The biter, the cheater, the diver, the genius. Luis Suarez, amid recent reports, is set to be on his way to the city of Barcelona where he will take his welcomed place amongst Luis Enrique’s revolution at the Camp Nou. According to recent speculation, a meeting between Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta and Liverpool’s chief executive Ian Ayre is set to take place today in London in order to negotiate the transfer of the Uruguayan. Reports suggest that the Merseyside club will not settle for any fee below £80 million which may include Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez.
In a statement on Tuesday, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu stated: “We lack some defenders and a forward. We think we’re well-covered in midfield.” Whilst on the imminent transfer of Suarez Zubizarretta claimed, “Suarez has the necessary quality to play for Barca.”
Aside from all of this however, is the blatant and obvious mis-use of the Catalan club’s resources. It is undeniable the stunning quality and mass of goals that the transfer of Luis Suarez could bring to a club like FC Barcelona, however this is not a priority nor a necessity for the club at this time. Last season FC Barcelona scored 100 goals in La Liga. This was the second highest number of goals scored across all major European leagues, second only to rivals Real Madrid CF. In 2013/14 Barcelona forwards managed 72 goals of this 100, with twenty-eight from Lionel Messi, nineteen from Alexis Sanchez, fifteen from Pedro Rodriguez and nine from Neymar. These statistics are obvious in that they show that FC Barcelona do not lack goals.
But rather FC Barcelona’s failings of the past three seasons have come at the other end. Last season FC Barcelona conceded only 33 goals, a better defensive record than Real Madrid, ranked as the 19th best defense in the world. However in this instance the stats do lie. The reason that FC Barcelona conceded so few goals in the 2013/14 season is due to the undeniable heroics of Victor Valdes. Although abused repeatedly for rare but costly mistakes, Valdes enjoyed his greatest season for the Blaugranna. So why is it then, that Futbol Club Barcelona failed to claim a single title last season, for the first time since 2007/08? Centre backs. Simply put, centre backs. Centre backs have been a recurring theme for Barcelona in seasons of late. Not only the lacking of them, but indeed the sheer frustration at the lack of quality in FC Barcelona’s central defenders. It has been arguably since captain Carles Puyol’s loss of pace and persistent injuries that Pep Guardiola, the late Tito Vilanova and more predominantly Tata Martino have had to use make-shift centre backs in Barcelona’s defence. These ‘make-shift centre backs’ such as Alex Song, Javier Mascherano and, at crisis times, Sergio Busquets, have led to Barcelona’s demise.
And yet it is now as another, yes another summer transfer window passes, that fans of FC Barcelona fear that no centre back will enter the doors of the Nou Camp. Too long has it been since Barcelona purchased a central defender, and now amid recent reports surfacing this week, it seems that the wait will have to continue. The transfer of Ivan Rakitic, Claudio Bravo and Marc-Andre ter Stegen have all served as a means to aid the transition of Barcelona. With the departure of Victor Valdes,Jose Pinto, Carles Puyol, Cesc Fabregas, as well as the likely Xavi Hernandes, new replacements were needed to fill the void. But now, as another, yes another summer goes by, it does not appear any more likely that what Barcelona craves, needs, requires, and begs for, shall not suffice.
But now, as the speculation of the €100 million transfer of Liverpool’s Luis Suarez emerges, one can only clasp their head in their hands and scream an unheard scream of frustration, that no centre back shall come. With the likely and imminent purchase of the Uruguayan, Barcelona’s summer spending should surely reach an end. But it is not only the purchase of Suarez over a centre back that is so enraging. Added to this shear frustration is the obvious and self-evident fact that FC Barcelona already are well-equipped to the teeth with quality forwards. Lionel Messi, Pedro Rodriguez, Christian Tello, Alexis Sanchez, Gerard Deulofeu, as well as Neymar. Is this not enough? Is the 72 league goals between these players not enough that perhaps FC Barcelona should focus on other aspects of their squad. Gerard Pique, Marc Bartra, and perhaps Javier Mascherano, who in this writers’ eyes is not a central defender, are the only centre backs that FC Barcelona have in their possession. And yet the Suarez saga continues.
Set aside the lack of defenders for a moment. Indeed set it aside and let us focus on the other facets of Suarez’s entry into Barca’s XI. With Neymar da Silva deployed on the left and Lionel Messi playing through the centre, the only position available for Luis Suarez is on the right wing, out wide. Out wide. Luis Suarez, for all his talent, skill, and genius is not a wide player. Indeed it can be argued that a player with as much flair and unanticipated explosivness as Suarez could indeed flourish in any position, Luis Suarez is a centre forward. A striker. This leads us to three possibilities: (i) Suarez will be played on the right (ii) Lionel Messi will be played on the right in order to accommodate Suarez playing through the middle, or (iii) a change in formation.
In my eyes, the third is the most likely outcome, especially with the introduction of a new manager in Luis Enrique. But this does not mean that the first two options are not a possibility and this, the possibility of playing either of Lionel Messi or Luis Suarez out of their regular position of centre forward, is scandalous. For FC Barcelona to pay close to £80 million for a player like Luis Suarez and to consider not playing him in his optimum position is completely senseless. Although FC Barcelona do require a ‘number nine’ style forward, Suarez does not fit this bill. The number nine that Barcelona require is, in essence, a player that can fill in for Lionel Messi when needed. Past players such as Samuel Eto’o, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Villa are prime examples of what Barcelona require, but Suarez is simply too good a player to be Messi’s understudy.
Although the acquisition of Luis Suarez for Barcelona would be an undeniably outstanding asset, I feel that it is not necessary. Whereas Barcelona already have numerous world class forwards in their armory, another such as Suarez is simply not needed. It can be argued that goals win you games, but a limit is reached where goals scored by forwards is sometimes not enough to win league titles. Scoring, which is what Suarez is being bought for, already takes care of itself in the case of Barcelona, however it is defending where Barca’s troubles lie. At a time when the purchasing of Neymar for €100 million in one summer, is followed by the purchase of Luis Suarez for £80 million the next, FC Barcelona is being shown to be more ‘Galactico’ than ‘mes que un club’. The decision of FC Barcelona to ignore its need of a centre back in order to pursue signing a ‘big name’ world star in Suarez not only undermines the intelligence of the people running FC Barcelona but also puts the teams’ upcoming season, as it has done for the previous three, in doubt, ultimately leading to ensuing failure.