Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert, while not strictly meant to replace the man, were supposed to cover for the departure of Luis Suarez. Though it's early, the initial signs are mixed at best. Lambert looks overawed and has struggled to adapt to a more limited role, while Balotelli—whose instinct is to drop deep—has worked hard but appears poorly suited to leading the line on his own.
It leaves Liverpool with one true line leading number nine in Daniel Sturridge and, with the striker missing a month of action already after yet another injury picked up while on England duty, when he hasn't been available the club have struggled. It was perhaps inevitable, then, that the rumour mongers would begin to search about for potential January answers despite that it isn't even October yet.
Meanwhile in Madrid, a slew of big name signings over the summer have marginalized Karim Benzema, who has so far struggled for Los Blancos this season. The obvious answer is to link the two and call it a day, which has begun to happen this week. There's nothing beyond empty rumour mongering just yet, but given Liverpool have been linked to the striker previously it isn't the craziest rumour.
It's also worth remembering that, though Benzema or a similar class of player might come attached to a rather hefty transfer fee, Liverpool should still have some of that Suarez cash lying around to splash around come January. The club headed into the summer with a rumoured £60-80M budget thanks to the new television deal, and in the end only spent around £40M net thanks to the Suarez earnings.
It might not be Benzema that Liverpool go after once the window opens, but if scoring continues to be a problem and Sturridge's fitness a concern, spending £30M or thereabouts on a proven line leader and scoring threat in January should be within the club's means.
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