If anyone ever mustered up an ounce of sympathy for Luis Suarez upon his announcement that he wished to leave Liverpool, the Premier League and England behind him, the chances are that the empathising emotion is now well long gone.
The Uruguayan’s tale has transformed from an initial statement of rather humbly telling reporters in Brazil that he is unhappy on Merseyside, which is understandable considering his reputation in Britain as a public hate figure and the media’s most detested player, to a series of bullish and selfish declarations that the Reds should adhere to his wishes, and that his agent is control of the situation.
It’s put Brendan Rodgers in an incredibly difficult position – does he buckle to player power, surrender Liverpool’s only world-class player and a good few million in the process due to Suarez announcing his apparent availability at every opportunity, or does he keep the most talented individual on the Anfield roster against his will, regardless of the potentially dire consequences?
Former Liverpool player and fan favourite Jan Molby, anointed as an ‘Honorary Scouser’ in 2009, has had his say on Merseyside’s most pressing and controversial issue, telling local BBC Radio on the 5th of July; “The last thing you want is an unhappy player and Liverpool know that, I think he’s made it pretty clear that he would like to try something new, including playing at a club that’s in the Champions League. If that’s how he feels, the club has to do the business,” as reported by the Daily Mirror.
It’s a logic of thought that I find difficult to argue with. It’s a shocking condemnation of Luis Suarez’ personality that this is the manner in which he’s forged his own exit route out of Anfield, but the fact is, there is little you can do to keep a player at a club against his will. Most clubs would be against doing this at the best of times, with the utmost professionals, yet with a loose cannon like the controversial Uruguayan, you can anticipate the potential blowback could reach catastrophic proportions. He’s worth in excess of £40million at this point, but a year of constant drama, limited goals and regular media spats will only drive down Suarez’s price in the eyes of potential suitors, if there are any left by that point.
Similarly, although Suarez’s lack of loyalty, despite accusing the Reds of the same crime, is truly shocking, there is clearly a very simple phenomena at work here, which has unfortunately reared its head in a rather ugly manner on this occasion – the 26 year old has outgrown his club, his team-mates and his surroundings. Liverpool may be building quickly and optimistically this summer, bringing in a mixture of youth, potential, ability and experience in Iago Aspas, Luis Alberto, Simon Mignolet and Kolo Toure, but overall, the Reds roster is still a good few years away from rivalling the likes of Tottenham and Arsenal in terms of quality and depth, and hence challenging for Champions League qualification.
The Anfield club finished the year with a 12 point gap between themselves and fourth spot, and although I fully expect them to make ground in closing up the void considerably next season as Brendan Rodgers and his exciting young cast grow stronger and more confident by the game, every club above them in the Premier League is set to rebuild and reinvest heavily this summer, and it remains unlikely the Reds will be able to better the progress of their divisional rivals in the transfer market or on the pitch to such a level they leap-frog them in the domestic table.
On the other hand, the difficult task of returning the Reds to former glories, handed to Brendan Rodgers last summer, can only be made harder without Suarez’s talismanic efforts up front. The striker finished the year as the Premier League’s second top scorer, recording 23 goals in 33 league appearances, in addition to five assists.
But the end product is hardly the be all and end all of the Uruguay international’s game. He’s not only one of the best finishers in England, but also one of the best dribblers, most talented creators and hardest-working players. The majority of Liverpool’s forward moves are instigated by him, as he encompasses and combines the attributes of an attacking midfielder and a striker, and although the Anfield fan base have the utmost faith in Daniel Strurridge, who was exceptional after his January move to Merseyside, the 23 year old is not ready to replace such an integral influence in the Liverpool first team, especially on the bigger occasions.
But let’s face facts here; Suarez is unlikely to make a u-turn any time soon, despite Brendan Rodgers denying that his star forward is for sale. At one point this summer, the silver lining appeared to be that at least the 26 year old would save Liverpool the heartache of plying his trade with another Premier League club, with the most likely destinations being Bayern Munich or Real Madrid – two clubs that are always difficult to refuse and beat away. Not too much loss of face on Rodgers’ or Liverpool’s part then.
Now however, Suarez appears open to a stay in England, with the Gunners making a formal £30million bid, whilst the striker has made little effort to deny that jumping ship to another Premier League team is entirely out of the question. This wasn’t part of the plan, and I’d suggest Rodgers does whatever he can to keep Suarez out of the hands of his divisional rivals at all costs.
But once again, the Liverpool gaffer’s hands may well be tied. Unless the likes of Real Madrid or Bayern Munich actually table a formal bid, there are a select few clubs that can match the Reds’ valuation of their star striker. The vast majority of Serie A and La Liga remain in troubling debt and unable to invest, whilst Barcelona, PSG and Monaco have already made their big money striker acquisitions this summer, or at least have them in the pipeline.
Similarly, English clubs have been privy to the most transparent view of Suarez’ abilities, and for all the controversy, he is arguably the best striker in the Premier League, with a proven track record in the division, who has aclimatised to the English style incredibly well, and is now readily available, albeit for a huge fee.
Whether Rodgers should or shouldn’t take Jan Molby’s advice in many ways is a moot question – he quite simply has to let Suarez go. Even if he remained extra-vigilant in keeping him at Anfield throughout the current transfer window, he would not be able to do so the summer afterwards, or even in January, and by then a lot could have changed for the worse.
Selling to another Premier League club may be a bitter pill to swallow, but there may be no viable atlernative. The only justification in the eyes of the Anfield faithful will be in the fee received for Suarez’s services. It must be disproportionate, decadent and unprecedentedly excessive, and a replacement that maintains the Merseyside tradition of having a top class forward must be found. Even so, it is difficult to imagine the Reds can move forward at a rate that pleases the fans without their intrinsically influential forward.
Should Brendan Rodgers adhere to Jan Molby’s advice?
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