Liverpool are likely to sign a new attacker this summer, and have been linked with a host of big names, but who would be the best fit?
With Adam Lallana and Xherdan Shaqiri expected to leave the club, and the Africa Cup of Nations’ return to January meaning both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane could miss the start of 2021, a new signing is on the cards at Anfield.
Losing two squad options and, briefly, two first-choice starters, would require more cover and competition for the likes of Roberto Firmino, Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino.
That is regardless of the prospects of Rhian Brewster, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott and Paul Glatzel, as top-level quality will be required if Liverpool are to maintain their status.
As Premier League champions-elect, and champions of Europe and the world, understandably the Reds have been linked with a host of high-profile forwards.
But who would be the best fit, in terms of value and ability? Here, we take a look.
Position: Left forward / No. 9
Club: RB Leipzig
Reported fee: £50.5m
Talk of Werner to Liverpool certainly has the most legs of any of those linked so far, with both sources on Merseyside and in Germany indicating a move is possible.
The 23-year-old has a release clause worth between €55 million and €60 million dependant on Leipzig’s Bundesliga finish—they are currently second, so it is highly likely it is the latter—which in the current market is a relative bargain.
He has already scored 27 goals and laid on 11 assists in 33 games this season, and is adapting his role under Julian Nagelsmann to blend the duties of a traditional No. 9 with a more modern No. 10, which suits Liverpool’s system.
In this role, he could serve as cover for, or a partner to, Firmino, while his upbringing out wide could be useful too; this flexibility, and end product, makes him a perfect fit.
After his goal earned a 1-0 win over Tottenham in the Champions League, Werner praised the Reds as “the best team in the world,” and acknowledged that “I have to improve myself to get on this level to play there.”
His acceptance of the latter would be the sticking point regarding a move, as he would not arrive as a guaranteed starter, but overall Werner seems like the ideal signing.
Likelihood (out of 10): 8
Suitability rating (out of 10): 9.5
Position: Right forward
Reported fee: £100m+
Klopp is a known admirer of Sancho, with the Reds having previously expressed an interest prior to his move from Man City to Dortmund in 2017.
“We are not blind—we saw him, we liked him and then we think ‘can we get him?’,” he explained last February. “No. Because English clubs don’t sell them to other English clubs.”
The good relations between Liverpool and Dortmund would ensure this is not the case this summer, however, while the Reds’ new kit deal with Nike—a sponsor of Sancho’s—could provide the funds.
Liverpool have been touted with a big-money move in the Merseyside press, namely the Mail‘s Dom King, though the likes of James Pearce and Melissa Reddy have cast doubt over an outlay of at least £100 million.
Sancho would arrive as a younger, top-level alternative to Salah and Mane—having scored 16 and assisted 18 in 32 games this season already—but it seems at that price he would need to join as a first-choice starter.
Suitability rating: 9
Position: No. 9 / right, left forward
Reported fee: £200m+
Like Werner, Mbappe fits the mould in terms of quality in a variety of positions, and the Frenchman is already one of the best in world football at just 21.
He has been continually linked with the Reds since their failed move to sign him from Monaco in 2017, with praise from both Mbappe and Klopp, along with his ties to Nike and Liverpool stakeholder LeBron James, fuelling speculation.
But like Sancho, he would certainly demand a starting place week in, week out, which his talent would justify: 25 goals, 16 assists in 30 games for PSG this season; World Cup winner with France, three-time Ligue winner.
His ability to spearhead the attack as well as operate out wide would suit Klopp’s setup, too, and it could be argued he is worse suited to the demands of the system than either Werner or Sancho.
Unless one of Firmino, Salah or Mane were to move on, and Nike backed a world-record deal, the only factor ensuring this is not ruled out completely is the club’s known interest.
A dream signing, but also a fanciful one.
Suitability rating: 10
Position: Left wing
Club: Werder Bremen
Reported fee: £32m
Fans could be forgiven for asking “who?” when Rashica’s name appeared on the rumour mill, with sources in Germany claiming Liverpool’s interest.
Both Bild and Bremen publication Weser Kurier linked the Reds with Werder’s in-form left winger, who can also play in a central supporting role in attack.
Rashica has also been touted with moves to Watford and Southampton in recent months, which would suggest he is less likely to contend for a first-choice place at Anfield than Werner, Sancho or Mbappe.
The Kosovo international has scored 10 and assisted four in 22 games so far this season, and would be available for around £32 million due to a release clause in his contract, presenting a good-value deal as alternative to Mane with the AFCON looming.
He would be more Shaqiri replacement than competition for a starting place, which would flesh out the squad ranks along with the likes of Minamino and Origi.
It is a difficult deal to gauge in terms of likelihood, but given the fee it is not one to disregard totally.
Suitability rating: 7
Position: Attacking midfielder
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Reported fee: £100m+
Havertz is another player who has been linked with a move to Merseyside for years, with the young Leverkusen standout scouted by the club back in 2017.
He has gone from strength to strength since, and is one of the Bundesliga’s most-coveted talents, routinely cited as a target for the likes of Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Man City.
As such, his price tag is eye-watering, with tabloids in Germany suggesting he would move for upwards of £100 million, which could well be in line with the market in 2020.
It is no surprise Havertz would be of interest to Klopp, with the 20-year-old a tall but dynamic, creative midfielder who can also operate on the right flank or, at a push, up front, with vast experience but also considerable room for improvement given his age.
However, his output this season—just seven goals and three assists in 29 games for Leverkusen—suggests £100 million would be something of a risk, particularly as there is no clear pathway into Klopp’s starting lineup.
Suitability rating: 7
The best fit for Liverpool
Assessing those currently and regularly linked with the Reds, there is one standout in terms of likelihood and suitability: Werner.
His age, the fee required, his consistent output in the German top flight and his recent acknowledgment that he is not yet at the level to demand a starting place in a side like Liverpool makes a summer deal a no-brainer.
It would disrupt the balance of the squad significantly less than signing either Sancho or Mbappe—despite their clear quality—while providing a better fit than either Rashica or Havertz.
With both Salah and Mane expected to miss a portion of next season due to the AFCON there is scope for considerable game time as the campaign wears on; his situation could be comparable to Fabinho‘s in 2018.
Eventually, he would likely settle into a first-choice role, and rightly so given his ability and potential; Werner is, convincingly, the best option for Liverpool.