Firmino is now into his thirties and has less than two years to run on his current Liverpool contract, while Mbappe has hailed a potential replacement identified by Klopp
It’s a thought Jurgen Klopp will no doubt want to avoid for as long as possible, but even Liverpool’s manager will know that the time to replace Roberto Firmino is slowly becoming a reality.
The Reds’ No.9 has been at the centre of Liverpool’s success under Klopp’s tenure, with his boss previously stating the Brazilian’s value to the team is like “playing 12 instruments in our orchestra”.
But Firmino’s form has dipped slightly in recent seasons, and he started on the bench for the crunch showdown with title rivals Manchester City on Sunday – the day after he had turned 30.
His contract is not due to expire until 2023, but talks over a new deal are not thought to have started, while Klopp and Liverpool’s recruitment team will no doubt be keeping tabs on a target they’ve already identified as a possible replacement.
Amine Gouiri is not yet a huge household name – at least not this side of the channel – but the 21-year-old has already been making a big impression in France.
Having signed for Nice from Lyon in the summer of 2020 for the fairly modest sum of €7million, Gouiri hit 16 goals in last season, and has already got on the scoresheet five times in eight games in this campaign.
Equally adept at playing from the left or through the middle, Klopp is already said to have notified the Liverpool board of his admiration for the forward.
Reports in Spain claimed Klopp even made a ‘direct request’ for the club to sign the Frenchman, as he believes he can fill the role Firmino has made his own at Anfield.
And the Liverpool boss will be buoyed by the ringing endorsement Gouiri has got from Ligue 1 superstar Kylian Mbappe.
Speaking in an interview with L’Equipe , the Paris Saint-Germain forward said: “I watch nearly all the Ligue 1 matches… I am following Nice particularly closely. Gouiri is really not bad at all!”
Replacing Firmino will be no simple task, as Klopp has already discovered with the struggles of Takumi Minamino, who has barely featured since his move from RB Salzburg 18 months ago.
Diogo Jota started as Liverpool’s central striker on Sunday but his involvement in the front three sees a greater rotation with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, as the trio often switched places throughout the match.
Perhaps that is where Klopp sees Gouiri fitting in seamlessly to Liverpool’s current structure, given his versatility in the forward berths.
However, the success of his move from the left flank into a more central role as a support striker may suggest he sees Gouiri as a more permanent fixture through the middle as a direct replacement for Firmino.
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Nice boss Christophe Galtier said recently: “He’s a fine player technically and capable of repeating efforts at a high intensity” – traits Firmino is renowned for in Klopp’s pressing system and as the crucial link between midfield and attack.
It’s a role that Gouiri has revelled in and it’s that linking side of the game which he has particularly relished since his switch.
“It gives me more freedom and means that I’m deeper to get on the ball, to be between the lines and be more active in the game,” he said.
With his goal tally already surpassing Firmino’s this season, it seems Gouiri may even have that extra ingredient which Liverpool’s current No.9 has lacked in slightly over the last two campaigns.