Liverpool Transfers: 5 Possible Replacements for Stewart Downing and Joe Cole

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2012

Liverpool Transfers: 5 Possible Replacements for Stewart Downing and Joe Cole

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    It's time to put Stewart Downing and Joe Cole out of their Liverpool miseries.

    Both arrived with much fanfare, only to fail horribly to live up to expectations.

    It was Cole who arrived first, coming in July 2010 on a free transfer. Supporters might argue who was the worst of the players Liverpool signed that summer. It's a toss-up between Cole, Christian Poulsen, Milan Jovanovic and Paul Konchesky.

    Downing was also part of a horrible summer of signings. Liverpool paid £20 million for the winger in addition to £16 million for Jordan Henderson and £9 million for Charlie Adam.

    Now it appears their time at Anfield may be drawing to a close.

    The Daily Mirror reported that Queens Park Rangers may want to sign Cole, reuniting him with former manager Harry Redknapp.

    Downing has been included in the squad over the past few weeks, clearly playing to keep his spot at Liverpool. The BBC reported that the club has told the winger it will be open to any possible transfer in January.

    Should the two players leave, here's five players Liverpool could use to replace the production it will be losing:

Oussama Assaidi

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    It's an overused cliche that a player already at a club can almost be a new signing by virtue of being featured in the lineup more often.

    Oussama Assaidi arrived at Anfield in the summer from sc Heerenveen. He was part of a great attacking triad that included Bas Dost and Luciano Narsingh.

    Assaidi flew under the radar with the additions of Fabio Borini and Joe Allen. The lack of attention has allowed him to become used to English football, while avoiding supporters arguing that he is a poor signing.

    While he has featured in the Europa League, the winger has only managed to make three appearances in the Premier League, all of which came from the bench. Assaidi has picked up some small injuries, thus limiting his opportunity to make an impact in the side.

    He showed against Anzhi in the Europa League some of the skills he possesses. Downing's exit could open the door for Assaidi to earn more playing time.

    The Moroccan isn't the kind of winger who's going to provide tons of assists, but he could help to ease some of the scoring burden off Luis Suarez.

Tom Ince, Blackpool

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    It appeared that the deal between Liverpool and Blackpool for Tom Ince was all but locked up. However, Blackpool manager Michael Appleton has said that the Reds need to increase their offer in order to secure the signing of the young winger (via The Independent).

    You can see why Liverpool would want to make a move for Ince. The former academy player is at his best on the left wing, the position that Downing has played in for the majority of his time with the club.

    The Reds are rightfully being criticized for letting Ince go for a meager sum, only to try and pay a much higher fee to bring him back 18 months later. Regardless, he is worth the hassle.

    Ince has been in scintillating form this year. In 22 Championship matches, Ince has recorded 13 goals and 10 assists.

    The transition for him would be much less severe considering the three years he spent at Anfield as a youth player.

Lewis Holtby, Schalke

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    This move could be subject to change. As of right now, though, Lewis Holtby has refused to sign a new contract with Schalke (via As a result, Holtby will be available for free in the summer.

    Clubs could wait another six months and sign the German midfielder for nothing. But there could be some value in signing him now for a reduced fee and not having to compete with a multitude of clubs in the summer.

    Of course, any move would be killed should Holtby actually sign a long-term contract with the Bundesliga club.

    The 22-year-old can sometimes be overshadowed by the incredible amount of talented midfielders in the German national team. Regardless, Holtby is one of the best young attacking midfielders in the world.

    He's competent with both feet and can drop into a more central position in the midfield. With the decline of Steven Gerrard, Liverpool could use a player to sit in behind the striker.

Cristian Tello, Barcelona

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    Here is one player who has already signed a long-term contract with his club. Barcelona winger Cristian Tello's previous contract was set to expire in the upcoming summer. Unlike Holtby, Tello has signed a contract to keep him in the Nou Camp until June 2016 (via ESPN FC).

    With his expiring contract, many clubs across Europe were looking to sign the winger at a very reduced fee. That's not going to happen now.

    But any possible move for Tello is not completely dead. He has a €10 million release clause in his new contract.

    Despite the deal, it's not as if his future is completely secured. Barcelona has such a wealth of young attackers that some players will look for first-team football elsewhere. Tello could be one of them.

    Making a move in January is almost certainly out of the question, but the winger can still be a long-term target for Liverpool.

Dries Mertens, PSV Eindhoven

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    Much of the speculation regarding Dries Mertens and Liverpool has gone a bit quiet. In October, reported that the PSV winger was a possible target for the Reds in January.

    Mertens has had a groin strain that's kept him out for a few weeks. It's not a serious injury, so he should be returning to the pitch very soon.

    He is in the same mold as Assaidi in that he doesn't provide much in terms of assists. The Belgian is a fantastic goalscorer, though.

    In 12 Eredivisie games this season, Mertens has scored seven goals. Last year he scored 20 in 23 league matches.

    Having played in Holland since 2006, there's not much more for Mertens to accomplish in the Eredivisie. It's only a matter of time before he makes the jump to a higher-profile league.