The biggest transfer rumour doing the rounds at the moment is that Liverpool forward Luis Suarez is right at the top of incoming Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola’s summer shopping list and while at the moment that is merely conjecture, how the club deal with the issue could hold the key to its immediate future.
Fenway Sports Group (FSG) have by and large got plenty of big decisions wrong during their time in charge of the club so far, ranging from spending ludicrous amounts of money on relatively unproven players, to hiring a manager that had been out of the game for far too long to dithering hugely over the stadium issue. Even when they have tried to show leadership over certain matters, they have often chosen the wrong path and the business of football has been a completely alien environment to them with a steep learning curve to boot. The likes of John W. Henry and Tom Werner seem inherently cautious people when it comes to their dealings with the club, which is why the future of the Uruguayan striker is such a cause for concern.
There’s a very real worry that they will see the offer put on the table for Suarez, which would have to be in the region fo £40m for them to even consider selling, judge it a reasonable one and consent to his sale, which could have a potentially damaging impact on the team’s fortunes in the short-term and whether they will be capable of competing with the top four and slowing down the regression they have been guilty of in recent years.
As the old saying goes, ‘no one player is bigger than the club’, but it’s a cliche of little substance by ex-pros clearly clueless on how to deal in anything other than meaningless, empty platitudes. The 26-year-old has been absolutely key in the club even competing for a final league position inside the top eight this season, and without him it’s not even worth thinking about where they would be. His departure could hurt the club more than any single sale since the one that saw Xabi Alonso leave for Real Madrid.
Liverpool have a history when it comes to dreadful negotiation tactics; with Alonso, Rafa Benitez practically backed him into a corner with such a public pursuit of the clearly inferior Gareth Barry as his replacement, while Roy Hodgson couldn’t even get Javier Mascherano on the phone during the summer to address his future, leading to the player refusing to play just before a game away at Manchester City.
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is often a leading light when it comes to tough negotiating to the extent that it looks like he’s willing to walk away from the table at any given moment is certain deals aren’t met. This saw Real Madrid have to fork out north of £30m for Luka Modric in the summer and sign a landmark ‘commercial partnership’ package which has the potential to be worth just as much over the next few years in terms of sponsorship deals.
Granted, the club could have sold Modric to Chelsea for £40m a window or two earlier, therefore strengthening a direct rival for a top four spot, but in biding their time and refusing to compromise below the £30m mark that Madrid deemed too high, they got a deal that allowed them the freedom in the transfer market to go out and sign Mousa Dembele, Hugo Lloris and Jan Vertonghen.
Sometimes there is an argument to be made that the amount gleaned from such a big deal outweighs the value of a player as it allows you to rebuild the side and strengthen more than two or three positions at once, but Liverpool have had enough of shopping around the bargain bin in the past and the transfer bracket of between £8-12m, with very little success. For once they have a player of genuine quality and he is more important than any single figure at the club at this moment in time.
It might not sound fantastic to be so beholden to a player and it takes a certain amount of pride to admit as much, but Liverpool are not in a position of strength at this moment in time, rather a period of transition and whether it be £40m or £50m, they need Suarez more than he needs them. From the player’s point of view, you can hardly argue with a desire to test himself on the highest stage of the Champions League on a consistent basis playing under a manager like Guardiola, particularly when Liverpool are clearly incapable of offering him a similar package for the foreseeable future. Demanding loyalty in a game where none exists is simply unrealistic.
It’s not only his goals this season that have stood out, Suarez’s leadership when things aren’t going the team’s way has seen him become alongside captain Steven Gerrard the one player that everyone else looks to, while his versatility and ability to create chances from open play mark him out as a much more complete player than they even had with the world-class Fernando Torres during his superb spell on Merseyside.
Just as Robin van Persie leaving Arsenal in the summer for Manchester United was widely seen as a statement of intent from Old Trafford as much as it was a signal that the Gunners lacked ambition, should FSG refuse to keep hold of Suarez due to the lure of money, even putting aside the substantive damage, the symbolic gesture alone could crush a fragile regime built on soft foundations.