With the news that Henrikh Mkhitaryan has chosen Dortmund over Liverpool, it's time to move on and look at other potential targets to reinforce Liverpool's attack. It's not an easy kind of target to pin down; with Luis Suarez's situation still up in the air, it's tough to know exactly what kind of player to look for.
With that in mind, let's first look at what Liverpool might be looking for in a potential new attacking player, whether or not Suarez stays around. Obviously no one player will have all of these attributes, but hopefully they can manage to get someone with a good mix of several of them.
Creativity: Last season, Brendan Rodgers seemed to favor having not one dedicated playmaker, but rather using his attacking players as a whole to create plays for one another. That was made much easier with the arrival of Philippe Coutinho, but even before then we'd started to see signs of Rodgers pushing for more flowing, interchanging football. Any attacker brought in would need to be able to get involved in this, so having the ability to both start and finish attacking moves is crucial.
Width: With Coutinho playing on the left as a sort of interiore (a playmaker who is nominally a wide player, but often drifts in to the centre), having someone who can effectively play wide on the right to balance out his narrowness would be nice to have. It could also lead to the potential of effective overlapping runs with Glen Johnson, which could wreak havoc with opposing fullbacks.
Work Rate: Rodgers likes his team to press hard when he can, and that means anyone coming in would need the motor to keep that up for as long as possible. Obviously not all players are capable of this, so having someone that is could be a huge benefit for the club.
Shooting From Range: This may seem like an odd one at first, but bear with me for a moment. When Liverpool struggled the most last season, it was generally when teams packed in their defense, leaving little room in front of goal to work with. That lead to many stifled attacks, and because they never had much of a consistent threat from distance (Steven Gerrard just isn't taking those kinds of shots as often as he once did), it was hard to pull the opposition out of their shell to open some space back up. Bringing in someone who can consistently put the ball on-frame from range could go a long ways towards helping to prevent this issue in the future.
Moxie: This one is a little bit tougher to explain. What I mean by "moxie" is when a player just has "it". That certain something that makes you pay attention to him whenever he gets the ball at his feet, because you know there's a chance that something special could happen at any moment. Obviously, Liverpool has that now with Suarez, but if he leaves, bringing in someone who has that quality would make life without him much easier.
So what kinds of players embody some of these traits? Let's take a look. Each player described fits certain general skillsets. I've also listed a couple of alternatives with roughly similar skillsets to fill out the list of options to think about.
Jakub Błaszczykowski: Dortmund's Polish right winger isn't believed to be immediately available, but with the acquisition of Pierre-Emerick Aubemayeng there's some thought that he could be phased out of BVB's primary strikeforce. If it looks like that could happen, Liverpool could do a lot worse than to bring Kuba in to man the right wing. While he doesn't tick the creativity or moxie boxes, he's a great wide player who's capable os sending in good crosses to feed his attackers. He also covers back well on defense, and isn't afraid to let a shot rup when he has a chance to, so he fits the needs well.
Likelihood of signing: Low. It's not even a guarantee that Dortmund will make him available right now, and even if they do he'd assuredly have plenty of Champions League-bound suitors.
Likely Cost: €20-25 million
Miralem Pjanic: The Roma midfielder seems to be on the market, as he doesn't appear to have a guaranteed place in Rudi Garcia's side. As Roma could use the cash that selling a player like him would bring, it makes sense that they'd move him on. He definitely ticks the "creative" box, with the ability to lay in sumptous through balls for his teammates to latch on to. He's also rarely showed a fear of challenging the keeper, so he covers that need as well. The moxie and work rate categories are more questionable; he's certainly shown both in his career, but he doesn't always show them. However, I think the issue is more one of consistency than anything, and consistency is a problem that has plagued Roma as a club for years now. If he can get in to a better environment, I think he could really blossom in to en elite playmaker.
Likelihood of signing: Moderate. Pjanic seems to have a number of suitors, but so far few are of a higher standing than Liverpool. He can't get European football on Merseyside right now, but he's also not getting it at Roma and few of the clubs rumored to be interested in him that do offer it wouldn't be able to give him the same playing time that Liverpool could.
Likely Cost: €18-22 million
Similar Alternates: Christian Eriksen (Ajax, €15-20 million); Yoann Gourcuff (Lyon, €9-13 million)
Alan Dzagoev: The Russian wunderkid is absolutely wasted on the Russian top flight. He's got almost liquid ability to move with the ball at his feet, and is constantly a threat to find a crack in the defense to either put in a throughball or take a chance for himself. He's wonderfully gifted athlete, and is willing and able to participate in all phases of the game. Adding to his value on the pitch is his willingness and ability to play all along the attacking midfield band. As far as wide play, he's better from the right than the left, where his stringer right foot lets him provide ball from out wide, or the ability to cut in and use his still-solid left foot.
Likelihood of signing: Low to moderate. CSKA doesn't seem willing to sell at the moment, but there have been off-and-on rumors this summer that he's ready to start agitating for a move to a bigger league. Unfortunatley, he won't lack for suitors once he does come available.
Likely Cost: €25-30 million
Similar Alternates: Antonio Candreva (Lazio; €9-14 million); Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV, €9-14 million)
Siem de Jong: Ajax's "other" playmaker is kind of a different take than the others on this list. More of a second striker/inside forward type in a central position behind the main striker, de Jong has a knack for drifting in to spaces between the lines to provide a linking ball to someone in a more advantageous position. He'll also take the ball right at a defender or take a shot himself if he sees the right opportunity. While he's been lost in the shadow of Christian Eriksen's potential over the last couple of years, he's earned the captain's armband at the legendary Dutch club and is a very talented player in his own right.
Likelihood of signing: Moderate. While the odds of him being available would go down if and when Eriksen is eventually sold, the Dutch international could probably still be had if Ajax is presented with what they feel is the "right" offer.
Likely Cost: €10-15 million
Similar Alternates: Juan Fernando Quintero (Athletico Nacional, €8-13 million); Hiroshi Kiyotake (FC Nuremberg, €7-12 million)
While it's far from likely that any of these players wind up on Merseyside this season, this should at least give you a better idea of the kinds of players that Liverpool should be looking at now that their primary target has escaped them. The summer is still young, and in the coming weeks we'll surely see some of these names and dozens of others linked to Liverpool as the club looks to satisfy their apparent desire for another attacking midfielder. Who that winds up being should be interesting to find out.
**You can catch up with Conor on Twitter--@c_dowley--or in the comments below.**