Brendan Rodgers may have said that Liverpool won’t be spending big in January, but there’s a lot of room between not spending big and not spending at all, and with weaknesses at either end of the pitch most will be expecting a signing or two—at least if the manager still has the full support of the owners. Goalkeeper is likely top priority, but striker isn’t far behind for a side that has struggled to score goals this season.
Daniel Sturridge is expected back in January, but after spending most of the season injured, few will be seriously counting on him staying fit the rest of the way. That leaves the club waiting on the summer arrival of Divock Origi and making do with a few less than ideal short-term options. The best of that bunch is Raheem Sterling, who has looked at the very least passable filling in at striker over the past few weeks, but beyond him there’s not much.
Mario Balotelli, though he appears to be trying, hasn’t come close to succeeding at his new club, and Liverpool's recent tactical shift is unlikely to suit him. Then there’s Rickie Lambert, who remains a bench and domestic cup option at best. It might be hard to justify targeting a young and inconsistent striker like Saido Berahino who would cost upwards of £20M, but both short and longer term there does appear to be room for another striker in the squad.
Reports in Spain, since picked up by the English press, suggest that striker could be Villarreal’s Luciano Vietto, a 21-year-old, two-footed Argentine who has been in deadly form for the La Liga side since arriving from Racing Club de Avellaneda for £5M last summer. He’s scored 12 goals in 14 starts and nine appearances off the bench this season, netting a goal every 130 minutes he's on the pitch with a strike rate close to 20%*. He also has six assists.
He’s a fast, mobile forward and an instinctive finisher with either foot who likes to drop deep to gather the ball and run at defenders. For a young striker, he’s also unusually willing to set up his teammates. In theory at least, he’s an attacker who would very much fit with the way Liverpool play, though he remains rough around the edges and so far has only had half a season of experience in a top European league.
He’s closer to the finished product than fellow young striker Berahino, though, and he would also cost about half what his English counterpart would—he’s expected to fetch a fee of around £12M if he leaves either in January or next summer, with Real Madrid and Inter Milan rumoured to be tracking him. All of which adds up to an interesting potential transfer target, even if so far the rumours appear highly speculative.
*Two of Vietto's goals came in Europa League qualification matches for which no shot data is available. His ten other goals have come on 58 shots at a strike rate of 17.2%. Extrapolating based on existing shots per match data to include the two qualifying matches would give a strike rate of 18.8% for all 12 goals.
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