Tears have been shed. Praise has been heaped. It has been an emotional few days for Liverpool fans following the revelation from Steven Gerrard of his intention to leave the club at the end of the season.
A modern day legend, Gerrard ranks amongst the best England has seen and his departure will leave a big gap on and off the field at Anfield.
While his on field presence has been on the wane, especially since that faithful day in April when perhaps his last chance to get his hands on a title literally slipped away, his off-field presence has grown.
From Fernando Torres to Luis Suarez right through to his support of Jordan Henderson and Brendan Rodgers, Gerrard has helped those under pressure or contemplating leaving prolong their Anfield careers.
The biggest challenge of Rodgers Liverpool career begins now as he looks to find the perfect replacement for his talisman. While the Reds are a club on the up they still lack the allure of Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, club’s with the Premier League titles to match their spending budgets, as such Rodgers will have to be astute in his approach.
Fanfeud’s Trevkeane looks at potential players with the same presence on and off the field that could replace the club legend.
On the radar at the moment is Aston Villa midfielder, Fabian Delph. The 25 year old has seen his stock rise in the last 18 months after a number of strong performances in a more defensive role. The newly capped England man has been on the scene since 2007 when he made his debut for Leeds.
On the defensive side, a role Gerrard had been primed for in recent time, Delph offers a lot of protection; averaging 1.2 tackles, 1.4 clearances and 1.3 interceptions a game. The fact that he is out of contract next summer’s means he would be a cut price solution however with many not convinced of his credentials and Villa struggling, he would face a big battle winning over the Liverpool faithful.
While many, including Jamie Carragher, would love to see Ross Barkley move from Everton to Liverpool, his Toffee’s team-mate, James McCarthy might be a more suitable candidate. The Irish international has always been highly regarded and while he has yet to become a dominant midfielder in the same mould of Gerrard the fact that he is only 24 and has a wealth of Premier league experience with both Everton and Wigan makes him an attractive prospect.
Enough of Gerrard now he's leaving. Replacement has to be Ross Barkley offer 10 million go to 12 tops job done.
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) January 3, 2015
The midfielder is a target for Spurs amid reports he is unhappy over the lack of contract talks with the club and while he has 3 years left on his deal his would cost considerably less than Barkley. When he first arrived in the league he was compared to Gerrard and his ability to pass the ball and get around the field are comparable to the Reds man.
When compared to Delph, McCarthy’s stats are very impressive with the Scottish-born midfielder, averaging 2.3 tackles, 2.7 clearances and 1.5 interceptions a game not to mention an 87.9% passing rate.
Another with proven Premier league experience is PSG midfielder, Yohan Cabaye. The former Newcastle man has struggled since his return to France however there is no doubting his pedigree. The 28 year old has failed to oust Marco Verratti, Thiago Motta, Javier Pastore and Blaise Matuidi from the first team set up in Paris and has made just 7 starts this season.
The playmaker is proven Premier League quality however and while at 28 he is on the wrong end of the age scale he would certainly offer plenty to the Reds midfield for three or four seasons, especially alongside the younger legs of Henderson.
Cabaye is good from set pieces, has an excellent eye for the pass and like Gerrard fancies his chances from distance. He is a good reader of the game too and despite his limited time on field he still averages 1.5 tackles and interceptions game, impressive stats for a more attack minded midfielder.
Other potential replacements that come under the tag of relative unknowns would include Marseille’s Gianelli Imbula, Lazio’s Ogenyi Onazi and Caen starlet N’golo Kante.
While these three may be raw and lacking Premier League experience they statistics and potential mark them out as three to consider.
First up is 22 year old Imbula. The midfielder was born in Belgium, is a France U21 International and is eligible to play for the Congo. With 2.8 tackles a game, 1.2 Interceptions and 2 goals to his name this season, not to mention 1.5 shots on goal, he is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Onazi meanwhile will be familiar to Reds fans that follow transfer news. The Nigerian International has been on the club’s radar for some time and has recently been linked in a swap deal for Fabio Borini. Another 22 year old, Onazi has only made 8 appearances this season in Serie A with only four starts. Despite his limited time, the powerful midfielder is highly regarded and is reportedly keen on a move to Anfield.
Off the radar meanwhile would be N’golo Kante. The Caen midfielder is one of the top tacklers in Europe with on average 6.1 per game. The 23 year old averages 2.6 interceptions and not only that but with two goals and two assists he offers plenty in attack too. The player has only just made the jump to Ligue 1 football but given the success with which he has adapted as well the overall impact French players have made in England, a deal for Kante would be a punt worth taking.