Liverpool transfer talk and appreciating the Reds’ world-class attacking trio

Timo Werner, Jadon Sancho and Kylian Mbappe would all be top-class additions for Liverpool, but Jurgen Klopp already boasts an elite, immovable front three.

While Liverpool’s players were refreshing themselves on their jollies during the Premier League winter break, boredom was evidently growing amongst LFC supporters judging by the number of stories, tweets and comments about the Timo Werner speculation.

Whether Jurgen Klopp is genuinely interested in the RB Leipzig striker, or Reds chairman Tom Werner simply wants to be able to justify having his name and a number printed on the back of his suit, remains to be seen, but at a shade over £50 million the 23-year-old is considered good value in the parallel universe of top-level football.

Then there’s Jadon Sancho. The Daily Mirror trolled Man United magnificently with the back-page headline ‘Sancho to snub Euro giants for Old Trafford’, yet on the same day the Daily Mail reported that Klopp is ready to break his self-imposed rule of not signing any Borussia Dortmund players and bring the 19-year-old to Anfield.

At over £100 million Sancho would be a more expensive option than Werner, but he’s sponsored by new kit manufacturers Nike and is bezzie mates with Rhian Brewster, so why would he go anywhere else when they could play FIFA 21 in their Nike Mbappe X Air Max trainers on Thursday nights?

Hang on! Who did Nike name those trainees after? Kylian Mbappe? The multi-talented Paris Saint-Germain striker who is mates with LeBron James and recently described Liverpool as “a machine,” and “a very good team with a very good manager?”

The 21-year-old would cost up to £300 million and his pay demands would shatter Liverpool’s wage structure, but there is absolutely no denying that Mbappe is the hottest property in world football and it would be hugely exciting to see him in a red shirt.

So, for about £450 million, Liverpool could have Werner, Sancho and Mbappe leading the line next season, giving Klopp the front three he so desperately needs to make the club successful.

MADRID, SPAIN - Tuesday, February 18, 2020: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah looks dejected after missing a chance during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 1st Leg match between Club Atlético de Madrid and Liverpool FC at the Estadio Metropolitano. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Look what happened when Mo Salah missed the Premier League game at Old Trafford in October: Liverpool drew and Klopp missed out on Manager of the Month to Frank Lampard Jr.

Yes, Salah has the greatest goalscoring ratio of any Liverpool player in Premier League history and is currently on track to surpass Robbie Fowler’s club record of 128 league goals with 81 games in hand if he continues netting at the same rate, but he’s not as good as he was in 2017/18, eh?

And then there’s Roberto Firmino, who hasn’t scored a single goal at Anfield since April, resulting in the Reds only winning 20 consecutive home league games. No wonder Danny Murphy thinks the Brazilian is replaceable.

“I think if Mbappe was playing up front with Mane and Salah, it would be more scary than playing with Firmino, Mane and Salah,” he said. “I’m not belittling what Firmino has done, I think he’s a wonderful footballer. Is he replaceable? Yes. Anybody is, but it would change the dynamic.”

Add Sadio Mane, who won’t be here next January anyway due to the Africa Cup of Nations being scheduled at a less convenient time than these ridiculous Saturday 3pm kickoffs they sometimes make Liverpool play, and I reckon we could get not far off £350 million for the lot.

Hell, let’s throw in Divock Origi too—Everton would pay good money for the Belgian as he always scores when they’re playing—and if we loan Harvey Elliott out to Bournemouth for a decade he’ll be nearing his peak in 2030 when he’s 26. We might know Takumi Minamino‘s best position by then, too.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Tuesday, February 12, 2019: Paris Saint-Germain's goal-scorer Kylian Mbappé celebrates after the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 1st Leg match between Manchester United FC and Paris Saint-Germain at Old Trafford. PSG won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

All sarcasm-laced incredulity aside, Liverpool do not need to sign three forwards this summer. And nor will they.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for signing top-quality players from a position of strength, and it would be one hell of a coup if Mbappe did move to Anfield, but I’m also for sticking with players that make the Reds successful. Players like Salah, Mane and Firmino.

Between them they’ve scored 240 goals for Liverpool. I’ve not added up their assists, but there’s every chance it’s not far off three figures. And only one of them, Firmino on 230, has made over 200 appearances for LFC with Mane on 156 and Salah on 139.

To put that into context, Robbie Fowler appeared 369 times for the Reds, Michael Owen on 297 occasions. In comparison, our front three’s Liverpool careers are only just getting going.

All three were born between October 1991 and June 1992—what a school year that was—so, in my eyes, we’ve got a 28-year-old and two 27-year-olds who are just hitting the peak years of their careers at the same time, in the same team, having spent the last two-and-a-half years developing the best front three in world football.

Why on earth would you want to break that trio up and spend up to £350 million to do so?

GENK, BELGIUM - Wednesday, October 23, 2019: Liverpool's Sadio Mané (L) celebrates scoring the third goal with team-mate Roberto Firmino during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between KRC Genk and Liverpool FC at the KRC Genk Arena. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The trick is to get the best out of players and bring in younger replacements–through the transfer market or academy—as they are about to pass their peak, not during it.

Liverpool have historically tried to do that with forwards and had mixed success. It worked with Kevin Keegan and Fowler, for instance, but less so with Alun Evans and Paul Walsh.

Yes, I think Liverpool need to strengthen this summer in a couple of positions, one of them being up front given the impact the Africa Cup of Nations is going to have. But do I think a striker should come in at the expense of Salah, Mane or Firmino? Absolutely not.

So I’d get Werner in, let Sancho prove if he’s a £100 million player or another Nicolas Pepe elsewhere and remember that Mbappe has made it clear through back-channels that Real Madrid is his dream destination and that if he did move to Liverpool it’s only because he’d see us as a stepping stone to get there, not his final destination.

Chris McLoughlin writes for This Is Anfield each week; he’s also senior writer for the Official LFC Matchday Programme and LFC Magazine. You can order both here.