By 90Min
May 22, 2019

It's not a bad time to be a Liverpool fan right now.

Picking up 97 points in the Premier League, reaching back-to-back Champions League finals and perhaps most importantly getting to watch that squad every week, you'll be hard pressed to find any complaints muttered around the streets of Merseyside.

But one problem that Liverpool's meteoric under Jürgen Klopp has brought is in the transfer market. No, not in attracting players, because the Reds could do that even without all their current spoils, but it actually comes in the form of making significant improvements to their team.

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Maybe there's a case that Virgil van Dijk needs a world-class centre-back next to him, and sure there could be a spot in midfield for someone to bring in a little bit of extra creativity, but this is a Liverpool side which lacks any significant weakness.

So while rumours linking the Reds with Timo Werner, Paulo Dybala or Gareth Bale might get the heart racing, it's actually the recent reports of a free transfer for Max Kruse which could prove to be the latest in a line of masterstrokes at Anfield.

One year after Kruse first made the step up to the Bundesliga from Germany's second tier back in 2013, then Borussia Dortmund manager Klopp backed the relative newcomer to be named as the player of the season, telling DW that "there's no alternative" to the forward.

And it was no surprise that Kruse thrived in Mönchengladbach. After all, he was being coached by Lucien Favre, who at the same time was working his magic with Brazilian playmaker, Raffael.

Throughout his career at Hertha BSC, Schalke and even Dynamo Kyiv, he had always played as an attacking midfielder, scoring the odd goal here and there but never showing enough when it came to the final third of the pitch.

In two years playing as a false nine at Gladbach, however, Raffael was directly involved in 42 goals across all competitions. 

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It was a similar story for Kruse, who since breaking through in an unorthodox role at Borussia-Park is a self-proclaimed "hybrid" when it comes to strikers.

Although one thing that does separate Kruse from his former teammate is the sheer amount of match-winning goals that he's scored throughout his career. Be it with his wand of a left foot or his intelligent positioning, the German has scored 35 winning goals since his senior debut.

Roberto Firmino's journey from creativity at Hoffenheim to potency in Liverpool almost mirrors Kruse's journey exactly - albeit to a much higher level.

One issue that Liverpool do face now with their current squad is that no one else in the team can replicate what Firmino brings to the table, providing everything you want from a playmaker and a striker in one whole package.

The 27-year-old's positional play and decision making on the pitch allows the two main danger men - Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané - an opportunity to make a difference in the game, given extra space to take more risks and ultimately win Liverpool a match.

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But with Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi, the focal point of Liverpool's attack, what has made them so dangerous for every club on the planet during Klopp's tenure becomes lost, with players forced to play through their centre-forward.

Much like Firmono at Liverpool, Kruse's influence from the centre of midfield upwards has been unlike anything the Bundesliga has really seen in its modern era, and even as a player in the tail end of their career it's difficult to think of a club that he'd be better suited to.

But of course, as a self-proclaimed "hybrid", it's not all about creativity. 

In isolation, 31-year-old Kruse was actually involved in more league goals (21) and in fewer games than Liverpool's Firmino (19) this season.

But throughout their history in their respective leagues, both players actually have near identical goals and assists to game ratios - with both significantly better than Liverpool's aforementioned backup strikers.

Kruse has over 350 appearances under his belt at almost every level imaginable, playing in both of Europe's major continental cups, and he has that star quality that teams at every level can only dream of having in their ranks. 

Kruse's arrival on a free transfer would mean Liverpool are able to maintain Klopp's prefered style of play with a risk-free signing, and the number of goals which the German will guarantee on Merseyside even as a part-time player could cement his place in Anfield folklore.

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