Liverpool have three emergency transfer options to face CAN, and FSG could consider them
Liverpool, overall, are an extremely well-oiled machine in the transfer market. Major flops under Michael Edwards can be counted on one hand – even the sporting director’s departure was handled with typical foresight, with Julian Ward spending a year learning the ropes as an assistant before taking over. . However, the FSG must sometimes be reactive: we saw this last January, and the African Cup of Nations (CAN) could again force the hand.
Amid an unprecedented injury crisis, FSG finally gave in on deadline day for last season’s winter transfer window. Holding on until the end of the campaign was no longer a viable option, at least if Champions League qualification were to remain a possibility – the owners sanctioned the moves of Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak. Neither was likely to become a long-term option for Liverpool at center-back, but both were seen as capable of contributing and helping weather the storm.
Ultimately, Davies didn’t play for a minute. Kabak made some useful contributions, although injury ultimately limited his appearances as well; The FSG would no doubt argue that this justifies the reluctance to take short-term measures in the first place.
However, as Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams became the real heroes, the six-month loan transfer for the Turkey international paid off. In a two-month span starting at the end of February, he played in seven games in which Liverpool conceded just four goals, collecting 14 vital points. The FSG may have missed the Champions League and its associated riches without budging.
This season, it is the title of champion at stake for Liverpool, and the CAN is preparing for it. While only two Premier League games clash with the January tournament, uncertainty remains as to the number of games missed by Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Naby Keïta. Particularly in the front row, that leaves really slim options: that would be irrelevant, but FSG could swell the ranks with a few free agents.
These are players who could be signed now, built into training over the next month, and then used in January if needed. Loris Karius looks certain to leave, with the club apparently ready to break their contract which will free up a non-local team slot. The following candidates are all emergency options and would likely only be considered if further injuries arise, but here are three names FSG could do much worse than close short-term deals:
The lesser-known name on this list, but also perhaps the most tempting for Liverpool. The 30-year-old Brazilian striker has become a nationalized Chinese citizen – he was part of the first exodus to the Chinese Super League, signing for Guangzhou Evergrande in 2015 after 25 goals in 59 games for Cruzeiro.
It’s the kind of record that can alert Premier League scouts – Goulart was even called up in Brazil (his first and only). However, while he fell off the international radar in China, he hasn’t stopped scoring. In total, his time in Guangzhou ended with 71 goals in 104 league appearances.
For a time, Goulart was run in Guangzhou by Fabio Cannavaro. The Ballon d’Or winner gave the striker resounding support: “Goulart is without a doubt a great player. As an individual player or as a team, he helps us significantly.
Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi will obviously be preferred to replace Salah and Mané alongside Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota during CAN, but Goulart could add emergency cover. At 30, FSG may even feel a bit of resale value, potentially back in Brazil.
Hatem Ben Arfa
Better known, Hatem Ben Arfa is probably an even less likely signing for Liverpool. Even so, FSG could do worse.
The Frenchman was last seen in Ligue 1 in Bordeaux, where he played 24 starts in the league last season: he is not completely overwhelmed. Best known to Premier League fans for his time at Newcastle, he conquered the neutrals with his skill and cunning.
He wouldn’t insist much. It wouldn’t be a long term option. He probably wouldn’t even go out on the pitch. But can you honestly say that you can’t envision a scenario where Jürgen Klopp turns to him in desperation, and he produces a moment of absolute magic that defines the season?
Title wins need unlikely heroes. Just ask Manchester United and Federico Macheda. A 34-year-old Ben Arfa certainly fits that bill – with the frontline set to be considerably stretched by CAN, he could offer a completely generic option with the potential to fall into Liverpool lore.
If FSG is tempted by an emergency free transfer, signing an attacker appears to be the most likely scenario. Salah and Mané are permanent elements of the squad and constitute a big part of the goals scored by Liverpool – they will be the biggest failures of the CAN. However, Keïta is also out, and if more injuries arise this month, drastic action may be required.
Paulinho is another name familiar to Premier League fans, following his relatively successful stint with Spurs. Oddly enough, he was also Goulart’s teammate in Guangzhou Evergrande. After a bizarre foray with Barcelona, where he became a surprisingly central figure in the 2017/18 title-winning season, he returned to China. From there he traveled to Al-Alhi, where he left after just four appearances in September (after scoring two goals) due to “emergency circumstances”.
Anyone can guess if those circumstances have eased but if Paulinho is available Liverpool could see the deal as worthwhile. The Brazilian has league experience, a strong record of top-level midfielder goals in the relatively recent past and the ability to cover in a starting or forward role.
It’s pretty much the antithesis of an FSG movement, but Kabak and Davies weren’t in character either. It would take the perfect CAN storm and injury to even factor this trio into consideration, but one of them could likely end up making a valuable contribution to a title challenge at Liverpool.