Ever since the announcement a fortnight ago that Steven Gerrard would be leaving Liverpool for the MLS at the end of the current campaign, the question has been asked who will replace him? Clearly this question is huge and one Liverpool must address correctly and to do this Liverpool’s owners John W. Henry and Tom Werner might have to spend some big money. I am going to outline the options Liverpool have when going about this unenviable task in a few months time.
1. The first option Liverpool have is actually to not spend any money at all and simply recruit from within like the good old days of the boot-room. The most likely option that Liverpool already have is vice-captain Jordan Henderson. Henderson has played in many roles throughout his short Liverpool career so far from right wing to right back and versatility is a trait similar to Gerrard. Although, if Henderson is to be the replacement for Gerrard he needs to be played in his preferred position in the centre of midfield where his energy and athleticism was key in Liverpool’s title charge last season. However, whether Henderson has the ability long-term to compensate the loss of Gerrard, remains to be seen and as yet hasn’t been fully reflected. It is a natural progression that Henderson is to take over from Gerrard especially seeing that he will adopt the captaincy at the end of the season. For me the captaincy has arrived at Henderson’s door two years too soon, but it is fair to say this is through no fault of his own as he was the obvious choice for vice-captain.
Emre Can is another midfielder who is key to Liverpool in the coming years. The reds fought off competition from Real Madrid and Bayern Munich to get the young German’s signature in the summer and he is one of the brightest young players in Europe, however, Can is much more defensively minded than Gerrard has ever been so he will not be a like for like replacement. Over the coming years the likes of Jordan Rossiter and Jordan Williams in the Liverpool academy may come to fill the void left by Gerrard but it is too early to say that now. Ultimately, I feel while it is important to utilise the academy and current squad fresh faces are needed.
CAN HENDERSON FILL GERRARD’s BOOTS?
2. Paul Pogba
I understand this is unrealistic, but in recent years Liverpool have showed a lack of ambition in the transfer market when it comes to chasing world class players, and even a failed attempt to purchase someone such as Pogba would give the fans a boost. Saying that Pogba has unfinished businesses in English football after his Manchester United career failed to take off so perhaps a move back to England would appeal to him. Liverpool would have to come in with a bumper offer for the Turin club to even consider it and Pogba has recently signed a new contract at Juventus, but money talks and Liverpool should offer his agent a blank cheque in terms of wages. Either way Pogba has a huge career in the game and would be the ideal replacement for Gerrard in the long-term as well as the short-term although it is unlikely to materialise.
Koke is another young talent who could be at the top for years. The Spanish midfielder has came through the academy at Atletico Madrid to become one of the best young midfielders in Europe. He is another player though who would cost the club a lot of money because he is someone that would attract a lot of interest if he ever did decided to move on from Diego Simeone’s side.However, I can see him leaving the club one day to further his career especially on the international stage as he is one of many great Spanish midfielders available for selection. He may wish to stay with Atletico for a while yet though as he is still only 23 and learning the game. When he does eventually leave I’m sure Atletico will be looking to sell abroad so not to see him go to their rivals Barcelona or cross the Madrid divide to Real. When that time comes Liverpool should do whatever it takes to sign him.
4. Miralem Pjanic
Pjanic is a much more relaistic option to Liverpool and one they could get in the summer. He would be expensive but he could potentially be the perfect replacement for Gerrard. He has been simply sensational for Roma in the centre of midfield and despite his injury concerns he could make an instant impact if he joined Liverpool. His name has already been linked with Liverpool and at the age of 24 he could play at the club for many years. If this is the direction Liverpool choose to go they would have to act fast with many suitors vying for his signature but I think he would be perfect for the club.
5. Ross Barkley
This is another unlikley one but one I would personally prefer beyond all others. Many ex-professionals have already been ridiculed for even suggesting this but for me if it was to happen it would make perfect sense. In many ways he already is very Gerrard like especially in the way he scores goals. His ability to run from box to box causing havoc in the opposition defence is trademark Gerrard. Obviously he is still maturing but he has the potential to be one of the best in the world for both club and country and I would love to see him at Anfield. Not many players cross Merseyside but if he were to do it I am sure he would be a huge success. It would take a huge sum of money to persuade Everton to sell but the fact that Barkley is a boyhood Liverpool fan could work in the clubs favour. If this were to happen it would send shockwaves through football but from a Liverpool point of view he would be the ultimate replacement for Steven Gerrard.
These are simply suggestions and who knows what the club will actually day come the summer but no matter who eventually replaces Gerrard there is no doubt they will have huge pressure on their shoulders to replace one of the greatest midfielders of a generation.
By Luke Vials