Love him or hate him, Luis Suarez is seldom out of the headlines. Having served his time for nibbling on Branislav Ivanovic last season, the Liverpool front man is a rejuvenated figure, terrorizing Premier League defences—and this time for the right reasons.
Since the Uruguayan's return to league action, Liverpool have picked up 10 points from four games, scoring 12 goals in the process with Suarez netting half.
In early October, the Daily Mail's James Andrew reported that Suarez still harbours hope that a move to the Bernabeu will materialise. With this in mind, it can only be a matter of time before transfer speculation becomes rife unless, for example, he signs an extended contract at Anfield.
In contrast to Suarez's success, approximately 1,300 miles away, Real Madrid’s attack is labouring. Whilst Saturday’s defeat at the Camp Nou to bitter rivals Barcelona was certainly not a comprehensive one, Los Blancos displayed a lack of fluidity, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth.
Currently trailing the reigning champions by six points, Real have it all if they want to turn around their fortunes this season. With Karim Benzema failing to fire (two goals in nine La Liga matches) and Gonzalo Higuain transferred to Napoli, the Spanish capital is lacking a proven, traditional goal poacher.
In this absence, Gareth Bale is proving to be an effective scapegoat. Already tagged as Forrest Gump in some quarters of the media, the world’s most expensive player (depending on who you believe) is baring the brunt of Real finding themselves six points adrift of the La Liga summit.
On Saturday, it was rather odd, yet ultimately unsurprising, that after accumulating barely 40 minutes of game time in his previous two competitive games, Bale’s name was scratched into the starting XI—as a centre-forward. A risky maneuver that begged the question: Who picked the team, Carlo Ancelotti or Florentino Perez?
Although Bale gave it his all, it was not to be for the Welshman. A lack of preseason has resulted in injuries, which in turn has halted any consistent run in the team. His timing has been off and his interplay with his teammates is below par. Real Madrid must learn to be patient for his best days.
Cristiano Ronaldo started alongside Bale plus Angel Di Maria in a three-man attack. With all three being primarily wide players, it was difficult to see how this approach was going to cause the Catalans major problems.
As per the heat map detailing the three players' positions, there seemed to be a considerable amount of lopsided traffic and not enough width—particularly on the left.
Three wingers playing up top in a 4-3-3 seldom works for any team, and given the fact that Alvaro Morata is still young, relying on a 20-year-old to deliver at the Bernabeu could derail what looks likely to be a promising career.
Luis Suarez may not be an orthodox No. 9, but he has proven ability and an abundance of talent from the harsh and physical world of the Premier League. Both Ancelotti and Perez will be more than aware of this and could make signing the Uruguayan a priority in January.
However, there are two significant obstacles: Liverpool and money.
The Reds are currently flying high. Suarez’s reintegration into Liverpool's squad has bolstered what was already a neat unit. Despite his petulant behaviour during the summer, the club has thus far reaped the rewards for admirably sticking to its guns and knocking back Arsenal's transfer bids.
Club captain Steven Gerrard led by example in speaking to the Uruguayan, ensuring he knuckled down to give his all for the club—which has supported its talisman on more than one occasion. As a result, the famous Merseyside club would be reluctant to sell, particularly when they are mounting a serious challenge for the top four this season, if not higher.
In terms of funds, Real showed their hand in the summer by forking out £86 million for Bale. Given Suarez’s playing form in the last two seasons, Liverpool would be entirely justified in holding out for a similar fee.
Furthermore, Pete Jenson of the Daily Mail recently reported that Real's debt is over £450 million. With this in mind, can they afford another Galactico signing, so soon after the Bale acquisition? It should be noted that, as per Transfermarkt.com, Real's net expenditures so far this season is just less than €50 million following the sales of Higuain and Mezut Ozil. So another significant acquisition is not entirely out of the question.
Despite these two huge obstacles, the key question is, what does Suarez want?
During the summer, Gerrard laughed off Arsenal’s bids to sign Suarez but accepted that a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona could materialise, telling the Guardian's Peter Mason:
If he was to go abroad to a Madrid or Barcelona I would totally understand it. He's a South American. He's good enough to play in either of those teams. From a family point of view, it's where they all want to be. If I was him I would wait for one of those two clubs because I think he's good enough to play for them.
Importantly, as Liverpool missed out on the Europa League, Suarez would also be able to represent Real in the Champions League, a crucial factor considering their all-important La Decima quest (they currently lead their group by five points).
It remains to be seen whether a move for the Uruguayan materialises, but undoubtedly, his acquisition would be a significant transfer coup for Los Blancos.
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