There are two ways to look at the business that Liverpool have just done for Philippe Coutinho. The first is that Liverpool have secured the second highest transfer fee in history for a player who until recently has been inconsistent. The other is that Liverpool have just allowed their best player to leave the club.
How to Replace Philippe Coutinho (3/3) – Versatile Players
Whichever is correct, the Reds now have £142m to go shopping with. But, just like going shopping in the sales in January, what is available is often not worth having.
Yet, there are some players out there. The biggest problem Liverpool have is replacing Coutinho is his ability to play so many different positions. He is a world-class wide forward or attacking midfielder.
Liverpool have three options when deciding on how to replace Coutinho.
3. They bring in a similar versatile attacking player
If Liverpool decide to invest the 140m from Coutinho on a like for like replacement, they will have the hardest job. Finding someone as positionally flexible as Coutinho is difficult as they are not readily available. Yet of the few suitable players here are the best three options.
Thomas Lemar – Monaco
Liverpool’s interest in Thomas Lemar has been well publicised in recent weeks. Liverpool moved for the French international in the summer but were unable to agree on a deal before the window was closed.
Lemar is able to bring a lot of the elements that Coutinho did to the Liverpool side. He is a more natural wide player and has far more pace than Coutinho. Yet, as Coutinho, he has a good work ethic and is comfortable playing in a midfield role. Lemar’s league form hasn’t had the same output as last season where he registered nine goals and ten assists in the league. However, he has often played from a deeper left role and this has affected his goals and assists.
Monaco have made their position on letting Lemar go clear. They have stated that they have no desire to sell. However, money can persuade. Yet, after selling key players like Benjamin Mendy and Tiémoué Bakayoko Monaco are in no need of money. It would take a huge offer to bring them to the table.
If Liverpool are prepared to wait, the fee will most likely be a more reasonable amount. Liverpool need to decide if they’re willing to splash the majority of the Coutinho fee on getting Lemar now.
Julian Draxler – PSG
Draxler is about as similar an option to Coutinho as Liverpool could get. He is roughly the same age, coming towards his peak. He has the technique and acceleration to play as a wide forward and the discipline and work rate to drop into the midfield. Questions remain over his ability to contribute goals. However, with a front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohammed Salah, scoring goals isn’t Liverpool’s biggest concern.
Draxler would be expected to be interested in a move to Liverpool. He is competing for a place in one of the best international sides in the world, Germany. To book his seat on the plane to Russia, he needs to be playing. Liverpool would offer him the regular first-team football to guarantee his spot.
Of the three players from PSG on the three lists, Draxler is the one they will be reluctant to lose. However, with a significant enough offer and a lack of suitors for their other players, Liverpool may be able to force through a move. Klopp was known to like Draxler and actively pursued him prior to his move to PSG. However, any deal would be a lengthy process and Liverpool may be unwilling to risk going after Draxler and ending up with nothing.
Suso – AC Milan
Suso is a name well known to most Liverpool fans. He was for a long time the great hope of the Liverpool academy. However, with Sterling also breaking through, there wasn’t space for two young players to get game time.
Manchester United went back for Paul Pogba, the one that got away, and Liverpool could do the same for Suso. The still only 24-year-old has proved his worth in the AC Milan side. He is now producing regularly game-changing performances. This has brought him to the attention of the Spanish national team.
Very much in the Coutinho mould, Suso often plays out wide, cutting in to make a pass or shoot. Like Coutinho, he is not blessed with great pace. However, he has a similar vision for the game that the departing Brazilian has.
The fact that Suso speaks English, knows the city and several players would allow him to fit straight into the team.
Unlike the other two players on this list, he could play Champions League football for Liverpool this season. And unlike the other two who would be hard to bring in, Suso has a buyout clause. At €50m it is steep, yet would leave a large chunk of the Coutinho money for further reinforcements. Liverpool would have to convince Suso to make the move back to Anfield. With Milan struggling and Champions League football, Liverpool would be confident they could do it. With the favourable Champions League draw against Porto, a move to Anfield would potentially give Suso the platform to force his way into the Spanish national teams’ World Cup squad.