Luis Suarez has ridden the Roller Coaster of Emotion in 2014. From being the leading goal scorer in the Premier League and leading Liverpool to the Champions League, to the infamous Giorgio Chiellini bite at the World Cup, Suarez has been the center of attention for the footballing world. After the World Cup came a 4-month ban, and eventually, a transfer to Barcelona. While there were plenty of questions surrounding the transfer, even more arose about how Suarez would assimilate into the team with Neymar and Messi.
Last season saw Neymar learning the ropes at Barcelona, notably how to play second fiddle to Lionel Messi. Anyone who follows Barca knows that the club is based around Messi. While he struggled at times during last season, Neymar seems to have found the style and his role playing with Messi. Neymar has been hyped to be the next player to carry his generation, and it seems that Messi is happy to teach the young Brazilian the ropes before handing off the baton when he is ready to move on.
Now there is a completely new element, Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan was in hot water with Liverpool after the World Cup, and the Reds were looking to unload the troubled superstar. Barcelona pulled the trigger and bought the player for 81.25 million Euros. Suarez has said that it is a dream come true to play for the Spanish giants. The only question is, how will he fit in?
Barcelona has based their squad around Messi playing in the middle. Neymar has no problem playing on the left side, as he was accustomed to in Brazil. Barca used Alexis Sanchez and Pedro on the right with Messi and Neymar, as well as when the superstars sat out. With Alexis Sanchez gone to Arsenal, it will be interesting to see where Suarez fits. Logic says that he will have to be deployed on the right, which he was for El Clasico. Despite match fitness being an issue, Suarez seemed to gel with his attacking line, even picking up a slick assist in the process. Pedro is still in Barcelona as well, giving the club another option in the attack. As long as Neymar and Messi are on the field, they will be positioned on the left and in the middle.
All of this begs to question, can Suarez play on the right? At Liverpool he had the chance to drift around and find open space. He also held up the middle, something that Messi does at Barcelona. At El Clasico, Suarez drifted to the middle a bit too much, but looked great otherwise. It was clear that it was the first competitive match for Suarez, looking out of shape near the end of the first half until he was substituted. Suarez played with Barcelona’s B squad while suspended and basically dominated, which isn’t surprising considering he is a world-class forward playing on a reserve team. When he gets back to match fitness, the next question will be if he can be 3rd fiddle to Messi and Neymar.
For the past five years of his career, Luis Suarez has been a bonafide superstar. Now he will take a backseat to not only one, but two players at a minimum. In fact, he is now in a galaxy of stars. He seems to have adjusted relatively well, but some sportswriters have noticed that his game has adapted. A ball that he would have taken and shot at Liverpool, he may pass while at Barcelona. While he may not be top dog at Barcelona, I think he is just happy to be there. He recognizes that Barcelona is giving him a (ahem) 4th chance, and he is going to take full advantage of it.
After the first El Clasico matchup, it is clear that Real Madrid is the class of La Liga. Barcelona’s issues will be less about Suarez in the attacking line, which has worked relatively well so far, but rather their defense. Madrid’s star trio in attack exploited gaps in the Barca defense on their way to a 3-1 victory. In order to be prepared for the next Clasico, Barca will need Suarez at match fitness, hopefully creating a well-oiled machine in attack with Messi and Neymar. If not, they may be left in the dust as Real Madrid run away to a La Liga title.