With every day that passes, the more it feels as though Liverpool could be preparing for the inevitable exit of Mohamed Salah next summer.
We all hope that he will see out his career at Anfield, of course, but it is easy to envisage his legendary Reds chapter reaching its conclusion once this season ends.
At that point, Salah will have just 12 months remaining on his current deal, and with Saudi Pro League clubs sure to come back in for him, whether it be Al-Ittihad or someone else, his head could be turned.
Liverpool would receive an eye-watering amount of money for the 31-year-old – if they don’t, they shouldn’t even entertain offers – and it is vital that it is spent wisely on his replacement, in what could be one of the biggest voids to fill in Reds history.
READ MORE: 5 too early predictions for Liverpool’s January transfer window
Expect there to be numerous names thrown into the hat when it comes to Salah’s successor, and one player who has emerged as a candidate in recent days is Jarrod Bowen.
According to The Athletic, the West Ham forward “is a player Liverpool admire and have been watching for a number of seasons”, suggesting that they could come in for him in the near future.
But is he really up to being the man to make up for the potential loss of Salah?
Bowen has been a roaring success since joining the Hammers from Hull City in 2020, managing to conquer an are of football where many fail – making the big step up from the Championship to the Premier League.
There were some who felt that the 26-year-old would be found out in the top flight having excelled in the second tier, but he has silenced those naysayers emphatically, becoming a hugely effective figure.
Bowen has been a consistent source of end product for West Ham ever since arriving in east London, with a tally of 43 goals and 32 assists in 162 appearances a strong return for a side who have been relegation-threatened at times.
His impact for David Moyes’ team only seems to be increasing by the season, however, and he has started the current campaign in scintillating form, netting three goals in four appearances, as well as chipping in with one assist.
Bowen’s influence in an impressive West Ham side has arguably been unrivalled in these opening weeks, with the likes of Chelsea and Brighton finding it tough to contain him.
There are some obvious comparisons to draw with Salah, so it is no great surprise to see him considered a target, even though they are far from identical.For starters, the Englishman favours a right-sided role, allowing him to cut onto his preferred left foot, much in the way Liverpool’s Egyptian King has done to such devastating effect for years.
Granted, his current role isn’t the same as Salah’s, with Moyes using him on the right in a 4-2-3-1 system, but it is certainly easy to see how he would fit in at Anfield.
Like Salah, Bowen is also a great team player who works endlessly for the cause, averaging 1.3 tackles per game in the league so far this season, which is exactly the same as the Reds forward’s tally.
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – Saturday, September 2, 2023: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Aston Villa FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)
Interestingly, he once hailed that aspect of Salah’s game in an interview with CNN, saying: “The work he does off the ball as well. When we played against them, I wasn’t watching him when I was playing because that would be wrong to say, but I noticed the work he does off the ball.”
There is a durability about Bowen that is similar, too, with the former Hull ace starting 36 of the Hammers’ 38 league matches last season, and featuring in the other two.
Bowen is now also a four-cap England international and has a great chance of making the Three Lions’ squad for Euro 2024, so there is plenty that points towards him being an excellent signing for Liverpool.
That being said, he still isn’t Salah.
Not even close.
Liverpool’s iconic number 11 is one of the best players in the club’s history – some would argue that only Sir Kenny Dalglish and Steven Gerrard are ahead of him in the pecking order at this point – and he is one of the standout attacking players of his generation.
That is highlighted by Salah being nominated for the Ballon d’Or an incredible five times in a row, and he is held in such high esteem that other players are lauded by their own fans if they are second behind him in any statistic that emerges.
The “only Mo Salah…” joke on social media is a real thing!
Bowen deserves great credit for the way he has matured as a footballer, and he could be a handy squad player for Jurgen Klopp, but he has only once hit double figures in a Premier League season. Meanwhile, he has scored over 20 goals just once in a campaign in his career.
Salah on the other hand is a freakishly relentless attacker whose lowest-ever season tally for Liverpool is 23, and who also assists for fun – since the beginning of the 2017/18 season, no player in the Premier League has more goal contributions than his total of 199.
Expecting anyone to be as good as him is asking a lot, but his replacement has to be in and around the world-class bracket, something that Bowen cannot claim to be.
Most PL goal contributions since the start of 2017/18 season:
Salah – 199 (139 goals, 60 assists)
Kane – 170 (135 goals, 35 assists)
Son – 137 (88 goals, 49 assists)
Sterling – 133 (86 goals, 47 assists)
De Bruyne – 127 (51 goals, 76 assists)
Daily reminder that it’s Salah >>>
— Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) September 4, 2023
At 26 – he turns 27 in December – he is highly unlikely to ever reach those heights and instead can be content with being a highly competent Premier League player and international.
The English premium that would come with him would also make for a bloated transfer fee when there are other options across Europe with higher ceilings and cheaper price tags.
Young PSV Eindhoven winger Johan Bakayoko is similar in style to Salah and could be a more exciting choice, having recently been linked with a move to Merseyside.
Some rightly scoff when anyone suggests that Liverpool could swap Salah with a world-renowned star such as Kylian Mbappe or Vinicius Jr, but they have to be looking at a stunning successor, rather than a gamble.
READ MORE: How will Liverpool replace Mohamed Salah when the time comes?
As mentioned, Bowen coming in as a squad player who can shine in a number of positions could be shrewd business, price tag aside, but expecting to him to come in and achieve anything even close to what Salah has is wishful thinking.
The hope is that Salah doesn’t move on next summer and instead stays put for as long as possible, but it is impossible to shake the idea that this will be his last season in a Reds shirt.
Whoever replaces him has one of the hardest jobs in football on their hands, but Bowen isn’t the man to do it.