Liverpool could sign 35-goal striker for just £51m as Kylian Mbappé’s perfect alternative to FSG

There are so many factors involved in completing a football transfer that it is sometimes surprising that any deal makes it to the finish line. Buyer and seller clubs have to agree on a fee, the player has to be happy to join their new side and be rewarded at a level they deem acceptable, and there will always be middlemen looking for a slice of the pie as well.

For clubs like Liverpool, there are other aspects of a deal to consider, most pertinently whether the targeted player will perform at his best in his potential new team and whether he will meet Jürgen Klopp’s exacting requirements. On the financial side, the remaining duration of the player’s contract is also extremely important.

Reds research director Ian Graham has already made it clear that it is pointless for the club to approach players with several years remaining on their current deals as the costs involved would make any deal non-initial. However, the stars could line up to put Liverpool in place to sign a highly coveted forward whose contract runs until 2026.

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The man in question is RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku, who has had a phenomenal campaign in 2021/22. Graham and his team of transfer analysts will delve deep into the 24-year-old’s numbers, but even the core stats provide a powerful portrait of his abilities.

With 19 goals without penalties, only six players in Europe’s top five leagues have scored more (Nkunku finished with 35 goals in all competitions and another 19 assists). Only four men surpassed their tally of 13 goals predicted for a teammate. If you want a footballer who has surpassed Nkunku in the two most basic attacking metrics, then you only have his international teammate Kylian Mbappé, and clubs even richer than Liverpool cannot afford his subscription.

Thanks to his similar records last year, the Paris Saint-Germain forward appears as one of the forwards Nkunku most closely resembles (at least in the opinion of Statsbomb’s data). Where some people might question where Leipzig’s top man would fit into Klopp’s squad, it’s not entirely hyperbolic to describe him as a man on the Liverpool front line.

At the top of his list of the 10 most similar strikers in FBRef is Diogo Jota. More revealing is the detection listed in the midfielder/striking winger tab. At number six is ​​Sadio Mané (now ex-red, but I’m not ready to talk about that just yet), with Luis Díaz fourth in the standings and Mohamed Salah at the top of the pile.

Even if Liverpool are seeking a change in style for their attack – and the acquisition of Darwin Núñez suggests it could be a distinct possibility – other players Nkunku is similar to include Son Heung-min, Leroy Sané, Phil Foden, Kai Havertz and Karim Benzema. It’s a five-a-side team, even if it can be a little too offensive for purists.

If it weren’t for the four years remaining on his recently extended contract, one can’t help but wonder if the Reds would have made a move to Nkunku this summer. However, you can guarantee they’ve noticed that the French international now has a €60m (approximately £51m) release clause which goes into effect next summer.

While Transfermarkt’s player values ​​are never entirely accurate, they currently value Nkunku at £72m, suggesting he would be a legitimate bargain in 12 months. If he matches his 2021/22 efforts next season, that sentiment will be even more pronounced.

And if Salah chooses not to extend his Liverpool contract, the Reds will also be looking for a new striker in the summer of 2023. The Egyptian will be next to impossible to replace directly, but numbers suggest Nkunku could replace Salah, Jota, Díaz or Mané de decent shape. The timing could be perfect next year for Liverpool to complete the next in their long line of fabulous transfers forward, and from a club they’ve dealt with multiple times before.

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