The humour of a club set to be banned from transfer activity in the near future buying a player who is currently banned for four months isn’t lost on anybody.
Barcelona are about to part with a reported £75million for a problem child, a player notorious for derailing his club or country’s ambitions. This is a club that have serious rebuilding ahead of them, not just with on-pitch matters but also in the hierarchy, where they’ve taken enormous and damaging hits over the past 12 months.
The reported fee is indefensible. That’s not to dispute Suarez’s talent, but it’s hard to see where Barcelona are going with this one.
They need a centre-back; two in fact. They need replacements for Xavi, Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara, and Alex Song may very well be sold this summer. Rafinha, younger brother of Thiago, will cover one of those positions, and Ivan Rakitic is a fantastic addition. Remember, they’re not just buying for one window, with their suspended ban covering two transfer periods.
There are issues that can be addressed at centre-forward and adding more firepower should always be a must for teams. But someone like, say, Fernando Torres, would make much more sense as an alternative to Lionel Messi than trying to shoehorn Suarez into a front line that already includes the Argentine and Neymar.
If this World Cup is anything to go by, Suarez, or others at Barcelona, are in for another difficult season. Lionel Messi may be leading Argentina through the competition in Brazil, as many predicted (and hoped), but other forwards in the team have been suffering.
Past injury troubles or not, Sergio Aguero has looked a poor imitation of the player we’re used to seeing with Manchester City. Gonzalo Higuain, another striker known for finding the back of the net with regularity, went through a four-game goal drought before netting the winner in the eighth minute against Belgium. Part of the problem has been Argentina’s midfield; they’ve looked desperately short of a player like Xavi or Toni Kroos who can distribute to the forwards. The other problem is Messi and having too many players wanting to occupy the same role or area in the final third.
On paper, Barcelona’s front three of Neymar, Messi and Suarez instantly becomes the most devastating in Europe. It rivals and then overtakes the trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale at Real Madrid. The question is whether it can overtake Real Madrid’s front line on the pitch, who have found a winning formula by having a centre-forward in Benzema who works well with the two wide players. There’s no clash of styles, no disagreement or misunderstanding of roles.
What will it say about Barcelona’s famed style of play? Is it being done away with under Luis Enrique? Surely the idea was to hire from within, so to speak, in order to readdress that style of football that was being lost under Tata Martino. The departure of Xavi, however, may be forcing such a shift in tactical focus and tradition. Off the pitch, some of those traditions came to an end a few years ago with the sponsorship deal involving the Qatar Foundation.
The Premier League is losing one of its absolute best. We were prepared, reluctantly or not, to start from scratch with Suarez after he returned from his ban following the Branislav Ivanovic incident and helped to fire Liverpool to the top of the league. We were prepared to put all those issues to one aside and appreciate a footballer for what he was: phenomenally good and ludicrously entertaining; a jewel in the Premier League crown that will be lost, perhaps for good, in the coming weeks.
For Liverpool, it’s a different case. It’s now a much-needed break from a player whose continued poor behaviour outweighs the good he can bring to the team. Liverpool themselves, in a way, are having to start from scratch after investing time, money and effort into attempting to permanently rehabilitate Suarez.
The setback doesn’t have to be everlasting, nor is it something that can’t be treated immediately. I fail to see how Suarez’s departure will bring about the downfall of a team who started last season so brightly without him. There’s money, the bargaining chip of Champions League football, a good setup with talented young players, and a coach who produced some of the league’s best football last term. There’s plenty on the table to sign replacements who are good enough.
Suarez’s bite on Giorgio Chiellini should be his final act as a representative of Liverpool. The player is at a crossroads in his career. But on a bigger and more important scale, so too are Liverpool. The end result may still be the same, finally reaching the summit of the Premier League. But the advisable and sensible thing to do would be to finally wash their hands with a player who has and will only continue destroy the bridges he’s helped to build.
Selling abroad to Barcelona and bringing in such a sizeable fee is the best possible deal for Liverpool.