Man Utd can carry out Liverpool revenge with unthinkable free transfer for Erik ten Hag
With Manchester United set to explore the signing of a new centre-forward in the summer transfer market – there is one unthinkable acquisition that could just make perfect sense for Erik ten Hag. Liverpool’s ‘Bobby dazzler’ Roberto Firmino is out of contract in June and has opted against extending his stay at Anfield, a decision he has now communicated to Jurgen Klopp.
While it comes as a surprise in some quarters given the integral role he has played throughout Klopp’s historic tenure, Liverpool’s new-look front three of Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah perhaps provided vindication for Firmino’s decision on Sunday, when they tore Manchester United to shreds in the 7-0 romping.
Firmino came off the bench to score himself but he is now approaching his final months as a Liverpool player before he prepares to move onto pastures new. His destination is yet to be decided but United should certainly throw their name into the mix.
Unless they pay up and strike a permanent deal with Burnley, Wout Weghorst is expected to depart at the end of the season to enable the Red Devils to focus their efforts on signing a marquee No.9.
Furthermore, Anthony Martial is also expected to head for the exit door meaning there is actually scope to sign not one but two new strikers before the start of the 2023/24 season.
While Harry Kane and Victor Osimhen are likely to be the priority, Firmino provides an ideal left-field option given he is Premier League-proven and that he wouldn’t cost a transfer fee.
Whether Firmino would be prepared to switch allegiances and potentially damage the legacy he leaves behind at Anfield is another question altogether mind but the signing would really hit Liverpool where it hurts if United were bold enough to pursue a deal.
It would certainly soften the blow of losing 7-0 on Merseyside further down the line given the pain it would likely inflict on Liverpool’s fanbase, who adore Firmino and consider him to be a modern-day Anfield great.
But aside from the politics, Firmino is actually the kind of signing that would prove very effective for Ten Hag. Dusan Tadic was operating on another level under the Dutchman during their time together at Ajax when he played as a false-nine.
Firmino could have similar joy leading the line at United, where he would undeniably represent a clear upgrade on Weghorst. He can link the play, create space plus score and assist, he has everything.
United actually tried to sign Firmino during his Hoffenheim days before Liverpool pounced, sending Ian Ayre to the 2015 Copa America in Chile to get the move over the line.
From a Liverpool perspective, it’s absolutely devastating to wave goodbye to Firmino. He has been so integral to everything the Reds have achieved under Klopp and will prove difficult to replace.
That said, Gakpo is now flying in a central role and with Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz (not yet returned) yet to hit top gear again following two serious injuries, Liverpool’s attack is starting to look frightening for the future.
However, that does not take anything away from what Firmino has achieved at Anfield and what he has delivered in his eight-year spell with the club. He has been pure magic and there is still plenty of quality left in the tank before he calls it quits.
There is not a team in world football that wouldn’t be interested in having Firmino on board, therefore he should not be short of suitors. That said, any move could hinge on his financial demands and the length of contract he is looking for.
When players run down their current deals, it’s well known that they have more leverage during contract negotiations to demand higher salaries as there is no transfer fee involved in any deal.
Yet United have never held back with their wage structure and in the recent past, they have shown they are willing to dip their hands deep into their pockets to sign their targets on big contracts.
The signing of Firmino – notably on a free – is a move that makes huge sense, even if it seems unlikely at this stage. As mentioned, there is also every chance he would snub a switch to Old Trafford out of respect for his current employers.