Injury to Steven Gerrard wasn't the most welcome of early Christmas presents Brendan Rodgers would have wished to receive—but it could hasten the need to find the captain's long-term replacement.
According to Neil Ashton in The Daily Mail, Rodgers was in Germany to watch Schalke's Julian Draxler in Champions League action against Basle on Wednesday night.
Although Steven Gerrard is having an excellent season in the heart of the Liverpool midfield, Rodgers says he sees Gerrard, now 33, dropping into defence as he gets older, with Draxler a potential successor to the England captain.
Gerrard will be 34 by the time he leads England out in Brazil next summer. When he returns to pre-season training at Liverpool, you'd expect his retirement from internationals to be announced. Along with that, his club could also be looking to rely upon him less.
Over these coming games, we're going to witness how Rodgers' Reds side functions without Gerrard. Will the midfield prove more mobile? Will the loss of Gerrard's impressive and expansive passing make it difficult to break teams down?
Undoubtedly, Liverpool will miss Gerrard's delivery from set pieces, which has seen a marked improvement this season—a key reason he is currently joint with Mesut Ozil atop the assists chart in the Premier League with six.
With Luis Suarez perfecting his free-kick taking and Gerrard's delivery on set pieces among the best—if not the best—in the League, Liverpool have scored 32 percent of goals from set pieces, via WhoScored.
The highly rated German youngster is described by world football blog Back Page Football as a "typical modern day attacking midfielder."
At 6’2″, he is powerfully built and very quick for such a big man, he is a full back’s nightmare. The Schalke 04 man has an eye for a goal and his movement off the ball is phenomenal. He can score a goal and has great feet.
Sound a bit like a young Steven Gerrard?
Draxler's height would also be a welcome addition to a Liverpool midfield of the future. Technical, diminutive players like Joe Allen are perfect for Rodgers' side, but in the Premier League, it's also nice to have some strength and height.
Draxler also fits the profile of the type of player Liverpool and Fenway Sports Group wish to sign, with his potential for improvement clear to see. He is a player who could become a top European talent.
Could Rodgers persuade the player of his long-term vision? Of how he could fit into Liverpool's plans and grow with the team to become an integral part of the new-look Reds as they aim to regain their place among Europe's elite?