Who will win Anfield audition to fill Salah’s shoes?
Confidence remains high that Liverpool will have no need to find a long-term successor to Mohamed Salah any time soon. A new contract for the Egyptian superstar continues to be mooted, with there every reason to believe that fresh terms will be signed.
Sadio Mane is also part of long-term thinking at Anfield, with the Senegalese forward another of those currently on a deal through to 2023. That issue will be addressed at some stage – the sooner the better for those of a Red persuasion.
For now, the two talismanic figures continue to put Liverpool in the hunt for more major honours, with Liverpool priced at 4/1 to win a second Premier League title for those looking to bet on English Premier League markets. Those on Merseyside are, however, painfully aware that a couple of key components are set to be removed from a well-oiled machine in the not too distant future. Contract or no contract, Salah and Mane are about to be taken out of the fold.
That is because the Africa Cup of Nations is set to be staged in Cameroon from January 9, 2022. A tournament that falls mid-season for European clubs is about to deliver an unwelcome selection headache.
Fierce matching awaiting you in the 2021 #TotalEnergiesAFCON! 🤩
Which group are you anticipating its matches the most? 👀 pic.twitter.com/oUJliyDArh
— CAF (@CAF_Online) August 17, 2021
Liverpool do, of course, boast the depth in their squad that will allow any absences to be covered. With injury and suspension to take into account, cover from back to front is always required.
Who will be asked to step into the shoes of Salah and Mane when their attention shifts from domestic to international matters?
Diogo Jota will provide one obvious solution for Klopp, with the Portuguese international already very much part of the thinking when it comes to attacking berths. He could operate on either flank, but will probably be asked to do his best Mane impression down the left. That leaves the right, and Salah’s shoes, up for grabs.
Takumi Minamino has been patiently waiting for his big break. The versatile Japan international has shown glimpses of what he is capable of and continues to catch the eye in sporadic cup outings. Could he be the first in line for an audition on the grandest of stages?
Klopp has said: “Taki is a player of high quality but the problem with Taki, actually, there is no problem. But it’s just the other players in his position are really good and thank God for us that we have had no injuries there.”
🔴 Champions League goals for Liverpool (group stage to final):
⚽️3⃣0⃣ Mohamed Salah
⚽️2⃣1⃣ Sadio Mané
⚽️2⃣1⃣ Steven Gerrard#UCL pic.twitter.com/Ay71MKHuxe
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) November 3, 2021
Another of those that could come into the mix is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has also been feeding off scraps for a while now. He was used as a ‘false nine’ in pre-season and is more at home on the front foot than the back.
He said over the summer: “The way that role is played, it’s almost similar to a No.10, attacking-midfield role because you drop quite deep so in that sense I find it quite natural. I feel like I can run in behind from there as well and get in and around the box, and you get opportunities to shoot and score.”
The final contender would appear to be Divock Origi, a cult hero with a useful knack of delivering when it matters most. The Belgian Champions League winner has seen a move mooted for the January window, but he could just as easily be retained and asked to fill in for illustrious teammates.
Some big decisions are approaching for Klopp, on and off the field, and any success in 2021-22 and beyond could rest on getting them spot on.