Kudus, Olise, Gruda, Osorio: Assessing Liverpool's options for a Mo Salah heir

Now is the time for Liverpool to bring in the heir to Mohamed Salah. The three-time Golden Boot winner turns 32 this week and is into the final year of his contract.

Even if he puts pen to paper on a new deal and prolongs his stay on Merseyside, the club would be foolish not to look to futureproof their forward line during this transfer window.

Salah finished as the club’s top scorer in the Premier League last season (18) and claimed the most assists for the Reds in the English top-flight (10). These numbers are exceptional when you consider he missed two months of football for Liverpool as a result of his first real injury.

However, upon his return, he didn’t quite look the same player and there’s no escaping that. This could simply be a case of him being a little rusty following the stint on the sidelines. Alternatively, it could be the first sign that, having played a lot of football over the years, the minutes in those legs have finally caught up with him.

The point is we don’t yet know, so prematurely writing off the Liverpool No.11 would be foolish. With that in mind, exploring ways to possibly extend his stay with the club is the smart play here. Bringing in someone to potentially ease the burden on Salah could benefit both the player and the club.

If reports are accurate, that does appear to be the club’s plan.

The Reds have been linked with a host of right-wingers already. But which of those could be the best long-term successor? Here’s a look at some of the possibilities.

Michael Olise - Crystal Palace

Michael Olise

Michael Olise

First up, we have Michael Olise. 

Last season, the Crystal Palace attacker finished with 10 goals and six assists across just 1,277 minutes in the Premier League. In the two campaigns prior to that, the former Reading man had a combined 20 goal involvements. To say he levelled up would be a bit of an understatement.

He was targeted by Manchester City and Chelsea last summer but signed an improved deal with the Eagles. His contract at Selhurst Park runs until 2027. The 22-year-old, rumoured to also be on Manchester United’s shopping list, is reportedly available for £60 million.

Olise’s underlying numbers likely tick a number of boxes for the Reds. He has a Non-Penalty Expected Goals per 90 average of 0.33 and an Expected Assists per 90 average of 0.41. He’s a goal threat and a creator for Palace, and everything seems fairly sustainable.

Certain parts of his game could be scaled in a better side but he would definitely need to improve his shot selection. He’s fairly wasteful right now considering he’s averaging close to four efforts per 90.

The Frenchman knows the Premier League and is fully acclimatised to the rigours of the English top-flight, so, on paper at least, the adaption period would be fairly limited.

There are some red flags though. He’s partial to the odd hamstring injury or two. He missed over 20 games for the Eagles last season through injury and he’s yet to post a 3,000-minute Premier League campaign for Palace. Is he robust enough for the Reds?

Another thing to take into account when analysing Olise’s suitability is his current salary. Reports suggest he’s taking home over £100,000-per-week with Crystal Palace. Any big money move would see him expect a significant pay rise.

Can Liverpool justify putting him on such a salary? Can the Reds match what he is likely going to be offered elsewhere? Perhaps more importantly, should they even want to match it?

Mohammed Kudus - West Ham

Mohammed Kudus Lucas Paqueta West Ham

Mohammed Kudus Lucas Paqueta West Ham

Next on list is Mohammed Kudus.

The 23-year-old moved to West Ham United last summer in a deal believed to be worth £38m. He seemingly rejected a move to Brighton because the Seagulls refused to put a release clause in his contract. David Ornstein has confirmed one does exist in his current contract though nobody knows when it is active and what the fee is.

Liverpool were reportedly keeping tabs on Kudus during his time with Ajax. For whatever reason, a move never materialised despite the Reds raiding the Eredivisie for Cody Gakpo.

Kudus impressed in his debut season with the Hammers but his underlying numbers weren’t that great. The £50m-rated forward, who has a long-term deal with the club until 2028, had an xG per 90 average of just 0.23.

This would no doubt increase in a better team, but there are no guarantees he could post Salah-esque numbers. Yet the club would likely be spending huge money bringing him to Anfield. The sort of money you should only usually spend on as close to a guarantee as possible.

It would feel very high risk, especially when there are others out there with similar output for half the price.

Brajan Gruda - Mainz

Brajan Gruda, Mainz 05

Foto : Jubel nach dem Schlußpfiff bei den Spielern aus Mainz , hier feiert Brajan GRUDA Fussball 1. Bundesliga am Sa 18.05.2024 VfL Wolfsburg - Mainz 1 - 3 *** Photo Cheering after the final whistle by the players from Mainz , here Brajan GRUDA celebrates Soccer 1 Bundesliga on Sat 18 05 2024 VfL Wolfsburg Mainz 1 3

We now have a bit of a wild card in Brajan Gruda.

SportBild claim the Reds are keeping tabs on the Germany Under-21 international. The 20-year-old caught the eye for Mainz in the Bundesliga last season and Sepp van den Berg could be used as leverage to get a favourable deal for the £17m-rated forward.

Gruda doesn’t have the largest of sample sizes, racking up a little over 1,600 minutes across his 19 starts for Mainz last term. But his numbers are encouraging.

He’s not yet developed a goal threat, which usually comes with experience, but he is an exceptional ball-carrier. He was in the 90th percentile for progressive carries and 98th percentile for successful take-ons when compared to wingers in the top five leagues.

He’s raw, aggressive and fearless. He could be shaped into the perfect Arne Slot attacker while also being someone who could play alongside Salah as well as in place of him.

Dario Osorio - Midtjylland

FC Nordsjaelland v FC Midtjylland, 3F Superliga football, Farum, Denmark Farum, Denmark. 20th, May 2024. Dario Osorio 11 of FC Midtjylland seen during the 3F Superliga match between FC Nordsjaelland and FC Midtjylland at Right to Dream Park in Farum. Farum Denmark PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxDENxNORxFINxBEL Copyright: xGonzalesxPhoto/DejanxObretkovicx

Another player who could fall into this category is Dario Osorio.

The 20-year-old is currently turning out of FC Midtjylland. He impressed during his debut season in Europe and he’s now being linked with an £8million move away, despite having a deal with the Danish side until 2028.

Like Gruda, Osorio hasn’t yet mastered the art of being in the right place at the right time to become a sustainable goal threat, but his xG per 90 average of 0.22 is something to build on.

He’s a ball carrier who is quick, dynamic and aggressive. The 20-year-old is deceptively tall for a wide player too, coming in at 6ft. He could be the perfect foil for Salah in this Liverpool team on the right flank.

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