The tears streamed down Luis Suarez’s face after Crystal Palace snatched a dramatic 3-3 draw against Liverpool at Selhurst Park in May – an indication that the Uruguayan striker believed he had blown his chance to win the Premier League.
Now we have confirmation: Suarez will never win the English title.
After three years of terrorising the Premier League’s finest defences, the Liverpool No. 7 has agreed to swap Anfield for Camp Nou in a reported £75 million deal.
Liverpool’s hopes of clinching a first title since 1989/90 looked forlorn when he was banned from all football-related activity for four months following his bite on Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup. Now they are in tatters.
The Reds’ inability to beat mid-table sides had wrecked many campaigns in the past, but they finally found the required consistency to mount a title charge last season with Suarez playing a pivotal role in decimating the so-called lesser teams. His departure leaves a gaping hole in their attack and removes a hefty chunk of the aura that comes with playing against Liverpool.
Suarez’s refusal to admit racial abuse and his penchant for human flesh make him a troublesome character, but as a footballer there is no finer player operating in the Premier League. Liverpool may not have been able to prevent his sale – and some will be glad to say good riddance – but if they don’t use the rest of the summer wisely then they are in danger of replicating Tottenham’s disastrous mistakes from last season.
Optimism was high at White Hart Lane after Spurs splashed out on seven exciting talents following the world record sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. There was even talk they could challenge for the title after they started the season with three wins on the bounce. It transpired to be a little misguided.
Two managers (Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood) failed to figure out their best team – one insistent on starving the team of creativity, the other unrepentant over his distaste for midfield balance – as Spurs finished adrift of the Champions League race with a goal difference barely above zero. Manchester City finished with an aggregate score of 11-1 against them; Liverpool with a marginally worse 9-0.
Only Christian Eriksen came close to meeting the fans’ expectations with the rest failing to make a consistent impact. Record signing Erik Lamela played less than 10 games, Roberto Soldado drifted through games barely touching the ball and Nacer Chadli was incapable of performing unless the game was already won or lost.
It’s a stark warning to Liverpool: make sure you don’t replace Suarez with a cluster of £10 million signings. Worryingly, they appear to have already neglected this threat.
They poached Southampton duo Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana – with the possibility of Dejan Lovren also arriving – for a combined fee of £30 million, and Emre Can from Bayer Leverkusen for £9.75 million. Lazar Markovic looks set to follow from Benfica.
Of course, they could benefit from a bigger squad – Champions League football guarantees at least six high-quality midweek matches – but that should not be built at the expense of quality. Why were they not insistent that Alexis Sanchez joined as part of the Suarez deal, for example?
The main criticism that can be levelled at Brendan Rodgers is his mediocre success in the transfer market. Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho have been the exceptions as a string of lukewarm talent has arrived at Anfield. Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas, Fabio Borini signed for close to £25million – none have delivered in a red shirt.
With the carrot of Champions League football, Rodgers has the chance to dispel that belief by landing a marquee signing who instantly slots into his side. There’s still plenty of time until the transfer window slams shut, but Tottenham’s regression should shift Liverpool’s focus from signing a cluster of good players to pursuing two or three high-profile targets.
Ben Snowball - on Twitter: @BenSnowball
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