26 June 2014

On the transfer merry-go-round, will Suárez's ban ruin the fun?

It's official: FIFA has banned Luis Racist McBitesAlot Suárez for four months and nine international matches for Uruguay, and this also includes nine Prem matches and three Champions League matches for Liverpool, which all but dooms Uruguay's chances this time through and does the same to Liverpool—although it must be noted that Liverpool did quite well to start the 2013-14 season when Suárez was banned for ten games—wait for it—biting an opponent, winning seven, drawing two, and losing once. They're hardly toothless without him, I'll say that. While his suspension may seem harsh to some, I'm not sure it goes far enough. After all, he bit an opponent. For the third time. However, these antics and the fact that Suárez won't even be available until the end of October, has apparently not deterred Real Madrid or Barcelona from pursuing him. Fine. If we can ride the transfer merry-go-round again, let's give it a spin, shall we?

A season ago, after all, we sold Gervinho on to Roma. Roma sold Erik Lamela to Spurs. Spurs sold Bale to Real Madrid. Real Madrid sold Özil to us. The short version: we swapped Gervinho for Özil. With apologies to Elvis Costello, this year's model might offer a shorter version of events, one that only includes Liverpool, us, and one of the two La Liga behemoths. For one, FIFA has confirmed that Suárez can still switch clubs. For another, Barcelona has appealed its transfer-ban, meaning that it can sign players this summer as the appeal wends its way through the no-doubt fully-transparent appeals process. Long story short: Suárez may have finally forced his way out of Liverpool, using the World Cup as his Archimedean lever, and his long-anticipated move to Spain could very well pave the way for Barcelona's Alexis Sánchez or Real Madrid's Karim Benzema to come to England.

Without dwelling on the more-sordid elements of the clubs involved, it's worth a quick mention: if Liverpool are willing to sweep Suárez's assaults under the rug, shame on them. If Barcelona or Real are still willing to put their money where their mouths are, well, shame on them. Should one of the two clubs swoop for Suárez, even at a price discounted from £40m+1, they're probably going to have to at least pretend the balance the books, even if only to keep up appearances. Barcelona may feel this pressure a bit more than Real, what with FIFA's ban, pending that appeal, for repeatedly breaching transfer regulations.

If this means that Alexis Sánchez is offered up, rather than Karim Benzema, fine. Dandy. He's looked sharp during the World Cup, playing atop Chile's 3-4-1-2 formation, while also impressing as a right-forward in Barcelona's 4-3-3. If Karim Benzema is the one who becomes expendable, so be it. I've not been a big fan of his, I'll admit, what with concerns over attitude and effort lurking just beneath the surface. Between the two of them—Sánchez at 25 and Benzema at 26—they each are entering that Goldilocks phase of their careers, that nifty balance of youth and experience that could see each one surge forward from their already-intriguing-if-not-yet-/fully-impressive performances. Neither seems to fully fit in at his current club, each one deferring to others or playing second- or third-fiddle to others. At Arsenal, they would vie for the starting position with a better-than-even chance at becoming the out-and-out starter.

No offense to Liverpool (fig-leaves are sometimes necessary), but a swap between Liverpool and one of the Spanish clubs seems highly unlikely. Would Benzema or Sánchez really sanction a move from their worldy, cosmopolitan environs to the likes of Liverpool? It's hard to envision, to say the least.  There's something to be said for the allure for the bright lights of the big city. Suffice to say, it was enough to entice one La Liga player who shall remain unnamed.

We've been on this ride before. At its end, it brought us a galáctico by the name of Özil. A league-rival's talisman played his way out of town and into La Liga. This time 'round, a league-rival's cannibal may have bitten his way out of town and into La Liga. May the spoils again fall in our laps...

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