Robert Lewandowski was the first name that came to mind when Liverpool announced Luis Suarez had signed a new long-term contract with the club. It’s something that should rightly be paraded in public: it sends a strong message when a club, any club, can tie down a player of such quality, especially after the events of this past summer.
Borussia Dortmund did something similar at the start of the campaign. It’s pretty much accepted now that Lewandowski will leave Signal Iduna Park at the end of the season, but Dortmund sought to ensure they would get the very best of the Polish international for his final season in yellow. Lewandowski received a pay rise – though the club claim it was always in the offing due to his form last season – and while it was made absolutely clear that there was no extension, offering the Pole a pay increase would at the very least keep him settled until Bayern (most likely) came in for him next year.
How much value can we really place in contracts? Gareth Bale signed a new long-term contract with Tottenham only 12 months before leaving for Real Madrid. One of the most extreme cases in recent times was Thiago Silva signing a new deal with AC Milan, only to be sold to PSG a matter of weeks later. Napoli have been down this road with Edinson Cavani, increasing his pay with a contract running until 2017, only to sell him a year later.
On the whole, contracts mean little. It’s unfortunate, as Liverpool, with their ambitions to raise their flag at the top of the Premier League mountain, would make for a far more competitive league in England and a strong representation in Europe with Suarez on board.
But the Uruguayan has been deserving of his new contract, rumoured to be somewhere between £200,000 and £250,000 per week. For all the form of other players in the Liverpool team, Suarez has carried Brendan Rodgers’ side to the top of the Premier League table, where they sit at time of writing, and if results go their way would remain there for Christmas.
But as good as Liverpool can be with Suarez, it’s likely that Liverpool will be powerless to stop the relentless hammering at the door from Europe’s current crop of big wigs, even in spite of their history as one of the major forces in football.
Milan, a traditional and storied powerhouse of the European game, had their greatest assets cherry picked when PSG swooped in for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva. It’s plain to see that the Italians haven’t been the same since. Dortmund, a Champions League winner in the past, a recent back-to-back winner of the Bundesliga and Champions League finalist last season, were left defenceless when Bayern (in fairness a traditional power) came in for Mario Goetze. Last season’s Champions League runners up may also lose Ilkay Gundogan and Marco Reus at some point in the near future. And let’s not dismiss the audacity (based on rumours) of a couple of clubs who attempted to prise Lionel Messi from Barcelona.
Contracts mean little when the money-fuelled ambition of foreign owners (literally and figuratively) desire the very best the game has to offer.
Luis Suarez is arguably the most in-form player in Europe at this time. Even with a contract running until 2018, Liverpool will be unable to shield their biggest asset from the eyes of Europe. In addition, who’s to say one of the club’s domestic rivals won’t put up a really strong case for his signature? It’s possible Suarez could be involved in another striker merry-go-round, with Real Madrid still admirers of Sergio Aguero. You can probably see where I’m going with this.
As Suarez continues to put in breathtaking performances throughout this season, Europe’s financial elite will continue to hover with hopes of taking him away. And let’s not have naivety cloud reality: Suarez says he’s happy at Liverpool, he looks the part with the captain’s armband, but how long will it be before the allure of Spain charms him once again?
This isn’t a make or break season for Liverpool. What they have is a very good chance to capture something which was initially out of reach. There’s a title charge at Anfield, as there should be with a player like Suarez in this kind of form. But history has been far too unkind to those who wish to stick to the rulebook. There’s no weight in contracts anymore.