Forget Coutinho: Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez can be an ideal replacement for Liverpool
Liverpool’s dominant display in recent weeks has been marred by the departure of Brazilian Philippe Coutinho who forced a move out of Anfield this month in order to fulfil his dream of playing for Barcelona. A deal was likely in summer, but the management rejected several offers from the Catalans and in spite of the player’s transfer request, the club didn’t alter their stance of retaining the decorated midfielder.
However, things took an ugly turn this month as the player refused to feature again for the Merseysiders despite the attraction of Champions League football and reportedly paid £9m to Liverpool to draw an end to his 5-year realm. Jurgen Klopp, the Reds boss, tried to keep him until the season’s end as there are some crucial months ahead but it went in vain. Coutinho’s behaviour has displeased the fans who, despite the player’s emotional farewell letter, are blaming him for using Liverpool as a ladder to flourish and join the La Liga giants.
The fans, however, have a case though as Coutinho, being their main man, was expected to be a little more professional. January is not the right time to strike big deals and although the Reds sold him for £142m, they are struggling to invest the amount in preferred alternatives. Thomas Lemar seems like the first choice, but AS Monaco are reluctant to perform any business this month.
A few other names have been linked too including Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez who also handed in a transfer request last summer amidst interest from Serie A side AS Roma. The deal, however, didn’t take place and the player was retained by the Foxes beyond the transfer deadline. Yet, the Algerian has shown true professionalism and is currently performing week in week out with a view to taking the 2015-16 Premier League champions closer to a European spot in the league tally.
Mahrez, the Premier League Player of the Year 2016, lost his touch earlier in the campaign but has found his rhythm back since Claude Puel’s appointment as Leicester’s manager. He is now scoring goals and providing assists once more like how he used to be. Although the trusted Liverpool Echo have ruled out the rumour, the Algerian wingman would be a capable option to fill Coutinho’s void to some extent.
Mahrez is expected to be transferred out for little above than £50m and there are not too many quality options available in the market midway through the season. Mahrez, primarily a right-winger, is a Premier League proven name who has been performing well for the past 3 campaigns. He has netted 8 goals and assisted 7 in 24 outings across all competitions this term whereas Coutinho was superior, netting 12 goals and 8 assists in 20 appearances altogether prior to his Barcelona move.
However, comparing their statistics of the last two seasons, they can’t be differentiated much in terms of goal-scoring contribution. Mahrez has netted 27 times and has assisted 16 in Europe and Premier League combined over past two campaigns whereas the ex-Liverpool midfielder bagged 23 goals and 14 assists during the same period. Coutinho, arguably, has been more effective and has been the central figure in Liverpool’s majestic attack.
The Algerian is hailed for his footwork, skills, and expertise in counter-attacking movements. Although a little lethargic at times on the pitch, Klopp is more than capable of bringing the best out of the 26-year-old attacker. Mahrez and the magnificent Mohamed Salah play in a similar role, however, the latter’s goal-scoring form will allow the German gaffer to exploit him further up front alongside Roberto Firmino so that Mahrez can also be a part of Liverpool’s lethal attack and form a new ‘Fab Four’.