Liverpool have reportedly rejected a £30 million bid from Arsenal for controversial striker Luis Suarez.
The Uruguayan has already offered what was, more or less, a come and get me plea to the more competitive clubs in Europe. Speaking with the possibility of a transfer to Real Madrid in mind, Suarez said earlier this summer that it was “a good moment for a change”, whilst also admitting that it would be hard to say no to Real Madrid.
He may have been dealing in ‘maybes’ with these comments but the obvious objective of these comments was to build the interest of potential suitors. Indeed the PR department at Liverpool must let out an audible groan every time Suarez goes abroad, because every time he does he seems to produce something new for them to deal with.
The Arsenal bid comes after reports that – having virtually paid off all of the debt built by the construction of the Emirates stadium – Arsenal finally have the money to spend big in the summer and compete with the Premier League’s big spenders. With their transfer record likely to be broken multiple times this summer it has been clear that they are in the market for a striker, with Gonzalo Higuain of Real Madrid seemingly their main target.
In this way their bid for Suarez has come completely out of the blue, and despite Arsenal now having money at their disposal it seems like an unusual move from them. It is certainly unusual for Arsenal’s dealings to become so public.
This is what creates the suspicion of a possible ulterior motive(s) for this bid.
It may well be that Suarez is not as big of a target for Arsenal as £30 million might suggest, because in some respects this news making the headline of BBC sport’s website benefits both Arsenal and Liverpool. The public knowledge of Arsenals (feigned) interest in Suarez could be the real objective of the bid.
The purpose of this public report from Arsenal’s perspective is likely to prompt Real Madrid into letting Higuain leave. The deal is very close to being done with Madrid stalling over the fee, but interest in another striker, especially a striker who is also a Real Madrid target will put pressure on Madrid to accept a deal if they really want to sell. The story also benefits Liverpool because such a prompt rejection of a £30 million bid demonstrates their defiant stance in keeping Suarez unless a huge offer is made.
So it could well be that the Arsenal bid and its subsequent presence in the media was nothing but something of instrumental value, a tool that would aid both clubs. The transfer is after all unlikely (as I shall outline). From which club the story was leaked is another question, but it is not uncommon during a transfer window for players, agents and even club employees to leak information that they would benefit from being in the press, be it to push through a move or raise the prospective value of a player. This article is particularly effective at explaining why and how transfer rumours come to be.
Let’s still consider the possibility though that this is an honest attempt to sign Luis Suarez; could it be a genuine possibility? For three sizeable reasons the answer is no.
- Suarez has made it clear that he feels victimized by the British press and that it is the media that is driving him away from Liverpool, a club that he claims to have great love and passion for. Why then, if this truly is the main reason that he wants to move, would he switch to another English club at which he would continue to endure criticism from the press an abuse from the fans, as well as the six game ban that he would serve for biting Ivanovic in a home game against Chelsea last season?
- The other reason for Suarez wanting a move is that he wants competition, success and most of all Champions League football. There is no doubt that at this moment Arsenal can provide this more than Liverpool, or at least are more likely too. Arsenal may have been trophy-less since 2005 but that does not change the fact that they are in a better position to compete for silverware. However they are not in so much of a better position that Luis Suarez would deem it worth leaving Liverpool. Even if Luis Suarez decided that he could cope with the media, he would surely hold out for a move abroad or to a more likely Premier League challenger.
- Finally, Liverpool have said that only a bid similar to the one that saw Torres move to Chelsea could prize Suarez from Merseyside. A £50 million-ish bid would be very out of character for Arsenal and for Wenger. Even if Suarez were to, in some bizarre set of circumstances, agree to join Arsenal, it is unlikely that Liverpool and Arsenal would ever agree a deal for the player.
Regardless of this though, let’s entertain the thought for a second and compare Suarez and Higuain as two separate transfer targets.
There has been a lot of analysis on Suarez this season given his prolific form. His contribution to Liverpool is widely known and acknowledged, and indeed he was one of the favourites for winning the PFA player of the year. In 33 starts Suarez scored 23 goals, meaning that he scored a goal every 128 minutes. However, with 4.5 shots per game he only managed a chance conversion of 16%, a surprisingly low figure. He also manage 5 assists over his 33 appearances.
While Higuain may not have scored as many goals, he both played and started less games, and was actually a much better finisher when given a chance. In 28 appearances, of which he started 19, Higuain scored 16 goals, only seven less than Suarez in far less minutes. Higuain also only shot on average twice per game, so given that he played and shot less his 16 goals stand up a lot better against Suarez’s 23 than one might first think. Moreover, Higuain also laid on 5 assists for his teammates.
I think it’s unlikely that Arsenal’s bid had any real intent behind it; rather it serves other purposes. In any case Higuain is a quality striker who would cost less than Suarez, and a case could be made that the Argentine is better.