions League and Premier League back-to-back. If cashflow really is so tight, Mbappe to Liverpool is surely a non-starter.
This is a player who already earns well over £300,000-a-week at PSG and is expecting his next contract to reflect the fact that he has the potential to become a Ballon d'Or winner in the very near future. No Liverpool player earns as much as he already picks up, and it’s expected he will be looking for something in the region of £500,000-a-week next time around.
One of the only players at Liverpool that comes anything close to that kind of pay is currently weighing up whether it might be time to move on.
Salah exploring options
'I didn't see what Mo did' - Klopp on Salah reaction
Mohamed Salah earns around £220,000-a-week and has become Liverpool's superstar. His status has risen hugely since joining from Roma in 2017 but now there is a very real feeling he is considering a change.
La Liga seems to be the only place he is interested in trying after this successful spell at Liverpool and the understanding is that both Barcelona and Madrid are aware of his mindset.
Salah has hinted twice in interviews this season that the ball is in Liverpool’s court in terms of how his future plays out but sources are suggesting that discussions are also now taking place behind the scenes on pathways away from Anfield. Beneath all of this is also a desire from Salah to be considered the greatest African player of all-time, one source explained.
Barca have not been able to consider the idea for now but their situation will become more clear after presidential elections take place on Sunday. A door for Salah is only likely to open if Lionel Messi departs or, somehow, the club manage to find funds for an elite forward despite their debt problems.
Over at Madrid, a few situations need to be cleared up before they can consider such a transfer. Mbappe is their top target and insiders say they are beginning to think about offering Eden Hazard as part of the deal, so that will remain their priority until told it is impossible. They also like Haaland, so would explore his availability before committing to any other attacking player.
But Salah could come into the thinking after that and intermediaries are set to revisit both Barca and Madrid again before the end of this season to make checks on both situations.
The success of Mane, Firmino and Salah has been historic at Liverpool yet there always comes a time for a new phase in any great team.
We might be witnessing the end of Liverpool's iconic attacking trio as we know it. Quite how it transforms from here is going to be intriguing in the coming months.