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Lionel Messi's Recent Injuries Shift the Spotlight to Liverpool Youngster Suso

VALENCIA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 30:  Suso of Almeria in action during the La Liga match between Valencia CF and UD Almeria at Estadio Mestalla on October 30, 2013 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
Nick AkermanFeatured Columnist IVDecember 17, 2016

Liverpool fans caught a glimpse of Suso last season, the Spaniard making sporadic appearances during Brendan Rodgers’ first season in charge.

The arrival of players such as Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Iago Aspas has seen the youngster loaned to Almeria in a bid to gain further experience, a move that looks to have turned out rather well for all involved.

Suso has represented the La Liga side on 11 occasions this campaign, quickly becoming a key member of Francisco Rodriguez’s squad.

Although the team are currently toiling inside the relegation zone, having taken nine points from 12 games, the individual performances of Liverpool’s 19-year-old has seen him shoot up the La Liga assists charts, per ESPN FC.

The starlet’s five assists puts him three behind Neymar and Koke at the top, two behind Cesc Fabregas and one behind Cani, who continues to excel himself for Villarreal.

Most impressively, Suso’s willingness to bring others into play has seen him leap above Lionel Messi in this area.

The Argentinian’s season continues to stutter with irritating injury issues, something the player is worried will carry on according to his father’s chat with Radio Barcelona, reported by Dermot Corrigan of ESPN:

"The injuries have meant that Leo really fears a relapse,” said Jorge Messi. “But you can be relaxed, he will return."

BARCELONA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 01:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks down during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on November 1, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Messi's four assists this season—one in his last five La Liga matches, per WhoScored.com—highlights a player whose form has noticeably dipped due to the aforementioned lack of fitness.

While Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale have started to capture headlines for their defence-splitting play at Real Madrid, Messi’s absence has forced many to take notice of a youngster who is performing diligently for his team.

Suso’s performances have been crammed with quality, directness and a willingness to work that is lacking from much of Almeria’s play.

VALENCIA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 30: Fede Cartabria (L) of Valencia competes for the ball with Suso of Almeria during the La Liga match between Valencia CF and UD Almeria at Estadio Mestalla on October 30, 2013 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos A
Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

The attacking midfielder scored an important goal during the club’s 2-2 draw with Levante, but it’s his ability to craft opportunities that deserves the greatest attention.

As recorded by WhoScored.com, Suso has averaged 2.5 successful dribbles, 1.2 fouls and 1.3 key passes per match this season. Although his pass completion rate needs work at 74.5 percent, it is a by-product of a player who looks to challenge his nearest marker every time he receives the ball.

Suso contributed the match-winning ball during Almeria’s recent 1-0 win over Levante, a pass that highlights the player’s extreme confidence and natural creativity.

He took a touch to control, another to roll the ball forward and then a floated a low cross onto the head of Rodri, who brilliantly nodded into Diego Marino’s goal.

Rodgers will have been watching. Just one day later, the Liverpool boss reintroduced Coutinho to the Reds’ first-team, a player who shares many of Suso’s qualities.

The former Inter Milan player made a difference during the Merseyside club’s defeat to Arsenal and also adhered to the energetic, ambitious and inventive style of play Rodgers loves his team to exert.

Hundreds of miles away in Spain’s autonomous community of Andalusia, Suso preached his master’s teachings with the confidence of an individual who is rapidly maturing on the professional stage.

The fact he is performing so excellently for a struggling team should also be celebrated by Anfield supporters who have another potentially world-class talent to get excited about.

Suso is likely to fall behind Messi’s assists total when the four-time Ballon d’Or winner regains his fitness. That barely matters. The 19-year-old’s priority right now is to establish himself in top-flight football and to show the world exactly what he is capable of against La Liga’s best.

Right now, he is doing exactly that.

Should Suso keep up his fantastic form, Rodgers will have no choice but to reintroduce the player into Liverpool's first-team picture. Perhaps one day, when his ability is fully realised, finishing above Messi will become a more permanent prospect.

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