Mo Salah exit fears prompt Liverpool sources to pick five players capable of replacing Anfield icon

Tottenham forwards Dejan Kulusevski and Richarlison

Tottenham forwards Dejan Kulusevski and Richarlison

Reports that Mohamed Salah could still depart Liverpool in 2024 has prompted three journalists to name the only five players in world football, with Arsenal and Tottenham stars among them, capable of stepping into the Egyptian’s considerably-sizeable shoes at Anfield.

Salah has been the subject of an intense push from Al-Ittihad over the past few weeks to bring the Egyptian star to Saudi Arabia. Backed by what appears to be an unlimited pool of cash, the Saudis were prepared to pay Liverpool up to £215m to get the deal done. Added to the world-record fee they were willing to pay, they were also ready to offer Salah a financial package worth an astonishing £2.5m per week.

Jurgen Klopp, however, was determined to stand firm and made his feelings on a potential sale crystal clear. And the German was ultimately proved right as his claim that Salah was entirely focused on Liverpool saw the Saudi transfer window slam shut without a deal being done.

Nonetheless, the threat from Al-Ittihad still lingers for Liverpool. And while Klopp and Co won the battle, they most certainly have not won the war. To that end, and with Salah’s current contract having just a year to run come next June, it’s now suggested his sale by Liverpool looks a strong possibility come the 2024 summer window.

Truth be told, if Salah does not agree an extension to his deal and if Al-Ittihad come back with a £200m-plus bid, it seems perfectly feasible that his exit on Merseyside will be greenlighted next summer.

Replacing the 188-goal forward will prove a hugely difficult task for the Reds given his hugely-influential role he has played since a bargain £36.9m move from Roma in 2017.

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Bukayo Saka the obvious choice to replace Mo Salah at Liverpool

However, as Liverpool Echo journalists Ian Doyle, Theo Squires and Lewis Underwood discuss, it is not an impossible one.

And between them, the three writers have named four outstanding candidates Liverpool need to go for.

Starting with Doyle, he suggests Liverpool could remodel their attack if Salah did leave. That said, he would endorse an approach at least for Arsenal’s England star Bukayo Saka.

“No player is irreplaceable,” Doyle said. “The fact of the matter is that, if it weren’t the case, then most clubs would have withered away into nothing due to their inability to continue after the departure of a key player.

“But some are more difficult to replace than others, and Mohamed Salah certainly fits among that group. And it may well be that Liverpool don’t even bother trying.

“Much of the Reds’ attacking play over the past six years has revolved around rightly getting the very best out of Salah. That’s why the Egyptian has been able to score so many goals as a left-footed right-winger and continue to threaten breaking more long-time club records.

“It would be very difficult to replicate that impact with another player. The Reds, then, may well be best served in using Salah’s exit – and it will be sooner rather than later, possibly as early as next summer with Saudi Arabia expected to come back knocking – to reconfigure their forward approach.

“… But armed with what is likely to be a wad of cash with Salah gone, the very least Liverpool can do is pester Arsenal for Bukayo Saka. And if not the England man, then rest assured the recruitment team will have someone else lined up. There always is.

“Kylian Mbappe is the first star that comes to mind!”

Tottenham star Dejan Kulusevski a potential option

Squires agrees that Saka and Mbappe would be the outstanding options, but also throws a surprise name into the equation in Tottenham star Dejan Kulusevski.

“Kylian Mbappe is the first star that comes to mind. He might not be left-footed, so not a natural like-for-like replacement as an inverted forward, but the best player in the world in waiting would be a deadly successor for Liverpool’s Egyptian King,” he said.

“Realistically though, his wages would be beyond the Reds. So instead, I’ll turn to North London. If you can lure Bukayo Saka away from Arsenal, he would be a dream replacement.

“Only 22, the inverted forward continues to thrive for the Gunners, returning more than his fair share of goals and assists. Granted, having helped fire Arsenal back into the Champions League with a Premier League title-challenge last year, it would be hard to convince Arsenal to sell. But any slip-up this year and Liverpool should be knocking at the door.

Dejan Kulusevski, Cristian Romero Tottenham v Southampton

“I also like the look of Dejan Kulusevski at Tottenham. Still only 23, the Sweden international has been great for Spurs over the past 18 months, but isn’t the same goal threat as Salah, Mbappe, or even Saka. Though with Darwin Nunez showing signs of exploding into life as the Reds adapt, you might not even need him to be.”

Underwood, meanwhile, would also endorse a Liverpool move for Saka.

Rodrygo or Kvaratskhelia must be considered

Failing that, he puts forward either Real Madrid star Rodrygo or Napoli’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia as possibles.

“Khvicha Kvaratskhelia represents an interesting option from Serie A champions Napoli,” Underwood begins. “Signed from Russian club Rubin Kazan, Kvaratskhelia proved to a diamond-in-the-rough, with his partnership with Victor Osimhen firing Napoli to their first Serie A title in over 30 years.

“Although the Georgian would undoubtedly be an exciting addition to Klopp’s outfit, the winger was primarily deployed on the left-hand side of Napoli’s attack and as such would have to adjust to the right, where Salah plays. Rodrygo, of Real Madrid, is an elite attacker who has the added bonus of playing on the right for the Spanish giants.

“At only 22 years of age, Rodrygo has time on his side and has already started to show what he is capable, picking up 17 goals and assists in 25 starts in La Liga last season. The winger could be a star in the making.

“However, as has proved a similar theme in this list, the Brazilian sadly does not come close to the numbers put out by Salah, although his age and potential could prove more important to the recruitment team at Liverpool. One thing is for certain: replacing Salah will be no easy feat.”

Salah is contracted to Liverpool until summer 2025 and has 188 goals and 74 assists from his 309 appearances. Little wonder the trio acknowledge that replacing one of the best Liverpool players of a generation will prove a hugely-difficult task.

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