LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 05: Luis Suarez of Liverpool during the FA Cup Final with Budweiser between Liverpool and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on May 5, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)
Listen, I don’t pretend to possess any high-level information on professional football transfers, but … Arturo Vidal to Man United? Jackson Martinez to Arsenal? Memphis Depay to Tottenham?
I mean, come on guys … That’s the type of bullshit that gives monkeys with typewriters a good name. The gossip column doesn’t traffic in truth, it traffics in traffic.
Most of the ‘rumours’ that make it all the way down the totem pole to the tabloids are either agents’ smokescreens or beat-writers’ fantasies. And I have no problem with that: After all, Tottenham fans need something to talk about other than the UEFA Cup.
Speaking of tabloids … I’m sure you’re familiar with Katie Price, but in case you’re not, here’s her story. She came to prominence as a glamour model under her pseudonym, Jordan.
Jordan was famous for one thing, well two things actually: Her enormous, beach ball breasts. After years of reigning as the country’s premier “Page 3″ model, she decided to shake things up and re-branded herself as more of a businesswoman. She got breast reductions, traded in the crop tops for trim suits and changed her name back to Katie Price.
Now she’s worth over £40 million (equivalent to roughly $54.5 million).
Transfer gossip is like Jordan: Everything’s bigger, bouncier and much much louder than it is in real life. Actual football transfers are still salacious, newsworthy affairs, but there’s a little more to them: They’re more interesting and they actually show up for their medicals. They’re more like Katie Price.
Welcome to my new transfer feature, “Jordan or Katie Price?”.
Luis Suárez to Barcelona: Jordan or Katie Price?
For the last five years, Barcelona has had a few different managers, but under all of them, it has (predominantly) lined up in some variation of the 4-3-3.
Now Luis Enrique is a different man to his predecessors, but both his Roma and Celta Vigo teams played the 4-3-3, and when you add that to the fact that most of these players have played in this formation their entire footballing lives, it starts to look like this isn’t something that’s suddenly going to change.
So where would Luisito fit in this system?
Suárez is sometimes thought of as a striker because of the ridiculous amount of goals he scores.
To some extent this is true: That’s where he plays for Uruguay and where he played in his last season for Ajax. In any case, he’s usually the furthest player forward. But at Liverpool this season, he was used as more of a utility forward.
It’s rare that you find a stone-cold elite player who’s able/willing to move between positions depending on match-ups –– Alejandro Sabella had to build his World Cup squad from scratch in order to ensure that (Lionel) Messi could play through the middle at all times –– but Suarez switched around all season at Liverpool, and it’s part of what makes him such a valuable player.
He’s had success as a No. 10 behind Daniel Sturridge, as part of a front two ahead of a midfield diamond and even as a winger/forward on the right side of a front three for Brendan Rogers’ team.
The latter is where he’d slide in most easily at Barcelona (see ya, Alexis!).
If he played in this position, he’d have to contribute to the high press Barcelona likes to play when out of possession, but that’s something he’s proven he’s capable of at Liverpool (probably because he realizes it’s such a great way to generate great scoring chances).
Barcelona might struggle a bit defensively with a front three that treats tracking back like Lindsay Lohan treats turning up to court, but many of the great Barcelona sides of the last 10 years have managed to find balance despite having similarly attack-minded players.
How Barcelona could line up with Suarez in a 4-3-3
Suarez’s versatility would also be useful in case of a Messi or Neymar injury, but beyond that, Barca has lacked a “Plan B” for some time, and while achieving that isn’t as simple as just chucking in a more direct striker into the mix, (cut to Vicente Del Bosque nodding lugubriously), a Suarez acquisition could unlock all sorts of chalkboard goodies for Luis Enrique.
Suarez could play as a true striker ahead of Messi or Neymar at the 10 slot, or, if Luis Enrique was feeling really freaky, in a front two alongside Messi … There’s lots of possibilities, and it’s hard to think that at least some of them wouldn’t work: Everywhere he’s gone, Luis Suárez has outlived expectations (in more ways than one).
