With the increasingly odd transfer saga spun by Luis Suarez refusing to come to an end, what should Liverpool FC’s stand be? : Hold on to him no matter what or get rid of a rebellious player ASAP?
“Liverpool want me to stay, but it would be difficult to say no to Real Madrid.”
The ‘will he, won’t he’ question has been asked by journalists, supporters and anyone who has an opinion on Luis Suarez; i.e. nearly everyone. Pages of newsprint have been dedicated to this issue ever since he supposedly lamented the treatment he felt he received from the English press in an interview with a Uruguayan radio station on May 31. Reports of Luis Suarez wanting to leave Liverpool have surfaced before El Pistolero was on international duty. Just as on previous occasions, the club has reiterated that Suarez is still a Liverpool player until he submits a written transfer request.
Waiting until the player returns to Melwood is a wise move. Meanwhile, the club has already signed two more players who can play in a variety of positions within the attacking third. If you believe what Brendan Rodgers says these days, it is likely that more attacking reinforcements will arrive at Anfield soon. However, this situation bears a striking similarity to Arsenal signing Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski early last summer. We all know what jersey Robin Van Persie wore at the end of that transfer window.
There are certain facts that are well-known by now. Liverpool have not played a Champions League game ever since Rafa Benitez left the club. The past three seasons have seen them further away from Champions League football than before; except for a brief period under Kenny Dalglish. With regard to Luis Suarez, the man has missed a whopping 20 games for the Reds due to bans and suspensions, an equivalent of a season’s home games. While the player has expressed his feelings via the media, his statements can easily be construed as a way to escape Anfield for Champions League football. Hence, the ultimate decision on Suarez’s future needs to be made by the manager Brendan Rodgers as well as the American owners.
Destination Unknown: Madrid, Bayern or Juventus?
The scenario of Luis Suarez leaving is more a case of what is likely to happen. Should he be sold, there is very little chance of the Reds selling him to another Premier League club; while Suarez would prefer leaving England altogether. He would not be a very popular signing at most other English clubs either, at least with the fans. In that case, selling him to Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Juventus is the only possible outcome.
But here’s the kicker – Real Madrid have not bid for Luis Suarez. His ‘come and get me’ pleas have not attracted much interest from Bayern Munich or Juventus either. It so happened that Real Madrid were without a manager until Carlo Ancelotti recently agreed a three-year deal with them. Until then, the transfer market was stuck in second gear due to doubts over the immediate future of Los Blancos and Paris Saint Germain. However, the stories of Luis Suarez’s club future have since dried up over the course of the Confederations Cup as attention has since been shifted his countryman Edinson Cavani. It is thought that the latter is now the first choice replacement for Gonzalo Higuain.
Bayern Munich seem to be a more likely destination. The Bavarians have just come off a perfect season under Jupp Heynckes; and are as strong, financially, as Real. Moreover, Suarez’s agent Pere Guardiola happens to be the brother of the new manager, who does not fancy Mario Gomez. The playing system at the club is likely to undergo a minor surgery with the manager likely to favour players who can play in more than one position. However, just as on Real, there will be no 100% guarantees of being the first name being put down on the team sheet.
Rumours of Suarez joining Juventus have abound since the end of the 2011-12 season, as the future of several players was unknown after Kenny Dalglish was let go. The Turin giants were in need of a top striker at that time; but were snubbed by Robin Van Persie while Suarez signed a long-term contract at Anfield. They did retain the Scudetto, and made a deep run in Europe but still needed a top centre forward to provide that one final push to the summit that Bayern Munich currently occupy. However, The Old Lady have already signed Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez for a total outlay of £8m and would be unwilling to break the bank to meet the asking price that the Reds ask for.
Liverpool FC’s Dilemma
Liverpool are surely in the driving seat, here, at least now. So what do they do with Suarez?
Keeping his shenanigans aside, the Uruguayan brings four important qualities to Liverpool – goals (of course), the ability to create goal-scoring opportunities for others, a phenomenal work rate and his passion. His contribution to the team is worth that of at least 2 players combined. It is for this reason that Liverpool would hold out for an asking price of at least £40m.
But, it would be stupid to attempt to try to ‘replace’ Suarez – rather, his contribution to the squad must be compensated for by other players in the squad, new signings, or the possibility of young players coming through the Academy. Signing Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto is evidence that Liverpool are taking steps to solve this problem. Also, as there is no certainty that Adam Morgan and Samed Yesil would turn into prolific players at the senior level, we are likely to see more new arrivals at Anfield this month.
10 points in 4 games at the end of the season without Suarez has shown that the Reds are capable of playing without him, if necessary. Not only did they notch three wins during that time, there was a visible fluidity in movement and coordination within the attacking third.
Should Suarez be sold, there will surely be an inflow of funds for reinvestment into the squad. The fear among Liverpool supporters is not thoroughly misplaced, given the club’s mixed record with transfer dealings in the recent past, with £35m being blown away out of sheer panic on deadline day once before.
Brendan Rodgers: Your Move
Brendan Rodgers and his team must take a leaf out of the playbook of Daniel Levy, or Sir Alex Ferguson. The chairman of Tottenham Hotspur played hardball with Chelsea and refused to sell Luka Modric on the cheap. Modric was then stayed at White Hart Lane and contributed to a fantastic 2011-12 season; until he left for Real Madrid for a cool £27m. On the other hand, Sir Alex used all his powers of persuasion to extract one last year out of Cristiano Ronaldo until the transfer fee world record was broken in June 2009.
Keeping Suarez would send out a signal that Liverpool are not a club willing to sell their best players just because a great offer comes along. Moreover, selling him entails the need to make more than one new signing in order to replace his contribution on the field. Luis Suarez has a contract running until June 2018 and will still have a sizeable market value in 2014. Hence, it would be wise to try and extract one more season out of him in order to aid the club’s push for a spot in the Champions League. In the worst case scenario, Suarez may force a move away from Anfield just as he did while at Groningen and at Ajax. But given that Liverpool’s performances are as unpredictable as Suarez, a successful 2013-14 campaign may make El Pistolero believe that life in England isn’t so bad after all.
– Keith Castelino