Mascherano is not irreplaceable; far from it, and I will explain my reasoning for this in another article. Liverpool should sell him for as much money as possible (hopefully somewhere in the region of £20-£25m; ideally £30m+), and use the money to strengthen in other areas.
As for on whom to spend the money – there are two experienced players out there who would be *perfect* for Liverpool, and it astonishes me that Rafael Benitez has (seemingly) not even considered either player.
The players I’m referring to are Barcelona’s Alexander Hleb and AC Milan’s Mathieu Flamini.
To me, the signing of these two players this is a no-brainer, and I cannot understand why the club – with its comparatively limited resources – is not moving heaven and earth to sign them.
Prior to Hleb's move to Barcelona last year, I argued last year that Liverpool should sign him:
Much to my frustration, it didn't happen.
I’ll now outline why I believe Liverpool should sign these two players.
1. Flamini is a natural replacement for Mascherano.
2. Both are already experienced in the Premiership with Arsenal, so no settling-in period.
3. Both are very experienced players.
4. Both are strong characters with a winning mentality.
5. Hleb cost Barcelona a mere £11.8m. He has barely featured for them and that is not going to change. Liverpool could probably get him for between £5 and £10m.
6. Flamini went to Milan for free. He is not a regular at the San Siro and the club is in transition with a new manager. Could probably be bought for £10-£12m.
7. Flamini is still only 25; his best years are ahead of him.
8. Hleb is only 28.
9. Both players were excellent performers for Arsenal.
10. Having played under Arsene Wenger, both players have excellent technical skills and like to play football the right way.
11. Hleb is an excellent creative option, and would add much-needed flair to the team
12. Both are versatile: Flamini can play defensive midfield and across defence (as he proved with Arsenal); Hleb can play on the left, right and as a link-man.
13. Hleb has publicly indicated that he is receptive to a move away from the Nou Camp.
If Liverpool really went for it, both players could probably be bought for less than £20m, with money left over to buy a second striker in the £8-15m range.
In terms of line-up and formation, we could be looking at something like this (using current players):
Johnson ---- Agger ---- Carra ----- Insua
Hleb -------------- Alonso -------- Riera
Hleb could alternate with/provide cover for Gerrard in the role just behind Torres, and could also play out wide. With Flamini protecting the back four, Gerrard could still be free to roam, and he and Hleb could do serious damage together.
I personally believe that Flamini is a better all-round option than Mascherano - he has a better range of passing; is faster more dynamic; is more direct with his play; is just as good at breaking up play, and offers more of a creative threat.
This is a Premiership winning side!
Come on, Rafa – why are you not doing everything you can to sign these two players? You already allowed Andrei Arshavin - a player who *should* be playing for Liverpool - to go to Arsenal. Don’t waste this opportunity – sign these players now!