By Jack Poland
As the increasingly tiresome Luis Suarez transfer saga barrels its way through gossip columns on a daily basis, many Liverpool fans are justifiably concerned about going into next season without their divisive, yet undeniably gifted, forward. Absurd digressions aside, Luis Suarez was phenomenal last season – lighting up even the drabbest of games with his hypnotic dribbling and markedly improved finishing, managing 23 goals in total.
Suarez himself has added his voice to the rumours on so many occasions, that even the self-styled spokesman of all things football Dave Whelan may soon be asking the Uruguayan to pipe down. The lure of Real Madrid and the endless chastisement from the British media are just two of the reasons Suarez has given for considering his future. To the Reds fans though, such explanations are irrelevant. For all the fans care, his prime reason for leaving could be his disappointment with the abomination that is the new away kit – as long as he is not in a Liverpool shirt come the end of his suspension it will certainly be seen as a huge loss and fans will simply learn to move on.
The problem Liverpool supporters may be slowly beginning to learn however, and something that manager Brendan Rodgers must address, is the emerging pattern of star players moving on without having made a lasting impression in terms of honours. One suspects Suarez’s real reason for looking elsewhere lies in his warranted belief that, as a world-class player, he belongs in a world-class team that is challenging for trophies – an explanation that fans, with a heavy heart, must accept. If their star man is to leave this summer, a priority for Rodgers must surely be to not allow a player to be able to use the same rationale in the future. What Liverpool fans wouldn’t give to lay the blame for the departure of a player on the manager (Rafa Benitez – Xabi Alonso to Madrid) or even the player himself (Steven Gerrard almost – 2005) rather than the performances of their team.
When Fernando Torres left Anfield for Chelsea, the pain that came with it for Liverpool fans was short lived with the arrival of Suarez from Ajax. The transition was seamless yet the relief merely masked the heavy reliance on their star men. In Torres and Suarez, Liverpool have had the enviable fortune of boasting two 20-goals-a-season strikers amongst their arsenal yet have only managed to win a League Cup since the signing of Torres in July 2007.
If, or when, Suarez departs, the main objective for Brendan Rodgers and managing director Ian Ayre must be to use the vast sum that would come with the transfer to buy players that contribute to the talent that is slowly merging at Anfield in Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge. The reasonably priced signing of Spanish forward Iago Aspas and the potentially canny decision to sign Ivorian stalwart Kolo Toure on a free must surely be welcomed despite those expecting a £40m marquee signing should Suarez depart. A quick glance to the claret and blue section of East London should serve as a reminder that panic buying after the loss of a influential player isn’t always the most sensible option.
In the absence of Suarez through suspension Liverpool began to look like a team enjoying their football, scoring 12 in their last five league games, and although the loss of such a quality player would be a blow, the solution may not necessarily lie in a like-for-like big money signing. In disregarding other needed improvements in the squad they may well deprive themselves of a genuine chance to build a squad capable of qualifying for the Champions League. Rodgers has to ensure that the likes of Coutinho and Sturridge contribute to the success of the club rather than let them be harvested for two or three seasons just for a Champions League team to prise them away as the endless cycle continues.
As pre-season approaches, Liverpool find themselves in a rare position of stability as many around them go through substantial transitions, and it would hurt fans if this current transfer saga knocks any effort to capitalise on this off course – a hurt that would last far longer than any felt with the loss of Luis Suarez.