As Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi reach their mid 30’s and, supposedly, start to wind down as the curtain begins to close on their extraordinary football careers, there seems to be two names that are touted as natural heirs to the throne, Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland.
While it is the worst kept secret in football that Mbappe and Haaland could be the trailblazers of the next generation, there seems to be a feeling among world football that whoever secures the signature of either individual could have a clean trophy sweep for years to come.
With Mbappe currently signed to the riches of Paris Saint Germain and Haaland’s release clause not kicking in till next summer, it appears to anyone exploring the possibility of signing either of the forwards it would take an obscene amount of money, something that will potentially be left to Manchester City and Chelsea to fight over.
Given Liverpool’s shrewd manoeuvring in the transfer market under Jurgen Klopp, it seems unthinkable to imagine Liverpool bowing to the financial demands of Borussia Dortmund or PSG.
Instead, the Reds could opt to use unearth of one of Europe’s promising stars as they look to alleviate the pressure placed on the shoulders of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.
One name that ticks the boxes, fits the bill and has been linked with Liverpool in recent times is Real Sociedad striker Alexander Isak, who is currently playing in the European Championships for Sweden.
Having delved into the 20-year-olds stats, it’s fair to say valued at £36million (via Transfermarkt), he could present Liverpool with an alternative to Haaland and Mbappe.
Operating primarily as ‘Number 9’, Isak scored 17 goals last season with them all coming in La Liga as the Swedish striker helped Imanol Alguacil’s side secure a fifth-place finish, their highest since 2012.
His 17 goals put him ahead of two of Klopp’s current forwards, Firmino (9) and Mane (16), however, he falls way behind Salah who fired 31 goals across all competitions last season.
In terms of accuracy with his efforts, Isak’s metrics lead the way as 44.6% of his efforts were goal-bound, compared to the lesser numbers produced by Salah (43.1%), Mane (40.3%) and Firmino (35%).
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Probably one of the most pleasing aspects of Isak’s performances for Los Txuri-Urdin would be his goal return weighed up against his xG.
His xG in all competitions last season was 17.2, more or less identical to the 17 goals he scored. Although he is not overperforming his xG, the two identical metrics show that his finishing is sustainable and given the supply line, he will finish the chances.
Isak was only beaten by Salah when it came to xG vs goals scored, as Salah scored 31 goals off an xG of (25.9).
But with the Egyptian producing finishes like the ones against Crystal Palace (2nd), Newcastle and West Brom it is no surprise that he surpassed the expected goals the statistician’s had predicted him to achieve.
Additionally, Isak could be the answer to the calls Liverpool have faced in recent years, to sign a more ‘ruthless’ ‘number 9’ like forward, and last year it looked like Liverpool would be set to acquire when they were reportedly interested in Timo Werner.
However, the financial restraints that the Reds were placed under due to the Covid-19 pandemic seemed to all but end Liverpool’s interest in the, then, RB Leipzig player.
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Given that Liverpool’s tactics allow them to work without a prominent ‘number 9’ like figure, proven by their Champions League and Premier League triumphs, this summer could be the perfect chance to introduce someone of that nature, given how incredibly hard it could be to find a similar style of player to Firmino once he moves on from Anfield.
FBref detail how Isak’s shots on average come from 12.8 yards from goal, in comparison, Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin has an average shot range of 11.7 yards from goal.
For Isak to boast a similar number to someone who seemingly never scores from outside of the box, it amplifies exactly what kind of forward Liverpool could be getting their hands on.
Probably most importantly for Liverpool, Isak won’t be competing in the AFCON tournament in January 2022, so Liverpool will have plenty of game time to blood him with the absence of Salah and Mane, as well as having a suitable replacement during the duo’s absence.
And even in their presence, Liverpool could be offered an alternative style as they look to prepare for the progressively reshape their forward line over the next couple of years, due to the likes of Firmino approaching 30-years of age this Autumn.