As Luis Suarez enters the final few years of his career, The Hard Tackle looks at possible replacements for the Uruguayan striker.
The story of the phenomenal Luis Suarez is reaching its denouement as the Uruguayan heads into what could be his final months as the first choice striker of FC Barcelona. His contribution to the recent legacy at Camp Nou has been nothing short of legendary. The 33 year old has recorded 191 goals in 202 official games for Barcelona, which makes him the 4th highest scorer in the history of the club, only 3 short of a podium finish.
He’s been criticised left, right and centre by the fanbase, but on his day, El Pistolero is inarguably the best striker in the world. In the short span of 5 seasons, he’s won 13 trophies, including the UEFA Champions League. His exemplary 2015/16 season was the first time in 6 years that someone other than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo has won the award.
Suarez was never just a goalscorer, he has always been more. His eye for a pass is probably second to none when it comes to no. 9’s. So much so, he is 5th in the list for most assists in the previous decade. He also overtook Dani Alves to become the player who has given Messi the most assists in the latter’s career. Luis Suarez is clutch. He is an exceptional striker, goalscorer and playmaker, but it is all that that makes him a very difficult player to replace, or forget, but the show must go on.
The Hard Tackle now examines the 5 potential replacements Barcelona should look in an attempt to replace Luis Suarez.
Inter Milan are really pushing for the Serie A crown this season under new boss Antonio Conte, who has brought in several names over the course of two transfer windows to make sure his former team, the Bianconeri are not handed the title, as they have, over many seasons. One of many men leading this title challenge is Lautaro Martinez. The agile striker was recruited from Racing Club in the Superliga, where he was deemed to be a big name.
Last season didn’t go as plan for him as he played second fiddle to his international comrade, Mauro Icardi and was used in positions where he was not able to make the most of his minutes. The tables have turned this season, with Conte preferring a 3-5-2, and placing Martinez alongside Romelu Lukaku upfront. Martinez helps get the best out of his strike partner because of his immense work rate, acting as an anchor for the team.
It would hardly be far fetched to say Lautaro has the playing style and mould similar to peak Luis Suarez. They have similar work rate, the ability to play an accurate pass, bully through defences with sheer strength and acrobatic finishing; El Toro just doesn’t have the numbers to back this claim – yet.
Lautaro is also a regular for the Argentine national team so playing with Lionel Messi is nothing new to him. Infant, he has the same initials and dawns the same iconic no. 10 for Inter. He would cost the Catalan giants a sum upwards of 100 million euros, but is probably the best shout to take on this responsibility.
Gabriel Jesus is well into his 3rd full season after arriving from Palmeiras in the winter transfer window of 2016/17. His story follows a similar path as to the aforementioned Lautaro, arriving from South America, mostly acting as a backup to an established World Class striker. Jesus was set for a move away from Manchester City this season itself after playing two and a half seasons as a backup.
However, not only did he end up staying, he also changed his jersey number from 33 to 9, probably as a gesture to accept more responsibility at the club. Either way, this could very well be his last season in the Premier League, even though he’s been a bit lucky with Sergio Aguero’s injury. The Brazilian striker can play all positions across the frontline, and has excellent hold up, and dribbling ability which makes him suitable no. 9 for Barcelona.
He also boasts of incredible pace and ball playing abilities, which make him a threat in all attacking situations. The Samba boy would fit oh so well in Quique Setien’s system after playing under Pep Guardiola for more than 3 seasons. His direct return for Manchester City have been nothing short of impressive even after being out of favour. He has 16 goals and 9 assists in 33 games in all competitions this season including a 20 minute hat-trick against Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League. He would cost the Blaugrana anywhere between €70 to 90million.
Upon hearing of this transfer initially, it would seem like a rather odd pairing. Nevertheless, Timo Werner is one of the already established strikers in the market right now and is looking for a move out of their club. Apart from that, the German’s age suggests that he could do a long term job at the club.
Something that sets Werner apart from the previously mentioned 2 centre-forwards is his consistency over multiple seasons, which we have not seen from Martinez and Jesus yet. Moreover, there has been a development in the 23 year old’s style of playing under new coach Julian Nagelsmann, who is really making RB Leipzig push for the Meisterschale. Nagelsmann has used multiple formations this season, but he specifically prefers 2 strikers up top, which has been seen multiple times this season.
Werner is the nailed on forward in attack, while Patrik Schick and Yussuf Poulsen keep rotating. While Werner has been generally associated with quick, counter attacking football, this season he has shown that he can drop a bit deep and act as an anchor for his team. He’s already known for his impeccable off the ball movement and ability to poach off crosses and loose balls, but the new addition to his style of play may particularly attract attention from Quique Setien. He also adds an element of blistering pace during counters which Barcelona have lacked since the departure of Neymar.
His portfolio also includes the ability to play on their wing, much like Lautaro and Jesus. But, there are multiple clubs who are looking for the services of Timo Werner including Champions League winners Liverpool and their German compatriots Bayern Munich. Leipzig would be more comfortable in selling the star striker to a club abroad, which could give Barcelona an upper edge here. This deal could cost Barcelona anything upwards of €100 million.
The Dutch-Barcelona love affair continues as PSV’s young striker Donyell Malen has been linked to the Spanish club. The 21 year old was part of the esteemed Ajax academy, who then moved to the Arsenal U23s as a 18 year old but moved away a month later on loan to Ajax’s fiercest rivals PSV on loan. He’s now a part of the first team and is making a name for himself this season.
With 11 goals and 2 assists in 14 games, Malen registers a goal every 108 minutes. Even though he’s been out injured since mid December, he’s still the 4th highest scorer in the league and his club’s highest scorer. The youngster is quite versatile, he can and has played all positions along the frontline, including behind the striker.
Malen is a fantastic dribbler and tears through defences using speed and force, which is not obvious given his physique. His current problem resides in his off the ball movement which can obviously be worked on. His inclusion would be made easier since Barcelona already have a Dutch superstar in Frenkie De Jong. Given how Malen’s season has gone so far, it would be safe to say he wouldn’t cost Barcelona anything less than €35 million.
Probably the most far fetched option of all the players in this list, but not impossible considering the kinds of deals the Barcelona board has pulled through recently. Hardly any of them successful though, of course. Marcus Rashford seems to be the main man for Manchester United at the moment. He has 14 goals and 4 assists in 22 games and has a return of a goal every 134 minutes. In fact, the Red Devils would be just 3 points off the relegation zone.
His goals has won them 9 points, including crucial winners against the likes of Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur. The English striker was enjoying his most prolific campaign at Old Trafford, when he was ruled out for 2 months with a back injury in the first week of January.
Rashford, like everyone in this list can play on the wing apart from as a striker. In fact, his most comfortable position at the moment seems to be on the left wing. Moreover, the 22 year old seems to have broadened his on pitch personality, which is quite evident in how he plays, dropping deep to start moves, defending and being vocal on the pitch. He also captained United for the first time in his career this season against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup. If we take into account his age, his goal scoring returns, and the fact that he’s English, it would be safe to say Marcus Rashford would cost Josep Bartomeu a sum between €100-120 million.