How to Spend the Philippe Coutinho Cash: Exploring Liverpool's Transfer Targets
In an ideal world, Liverpool fans will soon be welcoming a new record-signing as the club puts the pain of Philippe Coutinho's exit behind it.
A new face to remodel the "Fab Four" would give new hope for the final stages of the season—yet the chances of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane having a new superstar play-mate seem slim. It's just not manager Jurgen Klopp's style to now go out and reinvest £142 million in one significant signing.
Yes, he has just spent £75 million on defender Virgil van Dijk, and Naby Keita is set to arrive from RB Leipzig in a £57 million deal at the end of the season.
Typically, though, Klopp values a team more than an individual. It's a deep-rooted belief he would rather build a side than buy success—so Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana are likely to help fill the Coutinho void.
I have been speaking to contacts around Liverpool to gauge how else they will move on from losing their Magic Man, and many expect the funds to go towards Klopp's long-term plan.
It means a variety of positions could be strengthened during 2018, so I have been examining which of the Reds' transfer targets are most realistic.
Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund
One of Klopp's ideal scenarios at Liverpool is the signing of the United States' teenage midfield sensation Christian Pulisic—and one day it will happen.
Klopp helped his breakthrough into the Borussia Dortmund first team and has indicated to those he works closely with that he wants to work with him again in the future.
German sources are adamant the 19-year-old is not going to be available in the current transfer window but might be available in the summer—at a huge cost.
Dortmund know they have one of the most exciting prospects in the global game in their ranks, and he will be priced suitably. Insiders believe he would cost close to £100 million when he does eventually move on.
With so much cash now at their disposal, Liverpool have never been better placed to pull off such a deal.
And Klopp would not view his signing as a gamble, given he has been keeping such a close eye on his progress.
Julian Brandt, Bayer Leverkusen
If Liverpool are going to attempt to make an immediate signing, Julian Brandt is one of the few figures who makes sense.
He fits the bill in the sense Liverpool already looked into a £25 million move last summer, only for the player to decide to remain loyal to Bayer Leverkusen.
At 21, he could be sculpted into a playing style that suits Klopp. He could not yet play the deeper role that Coutinho has been able to master, but the fact he can feature in a variation of attacking-midfield roles makes him enticing. Liverpool have monitored him for some time and know what they would be getting.
Many figures in Liverpool believe it would make sense to sign him. One source explained: "If there is one man that they have been able to get into position to sign while the Coutinho saga dragged on, Brandt seems the most obvious candidate."
Thomas Lemar, Monaco
When he failed to complete a move to Arsenal on transfer deadline day in August, it seemed reasonable to assume Thomas Lemar did have his heart set on Liverpool instead.
Yet the chances of him arriving this winter, even if a £90 million offer is put forward, still seem slim.
Word from inside the Lemar camp suggests there are serious concerns about whether this is a good time for him to make such a switch because of the upcoming World Cup.
He already has a battle on his hands to remain in the France side, and he knows competition will be fierce to get a regular slot in the Liverpool starting XI.
Monaco officials have been convinced he would be staying in order to protect his chances of being involved in Russia.
On the flip side, however, Liverpool know his price tag will rocket further if he has a successful World Cup campaign—and other clubs will join them in the battle to sign him.
Word from inside Liverpool is they are not actively pursuing him at this moment.
Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
Riyad Mahrez has won the Premier League and knows the division inside out, but so far there has been plenty of social media noise about Liverpool signing him—and little real-life action.
At the time of writing, the Leicester City man's representatives have not heard from Liverpool.
However, other sources close to the player are convinced he would love an offer to come along, as he would jump at the chance of joining.
His magic from set pieces could go some way to filling the Coutinho void at Anfield, and he seems reasonably well-priced at £50 million.
Arsenal are expected to come in for him if Alexis Sanchez joins Manchester City, so the Reds are running short on time if they are to make a move.
Manuel Lanzini, West Ham United
One of the signings that can become possible in January is that of West Ham United's Manuel Lanzini.
Liverpool have had their eye on him for the past year as he has similar creativity and work ethic to Coutinho.
He is also a set-piece specialist and has the ambition to push himself on to the next level if an opportunity arises.
Sources close to the player say there has not been any contact from Liverpool yet over a potential midseason deal, but they believe the situation could change.
Ramadan Sobhi, Stoke City
He's on the list as a future target, but this seems too soon for Ramadan Sobhi to take such a leap.
He is considered one of the most gifted Egyptian players of all time and would welcome the opportunity to play in the same club side as Salah.
Klopp is understood to have already spoken to Salah about the Stoke City man to get a better idea of his personality and character.
There is a chance he will one day move to Anfield, but first he is going to have to shine bright at Stoke. This season, there are signs he is establishing himself; next year will most likely prove key as to when he gets his next move.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Borussia Dortmund
Daniel Sturridge's days at Liverpool are numbered, and it is unclear how Danny Ings will fit into the side once he returns to form and fitness, so Liverpool's need for another goalscorer is going to become a talking point.
Firmino has established himself as a reliable central figure, and Dominic Solanke is on hand to offer an alternative route to goal, yet a big-name signing would surely boost the side's output even further.
Aubameyang has long been mooted as an option for the Reds and now looks closer than ever before to the Dortmund exit door. But will Liverpool be brave enough to make a move for such a star name?
Contacts around Anfield are sceptical, to say the least.
Jack Butland, Stoke City
Klopp is looking to invest in a new goalkeeper next summer, and Butland is a man Stoke may not be able to hold on to.
Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet seem too much of a risk if Klopp genuinely aims to become a title contender during his time at Liverpool, and names such as Kasper Schmeichel and Jan Oblak have been mentioned as replacements.
However, a standout candidate is Butland. He is largely considered England's best goalkeeper and, at the age of 24, has plenty of time to improve further.
Butland does have huge ambition and sources have indicated Klopp will make a move for him in the summer. It would seem a good use of the Coutinho cash to tighten up at the other end.