Liverpool 'racing' to wrong Caoimhín Kelleher replacement with transfer answer under its nose

Caoimhín Kelleher and manager Jürgen Klopp of Liverpool after the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield on May 19, 2024 in Liverpool, England.
-Credit: (Image: Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Liverpool seems destined to lose Caoimhín Kelleher more or less every summer. It was over two years ago now that Jürgen Klopp hailed him as 'the best number two in the world' for the way the Reds like to play, but the stopper has been content to remain as second fiddle to Alisson.

That decision paid off handsomely this season, with Kelleher getting almost as much game time as Alisson due to Europa League opportunities and an injury to the Brazilian. And he did his reputation no harm whatsoever.

But that could be a double-edged sword for Liverpool as the transfer market opens. Inadvertently or not, Kelleher has put himself in the shop window with his performances, and a chance to be the number one somewhere surely beckons — which would force the Reds into the market.

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According to Football Insider, the Reds are 'racing' with Newcastle to try and secure the services of James Trafford. Previously on the books at Manchester City, he suffered relegation with Burnley this season, and Liverpool is keen on him as a Kelleher replacement.

That's despite the fact that Vincent Kompany actually ended up dropping Trafford by the end of the season. And in truth, Liverpool need only look as far as the man who took his place to find a better successor to Kelleher.

Arijanet Muric made headlines for the wrong reasons with a high-profile blunder after returning to the Burnley side, but a change in goalkeepers always invites unwelcome levels of scrutiny and pressure. And on the whole, the 25-year-old coped with it very well, finishing the Premier League campaign as statistically the best goalkeeper (at least one match played) in terms of the difference per 90 between post-shot expected goals faced and the number of goals actually conceded (FBref).

That might sound convoluted, but it's a very helpful measure for determining how many 'extra' goals a keeper prevents compared to what might be expected. Kelleher, for reference, ranked fifth in the league (he and Muric both played 10 games, a statistically significant amount), and Trafford was all the way down in 26th, having cost Burnley 0.21 goals per game.

Persisting with Trafford for so long helped ensure Kompany got Burnley relegated. Muric had been near-faultless as the first-choice goalkeeper in the Championship, and a ruthless replacement ended up being a really rash one.

It's hard to fathom why Liverpool would now repeat that mistake. Going for Muric, however, could be very shrewd.

The one advantage for Trafford is that he is younger. At 21, he has time on his side, and has shown signs of promise despite his unconvincing record this season. But Muric is only 25 himself, which for a goalkeeper means that his peak years are certainly still ahead of him.

And though Trafford is English, Muric would also count as homegrown. Coincidentally, he too came through the Manchester City youth system, with the Kosovo international meeting the criteria of having trained in England for three years prior to his 21st birthday.

Not taking up a homegrown slot is a handy trait for a player who by definition will only ever feature in emergencies or cup competitions. It's one of many boxes Muric appears to tick.

Keeping Kelleher would still be ideal, and could yet happen. But if Liverpool is looking at Trafford, then the solution is right under the club's nose if it just looks a little further.