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Jul 162014

You would have had to be either the most fervent optimist, or have shown an amazing amount of naivety to not accept that Luis Suarez was destined to swap the fresh Mersey air for the balmy climes of Catalonia next season.

Seldom has the loss of such a talented, influential and key player to a Liverpool team been greeted with such a stoic silence and air of resignation from reds fans. Of course, a key part of this has been the news that Suarez would miss the first few months of the season, once again, as he completes his ban for his monumentally ill-judged bite on Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.

Even before the deal was officially complete, you didn’t have to be an expert to understand that, formalities aside, Suarez would be wearing the number 9 next season at the Nou Camp. After all, you could buy the shirt in some Barcelona shops before the announcement.

So while some reds fans may mourn the loss of Suarez and worry about the effect it may have on the team, there is another side to this and that is, in my view, Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool would have been wisest to have cashed in on Suarez this summer anyway.

It may seem laughable, especially to Liverpudlians who watched Suarez mesmerise defences during last season’s Premier League, but here’s why.

The first issue is simply one of economics. Even with John W. Henry and associates promising money, even with additional funds from qualifying for the Champions League and finishing 2nd in the Premier League, compared to Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United, Liverpool are the paupers.

The ground issue rumbles on with seemingly no sense of urgency and while the American owners have backed Brendan Rodgers well (and the Irishman has made some very astute signings with the money he has been given) they lack the financial power to spend like Chelsea, United, City or Arsenal are able to.

Given that situation, assets become hugely important and Suarez was Liverpool’s greatest and given the season he had enjoyed, he was a fast appreciating asset. This can be seen by his purported £75m price tag.

At times last season, Liverpool’s lack of depth was clearly evident and may well have contributed to the reds missing out on the league title. By the end of the season, key players like Gerrard and particularly Suarez, looked exhausted.

While Manchester City and Chelsea could call on top quality replacements for all their key men, Liverpool were reliant on the likes of Iago Aspas. That may be plausible against Notts County in the Carling Cup, but against Borussia Dortmund or Manchester City, it is not likely to result in a positive outcome.

For this reason, the £75m raised by selling Suarez would allow Liverpool to bring in 2,3 or maybe even 4 players who could not only replace the Uruguayan, but also improve the depth and quality of the squad for a campaign that is likely to be considerably more testing next season than it was the last.

However, the valuation of Suarez is absolutely dependent on one thing. On him being fit and able to play in games on a regular basis and that, even before Suarez ban at the World Cup, was never a given.

Not selling Suarez meant Liverpool holding onto a key player, but risking his value plummeting if he committed another offence.

Indeed there are many Reds fans who believed that despite the £75m price tag for Suarez, Liverpool may have received around the same money (£90m) Tottenham did for Gareth Bale last season, had Suarez not got himself a four month worldwide ban from the game during the finals.

That’s a £15m drop in depreciation, if those reports are right due to the actions of a player for his national team, when the club team were not even involved.

Suarez is a huge asset, but he is also a highly volatile one and with Liverpool not in a position to be able to write off a potential income of £75m, the decision to sell is one that makes sense for the bank balance, even if fans may feel it doesn’t in terms of the team on the field.

However, the crunch issue for Suarez and his future at Liverpool was, I believe, when the end of the season came and almost immediately, we heard talk from Suarez and/or his agent about the likelihood of him moving to Spain from Liverpool at the end of the season.

This is precisely what happened at the end of the season before, when Suarez was most vociferous about his desire to make a move on from Anfield. Indeed, Liverpool even turned down a £40m and 1p bid from Arsenal for the striker, with Arsene Wenger believing it activated a get-out clause in Suarez contract.

Then during last season, news emerged that Suarez had now signed a new long-term deal making him the best paid player at the club in Liverpool’s history.

That, therefore, should have been the end of any transfer speculation for the player and agent, yet just a few months later, we were already hearing that Suarez was a target for Spanish clubs and that the Uruguayan was keen to listen to what they had to offer.

It does not take a genius to therefore read between the lines here to understand that Suarez final contract with Liverpool contained a buy-out clause, specifically if one of the two big two Spanish teams came in for him.

Why would you insist on this in a contract and then the moment the season is finished, actively encourage Real Madrid and Barcelona to bid for you? Why would you do that if you really wanted to stay at Liverpool and play in the Champions League next season?

Indeed, some Anfield conspiracy theorists have even speculated that Suarez bite on Chiellini was all part of an orchestrated plan to make his position at Liverpool untenable so they would be forced to sell him. That may sound far-fetched, but in essence, that is what has happened.

Viewing Suarez actions from last season, you cannot fault his performances in a Liverpool shirt. He fully deserved the accolades he received last season, but it is also patently clear now that Liverpool was simply a stepping stone on to one of the big two teams in La Liga for the Uruguayan.

That is why the contract contained the get out clause, that is why for the last two pre-seasons, Suarez has flirted consistently with both clubs, trying to entice a bid that would force Liverpool’s hand.

When Barca or Real didn’t bite last summer, Suarez did. He decided to take matters into his own hands. Or more to the point, his teeth.

His bite on Chiellini didn’t seal his move from Anfield, it just made it cheaper and easier for Barcelona to buy him and more difficult for Liverpool to keep hold of him. In truth, his future lay outside of Anfield the moment his agent inserted the clause into his contract about moving to La Liga’s big two.

As talented a player as Suarez is, to defend his actions and keep him here as Liverpool have done in the past when he has disgraced himself, would be a step too far. That is why the majority of Liverpool fans have accepted the sale with a resigned air of frustration, tinged with worry.

Suarez loss will impact Liverpool’s team hugely. Few players are irreplaceable, but along with Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, he is as close to it as you can get.

Brendan Rodgers next task will be spending that money wisely to bring in players to help further his vision, while coping with Suarez’s sale. Losing a 30+ Premier League striker would be a blow for any team. Rodgers skill will now be tested in finding one or two players, who can fill that void.

Liverpool’s immediate future may well depend on how successfully Rodgers manages to achieve that.

For Suarez, his future lies initially in a hotel room in Barcelona for several months. He’ll have time to think about his actions. However, he’ll also be at the club he has wanted to play at for the last 24 months. That should at least lessen his seeming frustration with life.

Liverpool did the right thing morally and financially by selling Suarez now. At 27, he is unlikely to improve much more and the Reds will receive a decent price for a player who didn’t really want to be at the club any longer.

Barcelona will get the third prong they want for their triumvirate of South American attackers, Messi, Neymar and now Suarez.

But like most Liverpool fans, I just wish Suarez’s departure had been conducted in less sordid circumstances. His talent, energy, skill and enthusiasm that he brought to the team deserves a proper send off from reds fans.

Sadly, his general behaviour really does not.

John Fisher

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