Analysis

Analysis: Top Five Potential Replacements for Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez

After a torrid 2013-14 season under Gerardo “Tata” Martino, Barcelona were in desperate search for a proper striker and a fresh new flavour to the team. In came Luis Suarez, from Liverpool. In Luis Enrique’s first season in charge, the Blaugrana achieved yet another historic treble thanks to the trio of  Lionel Messi, Neymar and Suarez.

After an emotional final season with the Reds, Suarez made up his mind. He decided to make the move to Barcelona in the summer of 2014. His controversial incident involving Georgio Chiellini ruled him out for a period of 4 months. Although he missed much of the starting matches of the league, he caught up soon enough.

Suarez has had a frustrating start to the new season with Barcelona.

Now at the age of 30, nobody is really sure how much longer Suarez can go on playing for the Catalan giants. He’s been playing at the highest level for quite some time now.

Therefore, it is important that Barcelona seek out replacements for the Uruguay international. Such has been his impact at Camp Nou, it’s hard to imagine anyone living up to those standards. However, there are still a few talented strikers out there in world football who could replace the former Ajax captain.

Let’s take a look at a few of them and see what they will offer to Ernesto Valverde’s side.

Andrea Belotti – Torino’s Italian hitman

The first replacement for Luis Suarez would be Torino FC’s, Andrea Belotti. He’s not the sort of player you would normally associate a club like Barcelona with. Belotti is a throwback to classic Italian forwards of the old days. He’s strong, he’s clinical, he loves a tussle. These qualities have almost always led to comparisons with Christian Vieri, who was a Serie A legend himself.

The numbers do not lie. Belotti’s over-all contribution to Torino’s attack for the past couple of seasons has been invaluable. Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side are always a threat in the final third when Belotti is on the pitch. Together with the likes of Adem Ljajic and Iago Falque, Belotti has the support around him to thrive against tougher defences.

He isn’t just a finisher, he’s got a lot more to his game than just his goals. At the age of 23, Belotti’s attacking intelligence is excellent.He’s good in the air, good with both feet, just goes to show how much quality he would bring to Barcelona’s attack.

Belotti’s qualities more than just a target man

Like Suarez, Belotti isn’t a sprinter. However, the Italian has a deceptively quick turn of pace. He makes strong runs and it is very difficult to get the ball from him, once he’s in full control. Like many classic Italian forwards, Belotti has made an art out of scoring simple goals. Finding those key areas inside the box is a trait that Belotti certainly possesses.

Barcelona have tried to sign several attackers in the past and in recent times as well. Not all of them have turned out as well as the Barcelona board would’ve hoped. Paco Alcacer has failed to settle in the Barcelona style of play and has found it difficult to displace Suarez in the starting eleven. Belotti’s youthful age and his hunger to improve makes him a potential candidate to replace Barcelona’s No.9.

The Italian has been a big transfer target for the likes of AC Milan, Manchester United and Chelsea in recent times. However, his buy-out clause of 100m Euro has put off big clubs from signing him. Barcelona were reportedly in ‘secret talks’ with Torino in the summer. Nonetheless, the talks never bore any fruit and Belotti still remains in the Serie A. At least, for now, he does. It’ll be interesting if the man they call ‘The Rooster’, ends up at Camp Nou.

Timo Werner – Germany’s next big talent

Barcelona’s history with German players isn’t very special. The Blaugrana have had very few players from Germany pull on their shirt. Arguably, the greatest of them all was Bernd Schuster. 

Although the German didn’t enjoy all his years at the club, he was still a fan favourite. His roller-coaster relationship with the club’s board and its managers paved the way for his controversial move to Real Madrid. Hopefully, RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner will enjoy a better welcome if he signs for them.

Bursting onto the scene with RB Leipzig last season as a young forward, Werner has established himself as one of Germany’s top attacking talents. Leipzig’s challenge for the Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich was the centre of attention of the German media last season. The Bavarian giants felt threatened for the first time in a while and Ralph Hassenhuttl’s side contributed to their despair in 2016/17.

A big part of that effort was the goals contributed by Werner. Leipzig are the masters of counter-attacking football in Germany’s top-flight football. With players like Naby Keita, Marcel Sabitzer working tirelessly in midfield, Werner gets plenty of quality support to hurt the opposition. Not to forget the creative influence of Emil Forsberg, whose eye for key passes led to him creating several assists last season, 19, to be precise.

How does Werner differ from Suarez?

The 21-year-old offers a lot more off the ball than on the ball when compared to the Uruguayan. Werner’s direct style of play makes him a deadly weapon on the counter for Leipzig. His ability to make runs time and again is something of a speciality. The German nevers gives up and takes defenders with him, with his darting runs. In doing so, he creates space for players around him to play into, so they can exploit the opposition’s weaknesses.

Werner’s electric turn of pace and speed of thought would make him an extremely useful addition to Barcelona’s attack. He would also make an excellent long-term replacement for Suarez. With age, the general feeling is that Werner is only going to get better and better. The forward is reportedly going to be the prize of a transfer battle between the La Liga giants next summer.

Robert Lewandowski – Proven and Prolific

Is there anything more to say about this man that hasn’t already been said? Not really. Robert Lewandowski‘s rise through the ranks in the Bundesliga has been great to watch. After success at Borussia Dortmund under Jurgen Klopp, Lewandowski made the move to rivals Bayern Munich on a free transfer.

