Liverpool might need to replace Roberto Firmino when his contract expires in 2023. Jürgen Klopp might already have the perfect successor within his squad.
Roberto Firmino has enjoyed a good start to this season. By all estimations, nine goals and four assists before the domestic calendar was disrupted by the World Cup has exceeded expectations.
But that should not stop Liverpool from making a ruthless decision with the Brazilian’s contract expiring at the end of the season — too often, they have waited too long to move players on and suffered the consequences as a result.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, for example, is one of those. He will leave in 2023, a year or two after he should have been moved on. Naby Keïta is another, potentially, though his ceiling is far higher and that makes a little more sense to have kept him after a good season last year in which he stayed fit.
With Firmino, though, Liverpool need to realise that the time is right to move him on and find a replacement. A few weeks into the start of next season, he will turn 32. Having spent most of last season injured, it would be a risk to retain him.
The goalscoring that he has shown at the start of this season is unlikely to be sustainable long term — never before in his career has he been so clinical — and his physical capabilities have already started to wane a little, with his running not so intense any more and his pressing significantly less impactful.
So, where could the solution lie? Well, given Liverpool are going to have to spend a lot on their midfield in 2023, spending a lot on their attack too might be a stretch. But the ideal fix could lie in-house.
In Harvey Elliott, Liverpool have an elite playmaker who has all the traits to play the false nine role. He is also a player that doesn’t quite yet perfectly fit into their midfield or attack in a 4-3-3 system, where he is more attacking than a typical Jürgen Klopp midfielder and not quick enough to be a Mohamed Salah-lite on the right wing.
The hard-working, creative and intelligent 19-year-old, though, could be perfect to play through the centre of the pitch in that role when Liverpool need him to, having played most his career as a number 10. Elliott can press expertly and is a highly-effective creator through passing and dribbling, making him a duel threat with on and off the ball playmaking.
When Darwin Núñez is available to play centrally — probably most of the time when Luis Díaz and Diogo Jota are fit and will take the left-wing role — Elliott could play his other roles, as a number eight or wherever he is needed across the pitch.
But if Firmino moves on, Liverpool could have a player capable of playing a similar role to what he does without having to try and attempt the near-impossible task of finding someone similar in the transfer market.