Michael Owen believes the calibre of Liverpool’s front three will make it difficult for the Reds to recruit a world-class forward this summer.
The former Kop favourite is backing his old club to hold their nerve in the Premier League title race, and says the form of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane will be key if they are to hold off the challenge of Manchester City.
That trio have managed 44 goals in all competitions this season, adding to the remarkable total of 91 from last term.
But, with Dominic Solanke having joined Bournemouth last month, with Daniel Sturridge out of contract at the end of the season and with Divock Origi likely to be sold too, there is a clear need for Jurgen Klopp to strengthen his forward options in the summer.
Teenager Rhian Brewster is highly rated, but has missed more than a year due to a serious knee injury while Harry Wilson, impressive on loan at Derby this season, has had only one first-team appearance for the Reds.
Owen, though, says it will be tough for Klopp to sign a genuine top-level striker, despite the obvious attraction of playing in a team such as Liverpool.
“It is so much easier if you’re a scout or you’re in the recruitment department of any other club bar the top six,” he said. “I mean, where do you go? How do you go and target someone, and they say ‘am I going to start?’ and you have to say ‘no, Salah will start or Mane will start’?
“You can’t go and get an absolute top player, unless they only have a couple of years left in their career. Or you go and buy the next young thing and maybe bleed him in for a year or so. To go and get someone in the guts of their career, at 24 or 25, that’s so hard, and that’s the only player that can really improve teams like this one.
“I know it’s a dream for everyone [to sign world-class players] but it’s so hard to improve your team if you are in the top six, unless you’re not happy with one of your players and you look to replace them. But Liverpool have a great front three, and so if they’re going to buy, it would more likely be one of the options I mentioned.”
For now, though, Liverpool are thinking only about the present. They looked back to something like their best as they swept aside Bournemouth at Anfield on Saturday, with both Mane and Salah on target.
Salah’s goal was his 20th in all competitions this season, and Owen believes the Egyptian’s versatility, playing either off the right flank or as a central striker, has been valuable to the Reds as they have challenged at the top of the table.
“He switches, depending on what the manager wants,” he said. “After half a dozen games of the season, people were saying he’s not the player he was, but when you looked at his stats, which I did because of the job I’m in, they were all either the same or slightly better than last season.
“I suppose visually, the team weren’t quite firing like they were, but again all the stats were saying they were performing well. It was only our impression, and the fact that maybe we weren’t blown away by the performances quite as often.
“For me, as long as he’s scoring goals, making assists and playing well, you can’t complain. He’s top scorer in the league, isn’t he? And player of the month? Can’t be bad!”
Owen will, of course, follow the conclusion to the season in his role as an analyst for BT Sport. And, while City have taken top spot with a trio of impressive victories over the past 10 days, the former England striker still has faith in Liverpool.
“We’ve seen in the last month or two that there can be massive swings,” he said. “But as it stands I’d prefer to be where Liverpool are than City. Everyone makes City favourites, but I’m not so sure about that, and obviously Tottenham are still there too.
“It’s been brilliant. Last season was a bit boring because it was done so early, but this season it’s exciting, and even more so for me because Liverpool are right in there playing a huge part.”
On Saturday 23rd March 2019 the LFC Foundation will welcome AC Milan’s legends team, Milan Glorie, to Anfield for the third official LFC Foundation Legends game.
Tickets for the game are on sale now, priced at £22 for Adults, £5 for Juniors and £15 for Over 65’s. For details and to purchase tickets visit: https://www.liverpoolfc.com/news/tickets/328746-tickets-liverpool-legends-ac-milan