By Greg Stobart
Liverpool are considering a move for Udinese striker Luis Muriel as a replacement for Luis Suarez if their star man leaves Anfield this summer.
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Luis Muriel had a difficult start to the season: arriving in Udine overweight, after just two matches he injured his thigh and was out for more than two months.
However, after scoring his first goal in December, he went on to bag 10 more in the new year, proving decisive - alongside Antonio Di Natale - to a magnificent end to the season for Udinese. He looks like a player ready for the next step in his career.
The Uruguayan has also privately refused to commit himself to Liverpool despite two meetings with the club in recent weeks and the Reds are believed to be ready to sell the 26-year-old to an overseas club.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers would be allowed to re-invest the transfer fee in full - on top of his €23m summer budget - and is lining up potential replacements for a player who scored 30 goals in all competitions last term.
Liverpool are closing in on a €7 deal for Celta Vigo striker Iago Aspas but their move for the 25-year-old is unrelated to Suarez’s future as Rodgers looks to bolster his attacking options.
Aspas, who has bagged 12 goals for the relegation-threatened Liga outfit, had also attracted interest from Valencia and Swansea ahead of the summer transfer window.
However, Reds officials moved for the Spaniard after being alerted to Celta’s reduced asking price for the striker, with around €2.3m being knocked off their original valuation of €9.3m as a result of the club’s precarious league position.
Meanwhile Muriel has been identified as a potential target to replace Suarez following his impressive displays for Udinese, where he scored 11 league goals in 22 Serie A appearances during a season disrupted by injury.
The Colombian, 22, would cost in excess of €17.5m but Liverpool believe he has the potential to increase in value, while his style of play and eye for goal are similar to Suarez.
Muriel would be interested in a move to Anfield despite saying last week that he does not feel ready for a big-money move away for Udinese.
"I want to grow and improve as a player,” Muriel told Gazzetta dello Sport. "I want to stay in Udine for another couple of years. I have learnt so much here from boss Francesco Guidolin who helped me during my moments of difficulty."