With Luis Suarez's Anfield future in some doubt, Liverpool need to start thinking of an alternative to lead a forward line heavily reliant on the Uruguayan. A perfect choice to replace El Pistolero could be a Spanish international: Roberto Soldado, the criminally underappreciated Valencia striker.
There is no doubt that the loss of Suarez would leave a big hole in the Liverpool lineup. For that reason, manager Brendan Rodgers is fighting tooth and nail to keep him on Merseyside. The coach left no doubt in recent declarations to the Liverpool Echo that he thinks his No. 9 should stay put—and, moreover, that he owes it to the club that have supported him through a number of controversies:
The support he has received from the supporters and the people of the city of Liverpool has been unrivalled.
In this period of time he's missed a lot of games for the club through various reasons. The people have stood by him like a son and really looked after him. Whatever happens in the coming weeks that will be in his mind because it's something you can never forget.
That appeal to sentimentality, however, may not be strong enough to resist a move away. Rodgers confirmed in the same interview that Liverpool rejected a £40m plus £1 bid from Arsenal, which would have been the largest transfer in the North London team's history. Club owner John Henry was a little more disparaging when he addressed the offer.
What do you think they're smoking over there at Emirates?— John W. Henry (@John_W_Henry) July 24, 2013
Although the Gunners have been knocked back, they will surely return for the Uruguayan, who has a phenomenal scoring record wherever he has played.
With that interest, and also reported links with Real Madrid (although the Express reports that the Spaniards have cooled their approaches as they prepare to go all out for Tottenham's Gareth Bale), it is no surprise that replacements are already being mooted.
According to The Daily Telegraph, with the transfer income that Suarez would bring, Liverpool would have no problem in meeting the asking price set by Valencia—around £26 million, a figure that has dissuaded Tottenham from making a formal approach despite the fact technical director Franco Baldini was sent to Spain to try to sort out a deal.
What would Soldado offer the Reds? First and foremost, plenty of goals.
The former Real Madrid youngster has consistently averaged one goal every two games across his career, the recognised mark for a prolific scorer. 24 strikes in 35 games last year for Valencia steered Los Che to within one point of Champions League football, despite the upheaval that saw Mauricio Pellegrino last just six months as coach before being sacked in December.
Strong, fast and physical, Soldado is also tailor-made to star in the Premier League, with its focus on hitting on the break and getting the ball quickly forward. The striker started Spain's recent Confederations Cup campaign as first-choice No. 9, no small feat when you consider that Chelsea star Fernando Torres and Atletico Madrid's new signing David Villa were both present in the squad.
Soldado has struggled to become a household name. But little by little, he is gaining the recognition that he merits through five consecutive seasons in La Liga where he has been deadly in front of goal.
Liverpool are a long way from conceding defeat over Suarez, but there is an alternative if the Uruguayan moves to new pastures.