Who will replace Lucas at Anfield?

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The news that Lucas Leiva will be sidelined for the remainder of the season has served as a significant blow to Liverpool's ambitions of qualifying for the Champions League this season.

It was confirmed on Thursday that the Brazilian midfielder had sustained anterior cruciate ligament damage in the Carling Cup encounter with Chelsea and will now undergo surgery.

After a somewhat unspectacular start to his Anfield career, Lucas has blossomed considerably over the last year or two, and was named the Reds' player of the season last term.

And, although Kenny Dalglish has plenty of midfielders at his disposal in Lucas' absence, the Liverpool boss could dip into the transfer market for a replacement in January.

Here, GMF runs the rule over some of the candidates with the potential to fill the 24-year-old's boots...

Yann M'Vila

Age: 21
Club: Rennes. Nationality: French.
Estimated value: £30 million

Yann M'Vila is regarded as one of the most exciting midfield prospects currently operating in France. The 21-year-old made his international debut in August of last year, and has since been awarded a further 16 caps.

Arsenal have consistently been linked with the central enforcer, as have Real Madrid, while Liverpool are reported to have shown an interest in the past.

However, Rennes' desire is to wait until after Euro 2012 before they cash-in on M'Vila, with the hope he will have reached his optimum value.

Hence, a January move to Anfield would appear to be unlikely for M'Vila.

Seydou Keita

Age: 31
Club: Barcelona. Nationality: Malian.
Estimated value: £4 million

Seydou Keita has been consistently linked with a switch from the Nou Camp to Anfield in recent weeks.

The Mali international made more appearances than any other Barcelona player last season, but is not a regular starter for Pep Guardiola's side.

Keita would certainly be open to joining Liverpool in the future, and admitted last month he was flattered by the reported interest.

"Liverpool is a great club, it is fantastic to hear that they are interested in me, but you know how I feel about Barcelona," Keita told skysports.com.

The 31-year-old did, however, say he would review his position at Barca at the end of the season, but Lucas' injury may hasten Liverpool into a January swoop.

Lassana Diarra

Age: 26
Club: Real Madrid. Nationality: French
Estimated value: £10 million

Lassana Diarra looked set for a move away from Real Madrid during the summer, with Tottenham touted as his most likely destination.

However, the 26-year-old stayed at the Santiago Bernabeu and has featured fleetingly for Jose Mourinho's side so far this term.

Diarra has been linked with Liverpool in the past, and his experience of the Barclays Premier League could make him a prime candidate to replace Lucas.

A January loan deal could prove to be good business for both parties.

Leroy Fer

Age: 21
Club: FC Twente. Nationality: Dutch.
Estimated value: £10 million

Liverpool are reported to have been monitoring Leroy Fer with a view to a potential summer transfer.

However, Lucas' absence may encourage Kenny Dalglish to formalise his interest in the 21-year-old when the transfer window opens in January.

Regarded as one of the most exciting young midfield prospects in the Eredivisie, Fer has been compared to former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira.

However, he only signed for Twente from Feyenoord during the summer, and may lack the experience Kenny Dalglish requires.

Jay Spearing

Age: 23
Club: Liverpool. Nationality: English.
Estimated value: N/A

Regarded very highly indeed at Anfield, Jay Spearing was awarded a new Liverpool contract in the summer after impressing in the absence of Steven Gerrard last season.

The 23-year-old has, however, seen his progress stalled somewhat by the transfer window acquisitions of Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam, and has made only on league appearance this term.

However, Kenny Dalglish may trust Spearing with replacing Lucas in the short-term, before making a decision on a possible signing in January.

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