The worst nightmare of many Liverpool fans is on the dawn of happening as Luis Suarez moves one step closer to completing a mega transfer deal to Barcelona.
For the past two season's Luis Suarez has showed the quality and the consistency that has seen him join an exclusive club at the elite of football with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Two season's ago, Suarez was nailed on to be win Golden Boot as well as PFA and Footballer Writers' Player of the Year, until the infamous clash with Branislav Ivanovic put paid to that. This season he banished those demons to win all three individual accolades as 31 goals, 12 assists and numerous awarded penalties spearheaded Liverpool's title challenge.
Needless to say, Liverpool have a massive job on their hands if they are to replace Luis Suarez. But is there anyone in world football who is a like-for-like replacement for the effervescent forward?
The ready made replacements:
Yes, they are Alexis Sanchez and Carlos Tevez and unfortunately for Liverpool, neither of them will be available. Sanchez publicly rejected Liverpool's offer and has signed a deal with rivals Arsenal; whilst Tevez only signed for Juventus last summer after a turbulent stay in England and at the age of 30 is not getting any younger.
What all three have in common is their canny ability to find pockets of space between the lines of midfield and the penalty area to run into a wreak havoc. Defenders are often on edge around them because they all have a knack of anticipating a defenders movement, suckering them into a foul in the box or opening up enough space for a strike on goal.
Add in the versatility to play across the front line as a false 9, left/right winger or striker; as well as a fatigueless work ethic, you can see why Liverpool were so desperate to include Sanchez in the Suarez deal.
Just to put their similarity into numbers, as per WhoScored:
When it comes to dribbling, Suarez leads the way with 2.8 per game; Tevez is second with 1.5 and Sanchez is third with 1.1. It is worth mentioning Tevez's highest total for Manchester City was 2 dribbles per game. As for Sanchez, he has been stifled by Barcelona's tiki-taka, in the World Cup for Chile he averaged 5.5 dribbles per game and for Udinese 3 per game.
When it comes to key passes, Suarez has the most with 2.6 per game; Tevez is second with 1.7 (with 2.5 being the highest in Manchester City) and Sanchez is third with 1.4 (2.2 being the highest with Udinese).
When it comes to fouls, Suarez is again first as he fouled twice per game; Tevez is second with 1.7 and Sanchez third with 1.6. It is worth mentioning that when Sanchez is the focal point of attack, the fouls he draws goes up to 6 per game for Chile and 3.7 with Udinese.
The last of the ready made replacements for Luis Suarez would be Borussia Dortmund's Marco Reus. Having said that, the two possess vastly differing styles of play:
Suarez tends to move away from his man into more withdrawn places on the pitch, creating space for his teammates and isolating his marker into a one-on-one; whereas Reus is more direct and tends to only get involved in the last phase of the attack.
Despite the contrast in style, the results are the same: goals, goals and more goals.
Last season Suarez scored 31 and assisted 12 goals for Liverpool; Reus scored 16 and assisted 13 goals for Dortmund.
Equally as important, Reus is just as versatile as Suarez and is far more accurate in front of goal, though possesses less ingenuity.Falca
With a rumoured £30 million release clause in his contract, Liverpool will not find a better buy for a better price. The only downside is that he is slated to be injured with an ankle ligament injury until September.
Assuming Liverpool cannot secure the signature of Marco Reus, there are two world class forwards available who could replace Suarez's goals, though it may require a change in system/formation to get the team to adjust.
1) Radamel Falcao
Falcao is the world's best poacher bar none. Whether it is with his right foot, left foot or head, in the 18 yard box he comes alive.
As good as Suarez is, he has a panache for scoring the difficult and missing the easy - Falcao finishes anything with aplomb.
There are two downsides though:
The first being Liverpool would lose all of the creativity that Suarez brought them, putting extra strain on the midfield to service Falcao and Sturridge. Furthermore, whilst Sturridge is more than a poacher, his best work is done inside the box. There is a risk the two would end up in each others way or Sturridge would be shoved out wide.
Secondly, Falcao has reiterated a desire to move to Real Madrid after the Madrid club switched targets from Suarez to Falcao. He has the same super agent as Cristiano Ronaldo.
2) Karim Benzema
Unlike Falcao, Benzema would fit in far more easily in Liverpool as he is equally at home as a support striker or as the main man, though he can look lost when he is not in a central position.
