The news that Barça are negotiating with Liverpool for the transfer of Luis Suarez worries me deeply. Don’t get me wrong, Suarez is a fantastic player who is capable of causing problems to the best of defences, and I’m not about to get all moralistic about his bizarre behaviour on the pitch, but more on that later. The main reason for my concern is it seems that we are going to sell Alexis Sanchez to make way for the Uruguayan while the figures being mentioned for the possible transfer fees make as little sense as when we swapped Samuel Eto’o + €43 million to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Alexis has had his best season at Barça and has now just performed admirably for Chile at the World Cup. He may have had problems with his finishing in the past but this side of his game has improved significantly, he works hard for the team and accepts his role and he seems to want to stay. Barça should really be offering him an improved contract, at 25 he is two years younger than Suarez, and it would seem a pretty safe bet that we could get at least three or four good years from the Chilean. Instead we seem prepared to sell him (possibly to Arsenal) for around €40 million which might not seem such a bad price unless you compare it to the €36 million paid by Manchester United for Ander Herrera or PSG paying €50 million for David Luiz.
Who is responsible for this madness? Zubi? Bartomeu? Luis Enrique? According to some sources Luis Enrique has told Alexis he is happy if he stays but the club have already succeeded in making Alexis feel unwanted. Liverpool’s asking price of €88 million for Suarez is way more than we should be thinking of paying if we do go through with the deal. The Uruguayan’s quality is not in doubt and he would bring some valuable aggression to the attack that we haven’t seen at Camp Nou since the days of Hristo Stoichkov. However, at 27 Suarez may not have so long left at the top while he may also need time to adapt. Given that he is banned from playing until the end of October his adaptation could prove more difficult and then how many good years will we get when he does find his place in Barça’s Messi-based formation?
And what of the biting and the other unsavoury behaviour such as the “racist” incident with Patrice Evra? Well, first I don’t believe Suarez is some Hitler-loving card-carrying nazi, probably more just a knobhead who in a Mourinho-like way looks to use all means necessary to gain an advantage over his opponent but fails to realise when he has crossed the line. I do not expect that Barça’s players should be angels. Stoichkov certainly wasn’t, yet he was the most exciting and arguably the most important player of Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team and he was greatly loved by Camp Nou. Suarez may have the excuse for his behaviour in a difficult family background combined with the fact that he grew up playing street football in Montevideo. While his bite on Chiellini was outrageous I think I was more horrified by an apparently-educated man such as Bartomeu saying it was honorable of Suarez to apologize for the deed, when it seems pretty obvious to everybody that he only apologised (six days later) due to pressure from Barça for him to do so. This seems to me the equivalent of a mother dragging her naughty kid round to the neighbours’ house to get him to apologise for killing their pet and then telling everybody else what a good boy little Johnny is for knowing how to say sorry! Sometimes these twisted attempts to defend the mes que un club image can get a bit nauseating. Who do they think they are kidding?
When all is said and done Suarez would come with baggage and despite his talent he may turn out to be a liability if he gets any more lengthy bans or gets himself sent off in an important game. Personally, I’d say a fair market price for him would be around €60 million while I’d say Alexis should be valued at a minimum of €50 million. However, I should insist that even if these were the agreed prices I would still not be in favour of bringing in Suarez at the expense of Alexis. Yet it seems we may end up paying more for Suarez and getting less for Alexis when we all know we need the money for signings in other positions. As with Neymar’s signing last season there again seems to be a lack of direction in the squad formation with more importance given to bringing in big names than to building a winning team. Bartomeu has promised that other signings are in the bag but that they will be revealed after the World Cup. I wait eagerly for the news of a quality central defender.