Discussion over Liverpool’s potential Coutinho replacement has persisted ever since he departed the club for Barcelona in January, but Xherdan Shaqiri’s impact since arriving at Anfield suggests a quality alternative has already been sourced.
When Shaqiri signed for Liverpool the supporters questioned exactly where he would fit in, with his career at Stoke City suggesting he would be twiddling his thumbs waiting for a chance to dethrone Mo Salah.
But he has found himself in a new-look number ten role, and there’s no question that he is thriving in that position.
Floating between the lines of midfield and attack, Shaqiri has been menacing, creative and incisive when called upon this season.
Such is the quality of his performances that fans and pundits are now beginning to suggest that the Reds have somewhat inadvertently found their Coutinho replacement.
That’s certainly a sound conclusion, but the performances of James Maddison at Leicester City so far this season suggest that they could have signed a superior player for just £9 million extra.
Stylistically speaking, Xhaqiri and Maddison are similar players: they are both technically astute, composed in possession, incisive with their passing and capable of producing moments of magic from distance.
However, Maddison is five years younger than Shaqiri and his scope for potential is huge. When you also consider that Maddison would have counted towards Liverpool’s contingent of homegrown players it becomes clear that Jurgen Klopp might have missed a trick in the summer window.
The new hero at the King Power Stadium already has five goals and two assists to his name from 14 Premier League appearances, and if he continues to perform in the same vein he will be in contention for a place in Gareth Southgate’s starting line-up when England kick-off their Euro 2020 campaign.
Liverpool certainly made a shrewd decision to bring Shaqiri to Anfield, but could they have done better? Maddison’s exceptional performances this season certainly suggest so.
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