His main attribute is his link up play which is actually better than Suarez's. A dispossession rate of 1.2 and turnover rate of 1.1 is far superior to Suarez's 1.8 and 2.8.
Furthermore, Benzema had a pass percentage of 81.9% in La Liga and 81.3% in the World Cup, compared to Suarez's 74.8% in the Premier League and 59.6% in the World Cup.
If Real Madrid do secure a deal with Monaco for Falcao, Benzema could be available for a cheap price.
There are a few reservations over Benzema's temperament though; unlike Suarez, Benzema is prone to wild fluctuations in form, constantly needs an arm around his shoulder, has a poor big game record and has a poor work ethic.
Altogether this illustrates Benzema's lack of dynamism which saw him only average 0.5 dribbles in La Liga. Meaning, Liverpool could spend over £30 on player who at his very worst is an invisible man on the pitch.
Aside from the rather obvious, there are players around with massive amounts of potential waiting to be tapped into. The likes of PSG's Lucas Moura and Hoffenheim's Roberto Firmino have excelled over the past 12 months and are waiting to take the next big step.
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Lucas Moura may seem a strange transfer target given he is playing for the richest club in the world, but a spell with the bench which saw him featuring in 36 Ligue 1 games but only starting 18, left him out of a World Cup place.
Nonetheless, the raw talent his possess is incredible; an pass percentage of 87.1% in Ligue 1 was followed with 11 assists and 5 goals. He also averaged 2.4 dribbles and is just as versatile as Luis Suarez. The only downside is his age and the fact he has yet to truly have an extended run in a European team.
Age is not an important decider in gauging talent but experience is. Liverpool will be pining a lot of expectation on Suarez's replacement and at 21, Moura might be burdened by that.
Furthermore, PSG would need a ton of cash to even think about offloading their best prospect.
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Roberto Firmino is another Brazilian starlet that missed out on a World Cup place but unlike Lucas Moura, his exclusion came off the back of scintillating season where he was arguably the best attacker in the Bundesliga.
Firmino dazzled fans with his 4.5 dribbles per game and 2.1 key passes per game, more importantly, he had an end product. 16 goals and 11 assists helped Hoffenheim to become the third highest goalscorers with 72 goals.
With a total of 2.5 tackles per game and 2.2 fouls per game, Firmino just might be the closest to Luis Suarez in this list.
There is a danger however; Firmino has recently signed a new contract and seems settled at a club he has been with for four seasons.
A big bid from Liverpool should whisk him away, but Tottenham did the same with Roma, despite Eric Lamela being apathetic to move and it showed as reports of home-sickness being the reason for his poor form and sustained absence.
Within hours of Luis Suarez's switch to Barcelona was confirmed, reports linked Swansea's Wilfried Bony to Liverpool for £19 million (extent of his release clause).
Given Liverpool have already signed Rickie Lambert, a deal for Bony who largely has the same qualities to offer (albeit Bony is much quicker) would be a strange one.
Not only that, just like with Falaco and Benzema, a move for Bony would stagnate Liverpool's fluidity due to his lack of versatility.
Having said that, he is a powerhouse in the air and is a strong finisher, as his 16 goals proved last season. At the age of 25, Bony could improve to become a world class talent.
Stick with what they have:
With Lazar Markovic and Adam Lallana, Liverpool could easily use the duo to cover Raheem Sterling on the wing and focus on converting the England international into a fully fledged false nine.
Like Suarez, Sterling is a handful to mark because he drifts into spaces defenders hate to be in, the uses his pace and skills to dribble back into the thick of action.
Sterling averaged 2.8 dribbles per game - the same as Suarez. He also made 1.6 key passes from a deeper position than Suarez played and has a far higher passing percentage (81.7%).
Add in Sterling's work rate, then he certainly possess a lot of the attributes Suarez had - perhaps a reason why the duo were able to dovetail well with each other.
Brendan Rodgers has also talked up Raheem Sterling's versatility, hinting his future could be as a forward, not as a midfielder.
If he is to make that transition, however, he needs to learn how to be ruthless in front of goal. As of yet, Sterling has yet to develop a knack of scoring goals off his own work.
Many of the nine Premier League goals he scored were as a result of a breakaway that resulted in the ball being squared to him right in front of goal.
Therefore, pinning Sterling down as the replacement for Suarez may burden a 19 year old who is still learning the basics of the game.