As the rumours of a Lautaro Martínez transfer seem to intensify, if he comes to Barça,a dialogue has to start concerning Luis Suárez and his place at the Camp Nou.
You either die as a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. The football world is full of legends and one-club men. These great individuals usually are worshipped by the fanbases, especially when they play so many years at the top level.
Whether it is Steven Gerrard at Liverpool, Koke at Atlético de Madrid or Giorgio Chiellini at Juventus all spent a considerable amount of time at their respective clubs and Gerrard learnt went to stop. Koke is the captain of his rojiblancos after Diego Godín left last year and Chiellini will begin his 15th term as a Bianconeri and has just recovered from an ACL injury.
At Barcelona, long-serving legends come and go, but when they stick around, it seems like they do more harm than good. While the great Ronaldinho only spent five years at Camp Nou and harmed the group severely in 2008 by not leading by leading by example, Pep Guardiola knew when to pull the plug on the Brazilian creator’s Blaugrana career.
Today, one problem seems to occur relentlessly at Barça, and that is letting legends stick around without planning for the future. It happened with Dani Alves, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández and Carles Puyol. These four pivotal figures at Camp Nou al retired without making sure their legacy was intact, and it seems like history’s going to repeat itself in the coming years.
The core of the squad is getting older, as Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Piqué and Luis Suárez are all on the wrong side of 30 years old. However, the latter’s situation seems to be much more controlled than the others’, especially when it comes to finding some sort of replacement.
Barcelona’s striker needs to be mobile and active on the pitch, by definition, that means he would have to be younger and play with hunger if they want to succeed at the Camp Nou. One name that has been circulating in Lautaro Martínez seems like a viable option. Many rumours have linked the Argentine prodigy to the Camp Nou, and it seems like the personal conditions are arranged, and Inter are willing to let go of him for cheaper than expected.
“We spoke with Inter a few weeks ago but now the discussions have stopped. Now we are not speaking. We have to finish La Liga and the Champions League and then see what the priorities are”
Josep Maria Bartomeu
Barcelona president on the signing of Lautaro Martínez
President Josep Maria Bartomeu talked about the possibility of the signing and said that he had already negotiated with Inter Milan, but nothing concrete concluded ultimately. With this transfer seeming closer and closer, one question raises every eyebrow: what will become of Luis Suárez if Lautaro Martínez signs this summer?
The blaugrana squad is jam-packed with attackers. From Leo Messi to Antoine Griezmann passing by Ousmane Dembélé, Martin Braithwaite and Luis Suárez, too many attackers train with the senior team, and that’s without counting the La Masía sparkle in Ansu Fati, who is still contracted to Barça B. In no way, shape or form does Lautaro’s signing not disrupt the squad, and his expected high salary will play a part in it.
First, Braithwaite is expected leave. The Danish attacker did not play may games post lockdown, and that’s mainly due to Suárez returning. Secondly, Suárez’s place in the squad is in jeopardy as he can’t have these sort of performances while warranting a starting spot. The Uruguayan’s decline has been astonishingly disappointing, and he does not play like his old self whatsoever. Sluggish, slow, injured and most importantly, less clinical, Luis is the shadow of his former self and does not deserve a place in this squad, not as a starter at least.
The potential arrival of Lautaro Martínez would affect many things on and off the pitch at Barcelona | Photo by Daniele Buffa via Imago
For Lautaro, he is quick, intelligent, agile and has that bit of finishing that we all love.
With Argentina at the 2019 Copa América or with Inter against Barça in the Champions League, Lautaro’s finishing has been excellent and his movement intelligent and effective. If he signs with the culés, he surely warrants a starting place, especially if this Suárez decline is permanent.
The former Liverpool man is coming back from a four-month injury and, at 33, he won’t come back as a competent forward, especially for Barça where he has to run and play better especially on the dribbling area. Nevertheless, it is clear the dressing room and the coaches protect El Pistolero as he starts every game for the Catalans when he isn’t fit or good enough.
“Because we were doing well, Riqui was doing well, we always try to have Suárez and Messi on the pitch. I didn’t want to destabilise the team“
after the draw against Atlético de Madrid on why he waited until the 91st minute to introduce Antoine Griezmann
Coach Quique Setién revealed after the 2–2 draw against Atlético that he tries to keep Suárez at all costs on the pitch because he “poses a significant threat”. The coaches and players seem blind to Suárez because of his pedigree. Look at Griezmann; the Frenchman has scored 15 goals this season, equalised against Napoli, saved the team in the Copa del Rey against Ibiza, and he never got the credit and protection the Uruguayan striker got.
If Lautaro comes and has a few bad games, he will get some backlash and will sit on the bench and Suárez will have the monopole of the starting place until the end of his contract. Also, even if his contract will expire in 2021, there is a clause that if he plays 60% of the games next year, he will have an automatic contract extension. That means Lautaro’s signing does not mean Luis Suárez will leave; it means Martínez is more to play second fiddle to the Uruguayan if he doesn’t find form quickly at Camp Nou. But, whether it is through an exit or decrease in minutes, Luis Suárez needs to leave the way for Lautaro Martínez to succeed.
