Arsenal’s pursuit of Luis Suarez this summer depends on one man. It’s not Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis, it’s not Arsene Wenger, it’s not their Liverpool counterparts or even Suarez himself, unfortunately for the Gunners it’s a star of a different summer transfer saga on the opposite side of North London – that’s right, it’s the Welsh Wonder Gareth Bale. But whether the Tottenham talisman stays put this transfer window or makes his long-awaited move to Real Madrid, it’s hard to see a positive outcome for Arsenal.
It’s looking more and more likely that GB will become a Los Blancos player by the end of the summer. The 24-year-old is one of a number of Premier League stars who have coincidentally been reported injured and subsequently absent from pre-season fixtures at the same time as serious doubts linger over their futures, along with Suarez as well as Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney.
It suggests Bale’s not in the right frame of mind to put on a Spurs jersey, even for non-competitive affairs, but most damning is Chris Coleman’s inclusion of the winger in his Wales squad for next week’s international friendly clash with the Republic of Ireland, implying that Bale’s perhaps not so injury-stricken after all. At the same time, Tottenham director Sir Keith Mills admitted to the Evening Standard earlier this week: “If a player is desperate to leave, it’s very difficult to force him to stay. We’ve seen it in other clubs. Even if he has a contract, you can’t force somebody to play for you,” whilst Spurs chairman and transfer chief Daniel Levy holidayed in Miami.
So it seems that Bale is inching towards leaving for Spain by the day, with his bags already packed and his passport in a safe but accessible location on his bedside cabinet. In terms of next season, it should bode well for the Gunners, who are desperate to not spend the 2013/2014 campaign looking nervously over their shoulders at their local rivals as they did last term. The Lilywhites have invested well this summer in Nacer Chadli, Paulinho and Roberto Soldado, but could easily find themselves unstuck without Bale’s knack of scoring match-winning goals.
That being said, Arsene Wenger, despite his declaration that the Arsenal roster can compete with or without new signings next season, still needs to sign Suarez if he’s to stand any chance of affecting the Premier League title race, but Bale’s departure could bring an abrupt end to his pursuit of the Liverpool forward.
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The Reds are determined to hold all the cards round the negotiating table, with owner John W Henry playing hardball by declaring this morning that Suarez is unavailable to any club at any price. Brendan Rodgers has been more realistic in his discussions on the Uruguayan’s future, but still expects a huge return on the Anfield outfit’s original £20million investment to spend on new recruits, and compensate for the fact losing Suarez will end all hopes of the Reds claiming fourth spot next season.
Rodgers has never uttered an official valuation for his star striker, but alluded to his price-bracket by suggesting that Edinson Cavani’s £55million move to PSG from Napoli midway through July had now become the benchmark price for strikers this summer, along with Monaco’s £53million acquisition of Radamel Falcao. But the audit of Suarez’s worth is likely to increase as we get closer to deadline day, especially if Gareth Bale makes the switch to La Liga.
Daniel Levy has already turned down a record-breaking £86million offer for the Welsh winger, and if Los Blancos don’t want to wait until January or even next summer to get their man, they’ll have to make an improved bid within the next month. Quite rightly, the Liverpool management don’t want to miss out on unprecedented transfer revenues whilst one of their closest divisional rivals cashes in, especially considering Suarez was equally as influential as Gareth Bale in the Premier League last season.
And Rodgers has already remarked that the Welshman’s fee will affect his forward’s price tag: “Every player has a valuation but you have to look at the market. With Gareth Bale they are talking about £100m and Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez were arguably the two best players in the Premier League last season.You can’t say that Gareth Bale is valued at over 100 per cent more,” the Liverpool gaffer recently told reporters from Sky Sports News.
Granted, the Tottenham man has specifically unique qualities and a certain aestheticism about him that makes him so electrifying to watch and capable of pulling in the punters world wide. He is very much seen as the future of the beautiful game, in terms of his pristine athleticism at least, and at the age of just 24, has the world at his feet.
But Suarez too, can claim a unique style and equal pedigree. The Liverpool man out-scored and out-assisted Bale’s efforts last term, but his ability spans well beyond consistent end product. The Uruguay international is not only one of the best finishers in the English top flight, he’s also one of the best creators, generating 90 opportunites to score for his team mates last term according to OPTA, one of the best dribblers, averaging 2.9 successful dribbles per game, and by far the hardest working centre-forward off the ball.
There are few strikers in Europe who can claim to synergise the roles and abilities of a natural poacher and an attacking midfielder so well, and like Bale, Suarez is very much a world-class player – the only difference is the latter was putting in his individual and talismanic displays at a club that couldn’t even escape the Premier League’s bottom half until the turn of the year.
So it wouldn’t be that surprising if Liverpool demanded £60million, £65million or even £75million for Suarez, considering firstly the campaign he had last season, and secondly the impact his departure will have on the Merseyside club’s immediate future. And with Arsene Wenger yet to improve on his rather limp £40million plus a quid bid made earlier in the summer, it remains unlikely the Gunners gaffer will match Liverpool’s current valuation of £55million, let alone what it could rise to if Bale moves to Real Madrid and the Lilywhites cash-in big time. By the end of the summer, even Arsenal’s club record-breaking £40million and a pound bid could look horrendously out-dated.
But saying an unlikely situation occurs, where Gareth Bale decides he’s not ready for La Liga and Daniel Levy somehow manages to keep the Bernabeu wolves at bay, it doesn’t bode well for the Gunners. Spurs have been knocking at the Champions League door for the last four years in the Premier League, and now with Bale in full swing, as well as three additions to the starting XI this summer, it seems unlikely Arsenal will be able to stave off the Lilywhites’ threat for another season, especially without new recruits.
And plans to sign Suarez will have to be thrown completely out of the window. New Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is desperate to flex the Spanish giants’ financial muscle this summer, and if he can’t land Bale, he’ll almost certainly turn his attentions to Suarez – the only world class striker excluding Wayne Rooney readily available at this point in the summer, and Los Blancos are yet to source a replacement for former Arsenal target Gonzalo Higuain, who is now with Napoli.
The club make a point of sourcing the top performers of any given footballing year every summer, as part of the Galacticos programme that has seen Zinedine Zidane, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka join the Bernebeu for monumental fees in recent years. Having already missed out on Neymar this summer to Barcelona, and with Bale staying put in North London, the Madrid outfit will be desperate to splash the cash on Suarez, to make a statement of their financial strength and institutional power rather than any particular footballing reason.
And as if the lure of playing at such a prestigious club wasn’t enough to end Arsenal’s chances of attracting Suarez to the Emirates, any offer Perez is willing to make for the Liverpool striker’s services will blow Arsene Wenger’s £40million to £50million valuations for 26 year old completely out of the water.
So what is Wenger to do – w ith his hopes of signing Suarez depending almost entirely on another player at another club, but neither outcome looking particularly favourable from the Gunners’ point of view?
Well, there’s not a lot you can do in a lose-lose situation; perhaps he should have been more bold in his pursuit of Gonzalo Higuain, or more realistic about the prospect of signing a striker from a divisional rival for comparatively cheap whilst every other European forward is jumping ship for ground-breaking fees. He could wrap up the Suarez deal before Bale’s fate and more importantly his fee is decided, but that will take meeting Liverpool’s current valuation for Suarez, which at this point seems incredibly unlikely.
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