Liverpool: Planning For Life After Suárez - Nobody Is Irreplaceable
I hate international breaks. Always have, always will. When it comes to club vs country, I am firmly on the side of club. International football is an unwarranted interruption to the real business at hand, a chance to lose valuable players to injury or, in today's case, the perils of an interview in their native tongue.
So, Luis Suárez then. Back in Montevideo for Uruguay's game with Paraguay he gave an interview to the Uruguayan press. He may well have spoken at length of his love for his country and their prospects on the world stage. We will never know. All we know are the quotes that have been attributed to Suárez in the English press. Translated from Uruguayan by......well, who knows really?
And what has he said?
"I'm in a world class team, an elite team like Liverpool, where I'm very happy .....but in football you never know." The ellipsis is very important here: there was something more said that we're not seeing.
"We have to realise we have a new manager who is imposing a philosophy and a way of playing that the players are adapting to as best we can. We have been enduring a difficult moment but we hope that it will bear fruit next season." Next season. A season he appears to be planning on being part of.
But also, "If another team comes around, willing to have me and with more prospects of competing in international club games, they are welcome." - 'They are welcome' being the kind of broken syntax you get from on the spot translation.
"We would talk to the club, we would see if I want to go or I don't want to go."
And which order you read these quotes in depends on which source you read, everybody has a slightly different rhythm to their report. The one thing we don't have is any sense of the original conversation as it happened. And the ongoing impression that the national media loves a Luis Suárez story, preferably a Luis Suárez story that involves him being anywhere other than Liverpool.
So where are we?
Luis Suárez is happy at Liverpool but if somebody came in with Champions League football then he'd have to think about it. Is anybody shocked by this? If somebody came to me tomorrow and offered to double my salary and let me live in Paris or Milan or Madrid or Munich instead of Bootle, I'd snatch their hand off. And I was born here. There's no reason to expect loyalty from Luis, he's not Jamie Carragher. He's a lad from another continent plying his trade. If he were to move on now there are very few Liverpudlians who would begrudge him the move. He has been an absolute joy to watch and his talent clearly deserves and demands exposure at the highest level. We're not there at the moment.
How likely is it then? Well, the fact that his agent is Pep Guardiola's brother doesn't bode well. Seeing Suárez start next season in a Bayern Munich shirt wouldn't be a shock.
So where would that leave Liverpool?
First things first. The right fee. We managed £50m for Torres who was already a shadow of his imperious former self when Chelsea came knocking. Suárez, having recently signed a profitable new long term contract should attract a higher fee. Let's start with offers in the region of £60m shall we? If we are going to sell then we need to ensure that we benefit from the sale. We know where we need to strengthen: a couple of centre backs, a bit of bite in midfield, another forward of the quality of Sturridge, perhaps a bit more width. If we accept that there is probably a pot of £20m for the summer plus whatever is raised by outgoings (say £10m - £15m) then a healthy fee for Suárez would mean real team rebuilding cash.
But how do we replace a player like Suárez?
Perhaps we don't. Perhaps we have some of the solutions in the squad already. Coutinho can easily play in the hole behind Sturridge and early signs are that he is an incredibly exciting talent in his own right. Maybe the central position of the 3 behind the striker could be an attacking minded midfielder like Henderson or Shelvey. Maybe a playmaker such as Malaga's Manuel Iturra, already heavily linked with a move to Anfield. The Christian Eriksen rumours keep resurfacing, Celtic's Victor Wanyama's name has been bandied about, the assumption is that the Tom Ince deal will finally become reality in the summer. Add to this a second year in the Premier League for Sterling and Suso (and trust me, there's a lot to come from Suso) and there are options both within the current squad and possible incoming playing staff. Perhaps we replace one genius with a quantity of quality?
So there are options. Are any of them as good as Suárez? Not on current form, no. But very few players in world football are currently playing at the level that Suárez is week in/week out. When Suárez arrived we had no real idea of the level of player we had purchased, who is to say that our scouts aren't currently reporting on a similar, relatively unknown prospect?
All this is currently, one hastens to point out, pure speculation and conjecture. Some quotes that may have been 'lost in translation and taken out of context' as the usual excuse has it. There may be absolutely nothing in it and Luis Suárez' most heartfelt desire may be to ensure that Liverpool end next season with Champions League qualification in order to compete at the highest level at the 'elite' team that he already plays for.
But should the worst come to pass?
Across the park, the sale of Wayne Rooney was the catalyst for a resurgence of Everton as a team. Manchester United appear to have survived receiving £80m for Cristiano Ronaldo.
Most notably - in 1977 Liverpool were forced to sell their biggest name, a player who wanted to test himself on a bigger stage, in a different country. We let Kevin Keegan go as a European Cup winner. We then headed north and signed a guy called Kenny Dalglish.
Nobody is irreplaceable.