Saturday, 12 July 2014

Suarez sold: What next for Liverpool?

Now that the worst kept secret in football has been made official, Liverpool’s transfer strategy needs to be calculated, clever and clear-headed.

It didn’t come as a shock when Liverpool confirmed that Luis Suarez was being sold to Barcelona on Friday afternoon.

The Reds’ silence on bite-gate 3.0 spoke volumes, demonstrating that they had no appetite to defend their star striker following his latest ludicrous scandal and were willing to sell at the right price. Meanwhile, Barcelona’s desire to acquire the Uruguayan’s services didn’t seem to be diminished by his nibble of Giorgio Chiellini either, with the Catalan club clearly willing to splash their cash on Suarez as long as he said sorry for his latest misdemeanour. His belated and entirely insincere apology was good enough for Barca.

Goodbye Suarez
It was then simply a case of Ian Ayre ensuring that the Reds got the best deal possible. For once, the club’s CEO seems to have done a good job.

Importantly, the transfer was completed fairly swiftly, which avoided the unnecessary drama and confusion that would have plagued the club if the transfer saga had dragged on throughout the rest of the summer. Selling Suarez early on, as opposed to on deadline day, allows the Reds the time to move on and maintain their progression in the 27-year old’s absence.

Although it was disappointing not to get Alexis Sanchez as part of the deal- the Chilean forward moved to Arsenal, at least in part due to the better shopping opportunities available for his wife in the nation’s capital- £75 million in cold hard cash is still a good deal, and it gives Liverpool a sizeable war chest to draw upon in their attempts to replace Suarez in the summer transfer window.

How Liverpool spend the Suarez money is now of paramount importance. 

One thing they definitely do not want to do is repeat the mistakes that Spurs made last summer when they sold their star man Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for a whopping £85 million. In anticipation of receiving an eye-watering sum for Bale, Spurs splashed over £100 million on seven new signings before finally selling Bale on the final day of the transfer window. With so many new arrivals, their squad lacked cohesion and they struggled, finishing a disappointing sixth.

Spurs struggled after selling Bale for big money
Although Liverpool’s squad would certainly be beefed up in the required manner by bringing in seven new faces, there are too many costs incurred in terms of lost cohesion for that to be a sensible transfer strategy. Instead, Rodgers needs to bring in a few top-quality players to supplement the squad in a targeted and strategic way.

Signing another striker is absolutely crucial. Yes, Daniel Sturridge must step up to the plate and become the main striker, but cover for the England forward is also required and, although Rickie Lambert will provide some of that, him and Aspas are insufficient in reserve should Sturridge pick up an injury- and that’s assuming that Aspas isn’t shipped out this summer, which is widely expected to happen.

It’s going to be nigh on impossible to find a player of Suarez’s world class ability, so Rodgers should search for another player in the Daniel Sturridge mould to replace the Uruguayan. Avoiding the Andy Carroll syndrome, whereby a large amount of money is wasted on a player- normally young and British- who fails to live up to their potential, is important, but so is replacing Suarez and supporting Sturridge.

Whatever happens, Liverpool will miss the 31 goals that Suarez can score in a season, but another 20-goal a season striker to supplement Sturridge should be sufficient to enable Liverpool to cope in attack without Suarez’s brilliance, particularly considering the growing maturity and blossoming talent of Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho. Additionally, ample funds will be left over to invest in a much needed centre back and left back, as well as possibly another creative midfielder.

Sturridge will be the main man following Suarez's sale
At the end of the day, this deal makes sense for Liverpool. They’ve received £75 million for a player who is banned from all footballing activity for four months. For all his undoubtedly immense footballing ability, Suarez is a liability and a PR nightmare. Thankfully, that’s no longer Liverpool’s problem.

Instead, Barca will have to deal with the many flaws that accompany Suarez’s genius. Moreover, they’ll face the headache of trying to incorporate him into an already star-studded attack, in which Suarez may struggle to thrive, since he is the type of character who has to be the main man in order to be at the top of his game.

Suarez may also find that his dream move to the Spanish giants wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. He won’t be the team’s sole unquestionably world class talent and Barca fans will be unable to match the support and loyalty Liverpool supporters showed Suarez despite having adequate justification to shun the Uruguayan on several occasions for his shameless flirtations with rival clubs and the shame that he brought to the Red shirt with his antics.

Suarez was a brilliant player, the likes of which we’ll rarely see at Anfield again, but Liverpool FC is bigger than any one player and will continue to go from strength to strength even without Suarez.

Goodbye Luis; thanks for the memories. We wish you all the best, but suspect you'll regret leaving Liverpool so soon. If you don't believe us, have a chat with Fernando Torres.