The knee injury to Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva has left Liverpool with a void to fill. The 27-year-old was initially expected to be out for around two months, but a more recent prognosis revealed he may be back sooner than expected, as reported by Liam Prenderville of The Daily Mirror.
But the club are entering a crucial part of the season in their bid to bring Champions League football back to Anfield.
And Reds boss Brendan Rodgers is taking no chances on a depleted squad to complete his mission. Press reports have linked him with 23-year-old Spartak Moscow midfielder Romulo, as reported five days ago by The Metro.
The Brazil international is not a like-for-like replacement for Lucas. Strong in the tackle, willing to get forward and capable of unleashing a powerful shot, he could arguably bring more to the table offensively and creatively than his compatriot.
But Romulo's own knee problems leave question marks. Two operations in nine months on his right knee have left huge doubts as to whether he will be able to recover, not only physically but emotionally, to play football at a top level again.
Romulo's adaptation to European football was fast. He managed a goal on his Champions League debut against Barcelona as the Russians narrowly lost 3-2 at Camp Nou.
His career was on a constant upward trajectory until rupturing knee ligaments in September in a Russian league match against Rostov. He hasn't stepped back onto a football pitch since.
A player of unquestionable talent, for the sums being mentioned Rodgers and Liverpool would be taking a huge gamble. Brazilian press is naming the figure at £7 million, around US$11 million, as reported by Globo Esporte.
Last June, Romulo underwent a second operation the following month after a recurrence of the problem.
As a result he missed out on the Confederations Cup squad, the starting point in the Luiz Felipe Scolari revolution.
Wolfsburg's Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho of Tottenham formed an excellent understanding during the World Cup dress rehearsal, and Romulo, one of Brazil's most promising players for the future, looks likely to miss out on this summer's festival.
Speaking to Globo Esporte following his second operation, Romulo said of his 2014 World Cup chances: “I don't know. The process of recovery and rehabilitation takes a long time.
“The problem is not only playing again, but regaining confidence. It's difficult.”
His injury came at a time when he was beginning to make a name for himself on the international stage, after a string of promising displays in the yellow of Brazil.
Part of the Selecao's 2012 Olympic squad, Romulo played every game as Mano Menezes' men reached the final, only to lose 2-1 to Mexico.
A favourite of Scolari's predecessor Menezes, the midfielder made 15 appearances for the national team when the Corinthians boss was in charge, scoring two goals.
Alongside Sandro, he formed the axis of the Brazilian formation in the middle of the park. They played together for the first time in May 2012, in 3-1 and 4-1 wins over Denmark and the United States respectively.
He played excellently in both friendlies, cementing his place in the Olympic team and seemingly forging a path towards this year's World Cup.
Alongside the Tottenham enforcer, Romulo played in the position Brazilians call “segundo volante”, or literally “second steering wheel.”
That means that whilst Sandro would sit and break up attacks, Romulo would have the freedom to burst forward and aid the attack when the opportunity arose, as well as building attacks from the back.
But he has been the victim of a cruel twist of fate. Since Felipao took over the reins, Romulo has spent the entirety on the treatment table.
After close to 18 months out, it is impossible to foretell what kind of impact he could have on Liverpool's Champions League prospects.
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