There is no need for Jurgen Klopp to go fishing in the January transfer window for a replacement for Sadio Mane.
The Senegalese is expected to join his national side for the Africa Cup of Nations and will miss a number of Premier League fixtures at the start of the new year. Mane will be a huge loss to Klopp’s side because he has already scored six league goals this season, as well as notching up five assists and has developed a terrific partnership with Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino in the Reds attacking front-line. Since joining from Southampton for £35 million in the summer, Mane has certainly lived up to his price-tag and is one of the best signings in the league so far. Replacing him will be tough, but Klopp already has the players in his squad to step-in and do well for Liverpool in his absence so there is no need to splash the cash in January.
Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge and Sheyi Ojo should all play a major role in the squad for the start of 2017. All three have demonstrated their abilities and have plenty of attacking prowess to offer in Mane’s absence. Sturridge has found himself on the fringes for the majority of the season so far and since Klopp arrived in October 2015, he has made just 21 starts out of a possible 67 games. It’s incredible that a player of his ability can make so few starts in a team facing a battle each year to qualify for the Champions League but it speaks volumes about the squad Klopp has overseen in the last 13 months. Sturridge, alongside Luis Suarez, was the star of the 2013-14 squad which came so close to winning the Premier League title under Brenda Rodgers but injuries have hampered what could have been a sensational career for the striker. It seems he has struggled to regain top form, or to be given a lengthy period to prove his worth but it’s no surprise given Firmino’s success under Klopp.
The Brazilian has been sensational as a centre-forward for Liverpool in the last year and it’s unlikely he will be dropped from the side any time soon. However, Sturridge’s opportunity could arrive in January when Mane inevitably leaves on international duty. Firmino, who can play in any position across the attacking line, can move out wide, opposite his compatriot Coutinho, making way for the England international to come in as Liverpool’s number nine. It would mean Liverpool still possess plenty of goal-scoring prowess – something Sturridge has always been able to show despite the fact he is still searching for his first league goal this season.
If Sturridge was brought into the side, it could mean Firmino’s position as a striker is compromise and given his success so far this season, that may not be something Klopp wishes to do. Another option which would prevent Firmino haven’t to move out wide, would be to see a straight swap between Mane and either Origi or Ojo. The two youngsters are in very different stages of their careers but are highly valued by Klopp and it would be no surprise if he lauded responsibility on one, or both of their shoulders.
Ojo’s rehabilitation was complete just last week, as the 19-year-old suffered three months on the sidelines this season after picking up a back fracture during Liverpool’s friendly defeat against Roma in August. The exciting winger was a popular feature during the Reds’ pre-season campaign and expected to make a real break-through in the first team squad this season prior to his injury. He has already notched up 11 appearances under Klopp, after he was recalled from his loan spell at Wolves in January and impressed in each game. He has bags of pace and isn’t afraid to take on defenders – both are traits which have made Mane standout already this season. Klopp lacks hard workers too and the youngster is happy to put in a shift on the pitch. It’s likely the youngster will be given more opportunities to showcase what he can do and it would be no surprise to see him mature throughout the campaign.
The prospect of an academy star thriving is exciting for Liverpool fans but as well as Ojo, they have already witnessed a young star in the squad. Origi, who arrived to the club in 2014 for £10 million is already considered a key member of the first team squad, though he has made just a handful of substitute appearances this season. The 21-year-old Belgian international played a major role during Klopp’s first season as Liverpool went all the way to the finals of the Europa League and the League Cup. He featured in the final against Seville, scored a goal in each leg of the quarter-final victory against Borussia Dortmund and made 33 appearances in total throughout the 2016-17 campaign but has had to bide his time patiently this season after the bright start Mane, Coutinho and Firmino have made. Origi will be keen to show what he can do and as an already proven attacker in the squad, it would be no surprise to see him replace Mane in the first team squad.