Three potential loan destinations for Riqui Puig
Barça Universal takes a closer look at three clubs who could latch-up fan-favourite Riqui Puig on loan this January as the youngster is in the hunt for more playing time.
For all the numerous rapid changes taking place in the world, there seems to be the one constant: Riqui Puig just can’t manage to get minutes under his belt. For all the hype built around the talented prodigy at the back end of last season, Ronald Koeman seems reluctant to budge.
Before the commencement of the season, the Dutchman asked Puig to go out on loan to get as many minutes of game time as possible. The youngster blatantly refused, confident that he would indeed get his chance to impress. Yet, more than two months into the season and the 21-year-old has only seen 11 minutes of action.
Undoubtedly, he is at the age where he needs continuous playing time to grow and develop as a footballer. There is a growing sentiment that going out on loan to continue playing and developing remains the best bet for Puig. Losing his permanently, though, would be a huge mistake. Barça Universal takes a look at three potential teams the youngster could go to in order to earn some much-needed playing time under his belt.
Nine games into the season and Unai Emery’s men find themselves trailing league leaders Real Sociedad just by the two points. Sitting proudly at second, the yellow submarines have had just the one loss so far, which came against Barcelona.
A glance at the Villareal midfield, however, provides interesting findings. Undoubtedly, Dani Parejo has been the leader in the middle of the park. Samuel Chukwueze, Gerard Moreno and Moi Gomes being the go-to options at wide midfield.
The chance to learn from Dani Parejo will be massive for Puig. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
However, apart from the 29-year-old duo Francis Coquelin and Manu Trigueros, the options seem feeble. On the occasions when Vincente Iborra has played, the team has operated in a 4-1-4-1. This too opens up another spot for a creative midfielder.
Though Villareal has averaged close to 60% possession this season, they have only scored ten goals from open play in nice games. With just over two big chances created per game, there is a need for a midfielder who can break the lines, yet fit into the plans Emery has for the club.
The midfield as a unit has failed to conjure up opportunities, reflected by the fact that the captain Mario Gaspar has created the most ‘big chances’ while playing out from the right-back position.
Riqui Puig could fill the holes in Unai Emery’s side. The youngster could comfortably slot into a role alongside Parejo and replace the likes of Coquelin or Trigueros. His high press and comfort on the ball make him an ideal candidate for the Yellow Submarines.
Additionally, Barcelona stands to gain too, with the player staying in the Spanish first division and gaining invaluable minutes. It would be a deal that works out well for the player too, as he would avoid the hassle of moving to a new country. Could this be a win-win?
Bayer 04 Leverkusen
The Leverkusen based side sit at fourth in the Bundesliga and are currently among the handful of unbeaten sides in the top five leagues. They play a similar style of possession-based, football, powered by swift attacks, much like Luis Enrique’s Barcelona. They play a very organized game in possession, with meaningful forward progression of the ball given paramount importance.
Peter Bosz’s fluid attacking style of football will easily accommodate Puig, even if the language barrier is problematic. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
Peter Bosz has exclusively fielded a 4-1-4-1 in the Bundesliga, but the 4-2-3-1 has come into the equation for the Europa League fixtures. The team aim to capitalise on short central passes by establishing a numerical superiority in the midfield and the halfspaces. Leverkusen requires its players to be tactically well versed with tremendous composure on the ball; something Puig possesses in spades.
Bosz has had to rotate among Florian Wirtz, Kerem Demirbay, and Nadiem Amiri as his creative midfielders. The departure of Kai Havertz to Chelsea has seen them lose a key component of their midfield creativity.
With €20M signing Exequiel Palacios not particularly impressing, and Paulinho out for several months after rupturing his ACL, taking in Riqui Puig on loan may prove to be a masterstroke,
The most unlikely of the three options, but the most glamorous and promising one. Manchester City has endured a tough start to the season, languishing six points behind league leaders Leicester. They have some of the most skilled midfielders, with the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Rodri in their ranks.
Yet, there seems to be a void created by the departure of David Silva, which they have been unable to fill right now. City have been associated in recent years with ruthlessly thumping in goal after goal. Now, however, they stare at just nine goals from open play in seven encounters in the league.
Puig may not be a starter at Manchester City. Yet, even appearances off the bench would be an upgrade to his treatment at Barcelona. The idea of working with Pep Guardiola, who just signed a contract extension, and learning from some of the best in the business in de Bruyne would prove to be a tempting option for Puig. It is certainly the least likely of the three, yet the most exciting.
Learning from Pep Guardiola and Kevin de Bruyne, albeit on loan, is too enticing to pass up on for Puig if the chance ever arrives. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
At the age of 21, Riqui Puig cannot while away the key years of his development on the bench. It is heartbreaking that there seems no other option. Yet, given how firm Koeman seems on his decision, maybe a move-out, hopefully only on loan, would be in the best interest of both Barcelona and Riqui Puig.