Since making the move to Bavaria, Lewandowski has established himself as one of the best strikers in world football. He may not be skilful like Suarez, however, his intelligence in movement and his experience makes him a highly valued asset for any top club in the world. Lewandowski’s hunger for goals and his eye for a goal has made him one of the best strikers around. In fact, whenever pundits discuss out and out strikers, Lewandowski is the first name that comes to mind.

Combined with athleticism, strength and good technique, Lewandowski is the embodiment of the modern-day striker. Someone who enjoys scoring goals every game and has the desire to keep playing and keep scoring as well.

Why Would Lewandowski want to move?

The Poland international’s reasons to leave Bayern could be very few, however, they seem just enough.

Lewandowski’s relationship with the Bayern board has been a subject of the media’s attention in recent times. The forward criticised the club’s policy of recruitment. He said:”Bayern will have to come up with something and be creative if the club wants to keep bringing world-class players to Munich. And if you want to compete at the top, you need to have these quality players”.

These statements did not go down well with the club’s CEO Karl-Heinz Rumenigge who regretted the player’s comments. You’d have to imagine that it is not easy for Lewandowski to play for a club that doesn’t agree with his mentality.

Suarez

Lewandowski could be headed for a Bayern exit in the summer, with Real Madrid waiting in the wings.

Having already played under world-class coaches like Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti, Lewandowski should have no problems adjusting to life at Barcelona. The 29-year-old still has a few years left at the top, Barcelona and Real Madrid are two of the biggest clubs that he could look to sign for if he decides to leave Bavaria.

Antoine Griezmann – Destined for bigger things

Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann has been one of La Liga’s most special forwards in recent times. Since making the move from Basque Country to Madrid, Griezmann’s talents have been recognised by a much wider world audience. The Frenchman has been Diego Simeone’s prized weapon in attack for the past four years.

Naturally, his progress has been tracked by some of the world’s biggest clubs and for the past two years, he has been a huge target for Manchester United. A move to Old Trafford seemed like it was close this summer, however, Atletico’s transfer ban drastically changed things and United ended up signing Romelu Lukaku. While the Belgian has seemed like a hit signing in his early games, United are still reportedly looking to sign Griezmann in the coming summer.

Not just for United, Griezmann has also been a target for Barcelona in recent times. The Catalans have had serious interest in the Frenchman and his Spanish team-mate Saul, both of whom are key players for Simeone’s side.

A transfer for Griezmann couldn’t come at a better time

Griezmann is a delightful forward to watch whenever he’s on the field. While Simeone’s side are famous for their defensive solidity, the likes of Griezmann along with Yannick Ferreira Carrasco make Los Colchoneros an exciting side to watch on the counter. Griezmann’s consistent record of 20 goals per season has been impressive for Atletico. The Frenchman has also become an integral part of Didier Deschamps’ France team, that came close to winning the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament, losing out to Portugal in the final.

 

Suarez

Griezmann has been in excellent form since Atletico moved to the beautiful Wanda Metropolitano stadium

Now at the age of 26, Griezmann is nearing his best years in his career. There is no doubt that he would walk into the starting eleven of any major European side in the world. The Frenchman is blessed with pace, an eagle eye for a goal and is great at link-up play on the counter. These qualities make him almost an ideal signing for Barcelona to make.

He would make an excellent replacement for Suarez at Camp Nou. Alongside Dembele and Messi, Griezmann would enjoy the world-class support that he has only enjoyed with Les Bleus at the national level.

Paulo Dybala – Barcelona’s worst nightmare

It is fair to say Juventus’ Paulo Dybala has caused Barcelona worries in recent times with his performances. In last year’s run to the UEFA Champions League final, Dybala scored twice to put the Catalan giants out of contention in the tie overall. His performances have since then earned praise from pundits and coaches alike, who see his future at one of the two La Liga giants.

Dybala’s versatility in attack makes him a powerful weapon to have, in the attack. He plays in an advanced attacking midfield role for the Bianconeri, while he is also fully capable of hurting defences playing up top as well.

In a short-time, Dybala has proved his world-class talent and has made himself a hot target for Real Madrid and Barcelona. Both sides are said to have an equal chance of signing La Joya at this moment of time. The player hasn’t spoken about any special inclination towards Messi, which poses a question to a potential move to Barcelona.

However, the former Palermo youngster has admitted in the past that he isn’t very close to Messi. He said,”He keeps himself to himself. We’ve not had a great relationship”.

Dybala would bring youthful exuberance to Valverde’s side

Barcelona’s signing of Dembele in the summer made one thing clear. The club isn’t afraid to spend big on the talent that they feel is right for the squad.Dembele is still recovering from his long-term injury and his return to full fitness will take a while. Once back to his best, a front three of Dembele, Dybala and Messi would be delightful to watch.

Dybala’s creativity and his technique have forced comparisons to Messi in recent times. However, the Argentine wishes to establish his own legacy in world football.

Suarez

Dybala has been repeatedly projected as an heir to Messi at Barcelona.

 

Author’s take

These players have been listed as potential candidates depending on their current status in the market and also how much Barcelona have been following them in recent times. Some of them might seem unlikely, while others are dream transfers for Barcelona fans around the world. It is not an easy task to replace someone like Suarez, who has been so consistent for Barcelona over the years.

 

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