But transfers aren’t just about fit (see: Madrid, Real), they’re also about politics… The first part of this is whether Suarez wants to
Well hang on, I haven’t my sentence finished yet… The first question is wheth–
Ok fine, Suarez would like to play for Barcelona, even the most delusional Liverpool fan wouldn’t deny that. He tried forcing a transfer through last summer but Real Madrid never came in with an offer, and John Henry apparently wasn’t too cool about seeing his ex-girlfriend with one of his best friends … Sorry, I mean selling his best player to a Premier League rival.
Anyway, you know what happened next: Suárez responded with a season for the ages and signed a contract extension that will keep him at Anfield for the rest of his prime (until 2018).
Quite why Pere Guardiola (Suárez’s agent) agreed to this arrangement is hard to say, but I assume it came with some kind of gentleman’s agreement –– I.E. in case Barcelona or Real Madrid registered interest –– since John Henry has proven he doesn’t give a toss about buy-out clauses.
On the buying side, this may be the last window Barcelona has to buy a marquee name before a probable transfer ban kicks in next year.
As I’m sure you’ve heard, the Blaugrana got in a lot of trouble over tax irregularities (and, bizarrely, orgies) relating to the Neymar transfer.
Barcelona was supposed to be prohibited from operating in this transfer window, but Josep Bartomeu used to the club’s Get Out of Jail Free Card (unlimited supply for big European clubs) to delay the ban, making it more of a minor annoyance than an actual brick wall obstacle. Seriously, what’s the point in handing a team a transfer ban if you’re gonna give them six months to stock up?
Although I guess that is the point.
You’ve got to hand it to John Henry: He refused to sell Suárez for £40 million last year even though he probably broke the law in doing so.
He waited until the middle of the season when Liverpool were EN FUUUUUUEGO and when Suárez was happily breaking all sorts of scoring records, and inked him to a contract extension with two more years of team control. Now he’s negotiating with a (non-Premier League) team that is DESPERATE to make a splash in the transfer window before it can no longer do so.
On top of which, this team has a spoiled fan base that expects to win every year, a chairman trying to solidify his re-election bid and a coach with a skimpy two-year contract. I mean for Christ’s sake, this is like haggling with a drug addict over the world’s last piece of Oxycontin. I mean seriously, he couldn’t have played this any better.
He kept Suarez for the extra year, which helped Liverpool qualify for the Champion’s League, and now he’s selling him for double the price, all before Suárez’s contract jumps from £160,000/week to £200,000/week (approximately $220,000 to $275,000).
From now on, he’s John “The Hatchet” Henry.
Which leads me to the last part of this piece…
For the last few years, Barcelona has been able to bring top-quality players in for significantly under their market value (with the exception of Neymar, who cost Sandro Rosell his job! – sorry, I couldn’t resist). Anyway, Barcelona managed to bring in Ibrahim Afellay, Cesc Fabregas, Ivan Rakitic–– I could go on –– relatively cheaply because these, and many other, players see Barcelona as the ideal place to work. It’s kind of like the football equivalent of working for Google.
This time things are gonna be different. The Suarez buy will break Barcelona’s transfer record. The real question is by how much by…
When Cristiano went to Real Madrid a few years ago, I truly thought it would take a decade to see another football club shell out that much money (£80 million) for a player.I mean that a lot of money, but Ronaldo was probably the best footballer in the world that year at 25 years old.
The only other player who could rival him was, and is, pretty much priceless.
But I was wrong.
Gareth Bale, also known as “Gareth Bale who usually starts for Real Madrid”, was sold for the type fee that could un-bankrupt Greece. I thought it was an aberration. But here we are, and it could be happening again. I’m serious, Barcelona need this, Josep Bartomeu needs this, Luis Enrique needs this and ‘The Hatchet’ is sitting behind his desk and rubbing his hands together.
Here’s my prediction: Luis Suárez’s will be sold to Barcelona for more than Real Madrid bought Cristiano Ronaldo.
 Is there anything Vicente del Bosque does non-lugubriously?