Etihad Move May Give Luis Suarez Route Back to Stardom

Published: 24th February 2015 10:11 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th February 2015 10:11 AM   |  A+A-


LONDON: The common accusation when a player agitates and then achieves his objective to join Barcelona or Real Madrid is that he has succeeded in placing selfish ambition before the needs of the club he is leaving. Luis Suarez was easily categorised as doing so when he left for the Nou Camp last summer, the prospect of leading Liverpool to another title challenge or spearheading a Champions League return of no consequence once Barcelona had negotiated a convenient suspension of their transfer embargo.

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In fact, whether it was intended that way or not, Suarez's move to Spain is a rare example of a player making a personal sacrifice in order to sign for Barcelona. Clearly, the financial rewards were desirable, and the status of being a Barca rather than Liver-pool player is more esteemed these days, but the Uruguayan has undoubtedly compromised his game to become a support rather than the headline act at the Nou Camp.

At a club where Lionel Messi has been described as the unofficial director of football, and in a league where Cristiano Ronaldo is said to be enduring a goal drought if he goes 45 minutes without scoring, Suarez is simply one of many magnificent players who must defer to the big two.

His return to England to face Man-chester City in the Champions League is a reminder of how, a year ago, he was seen as their closest challenger, the third-most exciting player on the planet whose scoring rate in England was matching those of Messi and Ronaldo in Spain. He was fast becoming the peer of those modern greats rather than one of those manoeuvring for a prime position in their shadow.

Suarez left for Barcelona with the talent to edge ever closer to the pair, a future Ballon d'Or winner as long as he stopped taking his lunch break mid-game. But at a club and in a country where internal politics dictates team formations as much as the form of players, it is virtually impossible for anyone to challenge Messi's authority, regardless of how important they would be elsewhere.

The comments of Sergio Busquets on Suarez reveal all. "He gives us so much," the Barcelona midfielder said. "The numbers at the moment are not the same as they were at Liverpool but the way Barca play is not the way Liverpool play, he is not the player receiving the final pass as often. Most of us understand that our reference is Leo. He is the one that makes the difference. It is important for new players to know that and not let it affect them."

It may be that Suarez is content to remain on backing vocals while the lead singers hog the spotlight. Of his many qualities as a footballer, work rate and selflessness were as admirable as his abilities to score every type of goal. If he wins La Liga and the Champions League he will have the rewards he was seeking. But he is so much more than that and at any other club would have the side built around him.

Such a sacrifice may be endured for a while, but no goalscorer with his well-documented appetite tolerates it for long. A player such as Suarez can be nourished only by the regular sensation of scoring goals. He struck 31 for Liverpool last season and has seven for Barcelona. That is a reflection of his different position in the side as much as the superiority of La Liga defenders.

Manchester City have had more cause than most to assess Suarez in the build-up to the fixture tonight, not only because they are well acquainted with his qualities but because they are the most natural bidders. Roberto Mancini wanted the Uruguayan and there are indications that the current hierarchy would be willing to sign him.

Only the price would be prohibitive, but there is a valid argument for City to contemplate the seemingly unthinkable and sell Sergio Aguero to Real Madrid or Barcelona this summer and replace him with Suarez. They could potentially make a profit from such a deal given Aguero would command as much if not more than Barca paid for the Uruguayan.

Aguero may be loved by City fans and clearly - just like Suarez - he is one of the greatest players to have played in the Premier League, but his injury record means he can never be relied upon to feature every week.

If City paired Suarez with David Silva next season, the Premier League title they may yet retain this year would certainly remain their property in 2016. They may not be able to stop him at the Etihad tonight (Tuesday), but if Suarez wants to satisfy his taste for goals on a more regular basis they ought to be considering giving him the platform to be the Premier League's master marksman again.

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