Liverpool’s search for the next Mo Salah – and what club rejecting rumours tells us

Liverpool have already been linked with a host of wingers ahead of the transfer window, and their approach to rumours tells us a lot about the search for Mohamed Salah‘s successor.

As has been the case for several purported targets already this summer, it did not take long for links to Newcastle‘s Yankuba Minteh to be quashed by trusted Liverpool sources.

Clearly, the Reds have no interest in seeing their name deployed for the benefit of agents in the coming window, or as a tool to aid their rivals in terms of their PSR concerns.

But while reports knocking down exciting links with players can sometimes feel like they are sucking the fun out of the transfer window, they can also offer small insights into what Liverpool actually plan to do.

And that is particularly true in the case of Minteh, who felt like the 100th left-footed right winger to have been linked with a move to Anfield in recent months.

Who hasn’t been ruled out

EINDHOVEN, THE NETHERLANDS - Tuesday, December 12, 2023: PSV Eindhoven's Johan Bakayoko during the UEFA Champions League Group B game between PSV Eindhoven and Arsenal FC at the Philips Stadion. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

PSV Eindhoven starlet Johan Bakayoko is the most prominent example of this phenomenon and, crucially, there has been no attempt to dismiss those links yet.

The same goes for Brentford‘s Bryan Mbeumo, who has all the hallmarks of a Michael Edwards-era signing in the mould of Diogo Jota.

And both were joined on the alleged shortlist by Dario Osorio, who has just enjoyed a fantastic debut season with Midtjylland coming off the right wing onto – you guessed it – his left foot.

While not every rumour will have substance to it, it feels telling that links with such a similar profile of attacker have continued to appear of late.

Why interest leaks

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 5, 2024: Liverpool's substitute Darwin Núñez (L) replaces Luis Díaz during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 4-2. (Photo by Ryan Brown/Propaganda)

If this is a market that Liverpool are monitoring, then they are required to make tentative contact with agents to assess the conditions of multiple deals before making any decisions.

And it is at this point that information begins to leak out, offering supporters a clue as to what positions the club’s recruitment staff are looking to strengthen.

In truth, the signs that a right winger might be targeted were probably there in the slightly unbalanced squad Arne Slot will inherit this summer.

For starters, the Dutchman has an embarrassment of riches on the left-hand side, with Luis Diaz, Cody Gakpo, Jota and even Darwin Nunez all capable of playing out there.

That would still be true even if either Barcelona or Paris Saint-Germain firmed up their interest in Diaz, though that has yet to happen.

The next Mo Salah

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 31, 2024: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

By contrast, options on the right wing are relatively sparse, a fact that owes much to Salah having been a virtual ever-present since his arrival in the summer of 2017.

In the past, leaving that position solely to the Egyptian made sense given his remarkable availability record and world-class performances.

However, with question marks over his future having arisen of late, it would be wise for Liverpool to start the future-proofing process now.

READ: 25 goals, 14 assists…and 12 months left – What awaits Mohamed Salah?

There may be zero chance of Salah departing this summer, but negotiations over a new contract with a player who earns £350,000 a week and who will not want a pay cut aren’t going to be straightforward.

What’s more, there were small signs of decline during the latter part of last season that underlined why the Reds are usually so wary of handing out deals to players on the wrong side of 30.

As such, there is an argument that, even should an agreement over fresh terms be found in the coming months, an addition on the right wing is a necessity this summer.

What should we expect?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 7, 2024: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (R) celebrates with team-mate Harvey Elliott after scoring his side's second goal, from a penalty kick to level the score at 2-2, during the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Previously, the role of backup to Salah has fallen to Harvey Elliott, but his lack of electric pace and growing influence from a central position make a strong case to end that experiment.

Instead, the ideal candidate for that job would be a youngster who profiles similarly to Liverpool’s No. 11, and who is capable of replacing him in the long term.

Of course, with the start of the Reds’ summer having been defined by a never-ending flurry of links to such a player, working out exactly who might be targeted is not easy at this early stage.

But the most encouraging aspect of these endless rumours is that they suggest the club have recognised a need most fans would have had down as a priority for the coming window.