“Imagine where I would be if these boys would not play for me,” said Jurgen Klopp earlier this month of a hypothetical Liverpool scenario that might soon become reality.
Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah each moved to Anfield in three consecutive summers from 2015 to 2017, are all 28 and they have collectively scored 251 goals in 560 games for the Reds.
Their longevity and consistency is startling, with this their third consecutive season as a unit; few forward trios in Premier League history can compete with such enduring brilliance.
But Nelly Furtado knows only too well that all good things (come to an end), thus Klopp would be prudent to take note of how others have rebuilt attacking machines when considering his options at Liverpool.
1) Rip it up and start again
The example: Manchester United
The trio: Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez
The years: 2007-2009
The numbers: 140 goals in 293 games, two Premier League titles and one Champions League trophy
The break-up: Ronaldo was sold to Real Madrid and Tevez’s two-season loan expired
“You’ll never beat those three for me,” Gary Neville recently gushed of a triumvirate that “was out of this world”. United were a ferocious force of counter-attacking nature with forwards that complemented each other to often devastating effect towards the end of the decade. But when Sir Alex Ferguson could not persuade Ronaldo to stay longer and carelessly misplaced Tevez across the city, a fearsome three became a menacing one.
Rooney was sometimes partnered with Dimitar Berbatov in 2009/10 but more regularly led the line alone during perhaps his finest ever season. He almost left Old Trafford himself at the end of that year due to concerns over “the future squad”, before withdrawing a transfer request and signing a five-year contract.
Will Liverpool do it? No chance. Klopp will surely try and change things a little more patiently while it still garners results. Salah, Firmino and Mane are all contracted to the club until 2023 and seem happy enough.
2) Phase out
The example: Arsenal
The trio: Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry
The years: 2000-2006
The numbers: 329 goals in 838 games, two Premier League titles and a Champions League runners-up place
The break-up: Arsenal built around Henry after gradually phasing out Bergkamp and Pires before both left in 2006
Arsenal ostensibly placed all their eggs in the right basket but Henry would be gone, too, by 2007. The Frenchman stated that he had “never played in Spain and never will” when signing his “last contract” 12 months before moving to Barcelona. Robert Pires accompanied him in La Liga by joining Villarreal and though 50 Premier League starts in his final two seasons is not the mark of a player who was surplus to requirements, it underlined his dwindling status in north London.
As for Dennis Bergkamp, his appearances were sporadic enough to hand the reins over to compatriot Robin van Persie, while Henry provided the most transient foundations possible. By 2007/08, the only Arsenal forward that started more than half of their Premier League games was Emmanuel Adebayor.
Will Liverpool do it? They might well try to gently phase out one forward but not in the Arsenal sense of losing all three in quick succession.
3) Spend loads
The example: Manchester City
The trio: Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Yaya Toure
The years: 2011-2015
The numbers: 227 goals in 502 games and two Premier League titles
The break-up: Dzeko was sold in August 2015 after Wilfried Bony was signed the previous August
The signing of flavour of the month Wilfried Bony left a sour taste in the mouth of Manchester City for years. The Swansea striker ended 2014 as the top Premier League scorer of the calendar year and started 2015 taking a £25m step up to the Etihad. Dzeko, who started 39 top-flight games and scored 30 goals across the title-winning campaigns of 2011/12 and 2013/14, was sacrificed to accommodate the Ivorian, who scored ten goals in 46 games. Manuel Pellegrini’s gamble did not pay off.
Will Liverpool do it? The top Premier League scorer of 2019, and thus Liverpool’s equivalent, would be Jamie Vardy.
4) Promote youth
The example: Liverpool
The trio: Steve McManaman, Stan Collymore, Robbie Fowler
The years: 1995-1997
The numbers: 122 goals in 282 games and some very white suits
The break-up: Collymore was sold after being usurped by a teenage Michael Owen
After Fowler’s 25 Premier League goals and McManaman’s Wembley heroics in the 1995 League Cup final, Liverpool decided that the time was right to properly replace Ian Rush. Collymore joined for a British record £8.5m and formed a wonderful partnership with the pair as Liverpool started the 1995/96 season as title favourites for many before finishing third. They then established a five-point gap atop the table by late December 1996, eventually falling away again to come fourth. Collymore still featured in his second season but less regularly than in his first, with Owen making both his debut and first start in the final two games of the 1996/97 campaign. Collymore was sold to Aston Villa and Owen shared the Premier League Golden Boot in his first full season as a professional, which culminated in tormenting Roberto Ayala at the World Cup.
Will Liverpool do it? Possibly. Rhian Brewster could finally break through or Harvey Elliott might be inspired by his new contract.
5) End it by text
The example: Chelsea
The trio: Eden Hazard, Pedro, Diego Costa
The years: 2015-2017
The numbers: 82 goals in 252 games and one Premier League title
The break-up: Antonio Conte dumped top scorer Costa by text and replaced him with Alvaro Morata
RELATED STORY: What Liverpool needs to do to retain the title next season
Edited by Tiyani wa ka Mabasa