Barcelona have finally broken Liverpool’s token resistance and agreed to purchase Luis Suarez for a fee reported to be £75 million. The question now is, can Liverpool cope without their star player?
On paper, the situation is reminiscent of Real Madrid’s protracted pursuit of Gareth Bale last season; a player who was undoubtedly the star of his team last season completing the inevitable move to one of the Spanish giants.
There are however, a number of considerable differences in the respective sagas, both in terms of the players’ roles in their teams, and how the clubs appear to be reacting to their departures.
Luis Suarez, of course, had a phenomenal season last year, scoring 31 Premier League goals and providing 19 assists, but rarely was he forced to win a game entirely single-handedly.
Gareth Bale, in the season before he left Tottenham, often won the game from nowhere, taking on an entire team on his own or scoring a wonder goal from 35 yards to rescue his team from a worrying lack of creativity.
Liverpool, for all Suarez’s influence and undeniable talent, could never be accused of lacking creativity going forward, even without their star man.
Suarez is replaceable
Indeed, during Luis Suarez’s ban last season Liverpool lost only one game, winning three of the first five in the process, and this was before they really found their attacking style that was so fruitful later in the season.
Some might say that this style was derived ultimately from Luis Suarez’s brilliance but this is not the case. The fact is that Suarez was a cog that did not quite fit the system, often having to float around to accommodate the rigidity of other players, his instinct and ability allowing him to influence the game from wherever he played.
Now however, Daniel Sturridge will be the undeniable star man up top, and this will only help him improve with an attacking system built around him.
This may see a shift in system, with Brendan Rodgers no longer being forced to accommodate two top class strikers - we must not forget that Sturridge himself was the second highest scorer in the league last season - but this should not be detrimental to Liverpool’s attacking potency.
For example, one option is a 4-2-3-1 with Henderson and Gerrard holding and Sturridge supported by the attacking triumvirate of Phillippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling, all of whom are only going to improve with experience.
This attack, even without the mercurial Suarez, would be the envy of most teams in the Premier League, and this is before Liverpool’s summer spending has even finished.
This is the other difference between the Suarez and Bale sagas; the way their clubs have reacted to it. Tottenham brought in a host of high profile continental names at around £20 million each, with no experience of the Premier League or its demands.
Building for the future
Rodgers, meanwhile, has brought in his usual mixture of youth and experience; the exciting Emre Can along with the reported potential arrivals of Divock Origi and Lazar Markovic are being joined by the experienced heads of Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana, a player who made the team of the year last season despite playing for a so called ‘lesser’ team.
This would appear to show that Liverpool have been planning sensibly for Suarez’s departure for some time, and this may well pay off next season as players won’t need as much time to settle.
There is also an advantage in conducting transfer business early, as players then have a chance to gel with their new teammates and avoid being thrown in at the deep end.
Luis Suarez is, of course, irreplaceable. However, Liverpool were by no means a one man team last season and they do have a number of stars, both current and future, to build their team around.
It must be remembered that Suarez would have been banned until October in any case, but now Liverpool have the extra money to fill the hole he will undoubtedly leave and it may just work out that a season without Suarez on their books leaves Liverpool in a better position than they would have been in had he still been around.