Liverpool are expected to sign a new forward this summer, and while big names will flood the rumour mill, there are a number of other options Jurgen Klopp can consider.
If this campaign has taught the Reds anything, it’s that they cannot afford to get caught short again.
Having left themselves thin on numbers at centre-back, a remarkable series of events left Klopp scrabbling for starters at the back, but there is every chance the problem occurs elsewhere in the future.
Crisis or no crisis, though, Liverpool will need to sign another forward ahead of 2021/22, with Roberto Firmino struggling for form and both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane due to head to the Africa Cup of Nations mid-season.
Diogo Jota stands as the blueprint, with The Athletic‘s Simon Hughes claiming that Klopp “has prioritised a new forward ahead of other positions to supplement the team’s attacking options, rather than replace the existing ones.”
And while Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe and, to a lesser extent, Jadon Sancho will dominate the headlines in the weeks to come, Liverpool are likely looking at targets with a lower profile.
So who could the Reds consider as they look to refresh their attack this summer?
Positions: RW, LW
It was claimed in February that Raphinha was “top of the shortlist” for Liverpool as they consider alternatives for their attack, and it would be no surprise if that was the case.
Having joined from Rennes last summer, the Brazilian has grown in stature at Leeds, firmly establishing himself as a go-to starter for Marcelo Bielsa, adjusting quickly to his high-intensity attacking system.
At 24, and capable of operating on either wing, Raphinha has the potential to develop into a top-level forward, and he is showing that as he continues to improve in the Premier League.
He uses his pace and dexterity to operate as a crucial outlet on the right, typically closer to the touchline than the middle, looking to push the ball up the pitch in possession whenever possible.
Raphinha has a penchant for the flashy but the substance to back it up too, having scored six and assisted five goals in 24 games in the top flight so far, while in his last seven appearances he has created 24 chances, or an average of 3.43 per 90.
As a predominantly right-sided, but left-footed, winger, Raphinha could serve as the ideal alternative to Salah, with scope to eventually replace the Egyptian in the future.
Ismaila Sarr (Watford)
Positions: RW, LW, CF
Prior to the signing of Jota, it seemed Liverpool were set to bring in Sarr from Watford, with an enquiry made in September, only for the Hornets to price their No. 23 out of a move.
Sarr’s agent even claimed last month that a deal had been agreed in the January transfer window, only for the Reds to pull out as they “could not put €40 million on the table,” though this is dubious to say the least.
The 23-year-old remains in the Championship for now, then, and has excelled as an integral part of the Watford side, scoring nine and assisting nine in 34 appearances so far this season.
It has been a campaign of maturation for the Senegal international, which may benefit him as he almost certainly seeks a move away from Vicarage Road in the summer.
If he is available, Liverpool are likely to revive their interest in Sarr, with his pace, power and cutting edge in the final third making him a viable option to rotate with the likes of Salah, Jota, Mane and even Firmino up front.
Last summer, the player even admitted “everyone would love to play” for Liverpool, so it stands to reason that the versatile forward would be open to moving to Anfield a year on.
Harvey Barnes (Leicester)
Positions: LW, AM
“Barnes is probably one of the biggest talents. I’m not sure if he’s already as much respected or appreciated as he should be,” Klopp told reporters prior to Liverpool’s trip to Leicester last month.
“He’s an unbelievable player, to be honest, and a proper Leicester product.”
High praise from the manager, then, and Barnes backed that up with a scintillating display as the Foxes won 3-1 at the King Power, scoring the third goal as he shifted roles to cut apart the Reds’ defence.
The England international has now netted 13 times in 35 games this season, along with four assists, and it makes sense, therefore, that Leicester are looking to tie him to a new contract.
If Liverpool could turn his attention to Anfield, however, Barnes would be an excellent addition to Klopp’s squad, able to fulfil a number of roles in the manager’s system.
Most comfortable on the left, he could also be an option in the No. 8 role in midfield, while his experience on the right and even as a centre-forward makes the 23-year-old a valuable prospect.
Jonthan David (Lille)
Positions: CF, AM
Along with Sarr and Jota, David is reported to have been on Liverpool’s three-man shortlist as they looked to bolster their attack last summer, and despite joining Lille from Gent in August, it is likely he remains a long-term target.
In fact, his ability to step up to a higher standard in France, scoring nine and assisting four in 41 games so far, could convince the Reds’ recruitment staff that he is now a more viable candidate.
That he is primarily a centre-forward is particularly interesting, with there being the need for a clear succession plan up front as Firmino toils to recapture his best form.
But the New York-born Canada international is also able to fill in as a No. 10 and on either flank, which would fit Liverpool’s profile in terms of versatility.
Like Raphinha, that David moved clubs only last summer could make negotiations more difficult, but major financial issues at Lille – not aided by the collapse of Ligue 1’s TV deal and the early cancellation of the 2019/20 season – could work in Liverpool’s favour.
If Lille need to cash in, David could return to the Reds’ radar, and as an incisive, dribble-heavy striker who would “love to play” in the Premier League, he could be a shrewd addition.
Pedro Neto (Wolves)
Positions: LW, RW, CF
Another Wolves winger? Why not.
In the wake of Jota’s departure from Molineux, Neto has stepped up to fill the void left by his countryman in an otherwise largely disappointing season for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.
While largely operating on the left, the 21-year-old has also filled in on the right, up front, as a No. 10 and even – in a 1-0 loss to Stoke in the League Cup – as a central midfielder.
Neto has more often than not impressed, too, with his creativity and end product paired with a relentless work rate and reading of the game that lands him in the 80th percentile for interceptions per 90 among Premier League forwards, according to FBref.
The Portuguese is also in the 94th percentile for progressive carries, with his determination to drive attacks towards goal resulting, so far, in five goals and four assists in 33 appearances this season.
He would likely be more of a project than Jota, who has slotted straight into a first-choice role at Liverpool, but if he can be prised from Wolves, Neto would be an exceptional signing.