Luis Suarez replacement should not be bought by Liverpool

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Regardless of the rights and wrongs of Luis Suarez engineering a move to Barcelona on the back of his disgraceful behaviour in Brazil the situation does present Liverpool with an opportunity.

It might be an opportunity they would rather not have, given Suarez' critical contribution last term but he was always bound to go off the rails again and they are better off without him. The opportunity I'm talking about, however, does not relate to the club being free from the embarrassment of Suarez' behaviour nor the hefty sum they will receive from his transfer.

It is the chance to develop a player they already have to replace the Uruguayan and show that English talent can flourish and grow in the Premier League. And, whisper it quietly, perhaps the chance for English football to start to redeem itself and put right the excesses and errors of recent years.

Buy or try?

There will be a massive temptation for Liverpool to go out and try to buy a direct replacement for Suarez with the significant fee they receive. Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher thinks this will be a big ask. I agree but I don't believe the Merseyside outfit should be looking to do this anyway.

Liverpool already have enough young English talent in the team to make splashing out on a marquee replacement for Suarez unnecessary. The most obvious candidate to take on the mantle is young Raheem Sterling.

At 19 he still has a lot of learning about the game to take on board; but that makes him all the more suitable. And I believe that is critical that big clubs like Liverpool start taking on the responsibility of developing young English talent before the game totally subsides under the weight of mercenary imports - and commercial and financial interests in general.

I can hear Liverpool supporters muttering that they have brought on young talent and that Sterling wouldn't be there if they hadn't. It was certainly true 20 years ago that the Liverpool youth machine did churn out top class player after player - Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard all debuted within about five years of each other.

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But truthfully, how many players of that stature have Liverpool produced and nurtured since?

We can all remember players breaking through who looked like they might be the real deal - Jack Hobbs, Jay Spearing, JonJo Shelvey, Martin Kelly, Andre Wisdom and, of course Sterling himself and recent graduate Jon Flanagan .

But none of these have gone on to become outstanding and consistent performers - and if some of them do it might well not be in the red shirt of Liverpool. It seems with the bigger clubs (and not just Liverpool) that if you don't make an instant and sustained impact you are cast aside pretty quickly.

Sterling's development

Sterling himself had a setback shortly after impressing in his early games (enough to earn him an international call-up) but he has managed to get himself back on track and in the team.

Some fans will say he is an out-and-out winger and not capable of taking on the Suarez role. I am not sure about either of those claims. He is a bit like an early Cristiano Ronaldo in that there is a lot of pace, dribbling and flashy skills but not enough end product from him and his crossing is often aimless or misdirected.

The timing of his release of the ball is also naive. But look what happened to Ronaldo. He can play anywhere across the front of a formation now and has developed all the skills and awareness a player could wish for.

Given the chance Sterling might progress along a similar path. But will he be given the chance? Or will he end up plying his trade at a lesser club or abroad because Liverpool couldn't give him the time and space to hone and develop his craft?

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Luis Suarez
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