It was the day Liverpool fans hoped would never come, but now it has finally arrived. After some rather suspect contract negotiations, Reds skipper Steven Gerrard revealed earlier this week that he plans to leave Anfield, after seventeen years, at the end of the current Premier League season.
Liverpool’s captain fantastic will be sorely missed but there’s little time for such emotive tributes – the Merseysiders are now running against the clock to find a successor to their decade-spanning talisman midfielder.
Of course, the issue can be delayed until the summer but for the sake of a smooth transition, perhaps it would be best for Liverpool to secure Gerrard’s successor this January.
So with that in mind, here’s SIX such midfielders Liverpool could realistically sign before the end of the month.
PSG playmaker Yohan Cabaye may not be blessed with the robust dynamism of Steven Gerrard’s younger years, but he does share many traits with Liverpool’s talismanic captain – particularly, a blend of industriousness and cultured passing, in addition to a world-renowned potency from dead ball situations.
The 28 year-old is well proven in the Premier League too, having amassed 18 goals and 15 assists in 93 appearances for Newcastle before leaving for Parc de Princes last January. The £20million signing has since struggled to break into the PSG first team however and is now reportedly prepared to move on.
The France international should be within Liverpool’s financial reach but recent speculation has linked him more consistently with a move to Arsenal.
German international Ilkay Gundogan emerged as one of the most promising central midfielders in world football during the 2012/13 campaign, earning a spot in the illustrious ESM Team of the Season for his intrinsic role in Borussia Dortmund’s surprise march to the Champions League final.
He’s endured a rather harrowing time since, missing almost the entirety of last season (and the World Cup) through a back injury and now finding himself in a shock relegation battle, with the Black Yellows currently joint-bottom of the Bundesliga table.
The 24 year-old’s enormous potential is hard to ignore however, and his energetic, lucid and mobile brand of playmaking, filled with one-twos and short, incisive dribbles, would particularly suit Liverpool’s style of play going forward.
It’s still a bit of a risk however, considering Gundogan’s recent injury problems, and although he’d likely be willing to jump ship from Westfalen this January, the promising midfielder extended his contract by an extra year in April 2014, so Dortmund are under no immediate obligation to sell.
Liverpool have been linked with Valencia star Daniel Parejo on countless occasions before, so what better excuse than Steven Gerrard’s end-of-season departure to invest sizable funds in their long-term target?
The 25 year-old is rather wiry and slight compared to your average Premier League midfielder, but he’s a fantastic technician with great vision and a consistent contribution in front of goal, claiming nine goals and ten assists in 62 appearances over the last two-and-a-half campaigns.
The current season has arguably been Parejo’s best yet for the Mestalla outfit, netting four in 14 and averaging 2.8 tackles, 1.1 successful dribbles and 1.3 shots per match whilst donning the captain’s armband on a permanent basis.
Resultantly however, and with Valencia just five points off La Liga leaders Real Madrid, Liverpool might struggle to convince the Spanish side to sell their skipper mid-season.
Another name Liverpool fans will know well, Roma playmaker Miralem Pjanic has been strongly linked with an Anfield switch before.
The Bosnian international demonstrated enormous potential at former club Lyon and is now realising it at the Stadio Olympico, having played a pivotal role in the Roma side that recorded a runner-up finish in Serie A last season.
His output is impressive for a central midfielder, with twelve goals and 15 assists in his last 77 league appearances, but it’s the 24 year-old’s intelligence on the ball and ability to consistently create chances, boasting 56 already this term (Gerrard has made 41, in comparison) that particularly stands out as his defining attribute.
Pjanic has been on the verge of the world elite for some time and moving to the Premier League could make that a reality. The 5 foot 11 midfielder penned extended terms during the summer however, protecting his value, and Roma remain unlikely to sell whilst they also stand to lose central midfield partner Kevin Strootman, a known target of Manchester United and Chelsea.
Tough-tackling Southampton star Morgan Schneiderlin may not be an exact Steven Gerrard reincarnate, but the Frenchman is a well-rounded, highly-talented midfielder that looks ready to ply his trade at a higher level.
Indeed, the 25 year-old currently ranks fifth in the Premier League’s tackle charts this term, with an impressive 3.5 per match, and also boasts dependency on the ball through his pass completion rate of 89%.
He’s more water-carrier than playmaking visionary, but Schneiderlin chips in with the odd goal too, with eight since his Premier League arrival two-and-a-half-years ago, including a return of three in 14 this season.
Combine that with an athletic and aerially effective 6 foot 2 frame, and Schneiderlin would bring a new sense of solidity to Liverpool’s engine room.
Although there have been rumours that Schneiderlin could leave this January after attempting to force a move during the summer, he’s recently insisted plans to stay with the Saints until at least the end of the season.
That doesn’t mean he’s completely out of Liverpool’s reach, but will likely add a few extra million to his transfer fee.
This list felt somewhat macabre without the inclusion of a single home-grown player, so representing the England massive is Aston Villa star Fabian Delph.
There will be understandable disputes over the 25 year-old’s quality when compared to Liverpool’s veteran skipper but there’s also some similarities – particularly his blend of industry, dynamism and flair going forward, epitomised by his memorable goal against Chelsea last season, shown above.
It’s been a fantastic 2014 for the tenacious midfielder too, winning the Villain of the Year award at the end of last season and more recently a spot in Roy Hodgson’s England squad, with three caps since his September debut.
Furthermore, Delph’s contract is set to expire at the end of the season and with extended terms becoming increasingly unlikely, it appears Villa will be forced to sell in January. That makes the Three Lions starlet the cheapest and most viable option on this list by quite some distance.