Luis Suárez has been a phenomenal striker for Barcelona, but he is clearly on the decline now.
Suárez signed for the Blaugrana from Liverpool for a colossal £65m back in the summer of 2014 and in the interim has won everything available to him. Suárez has a frankly absurd 166 goals in just 221 games for Barça, and in 2015/16 was statistically the best-performing forward in the world. He has well and truly lived his dream.
But now, as he is about to turn 32, inexorable physical decline has set in. Suárez is still capable of brilliant, exhilarating performances, but cannot raise his game to perform on a consistent basis as Barcelona’s starting striker must do.
Suárez himself has said: “obviously they have to bring players in. I am 31 and Barca have to think, as a club, about the future.” So a replacement is needed, but who? We’ve had a look and come up with four options for the Blaugrana as they look for their next no. 9.
Dream: Harry Kane
When you dream, dream big. Harry Kane is one of the greatest strikers in the world. Arguably only Suárez himself is superior, and the Uruguayan can’t match Kane for consistency due to age. So when you’re talking about the Blaugrana’s new no. 9, there can be no better option than signing the Englishman.
Kane is a magnificent talent. He’s strong, he’s skilful and he has an eye for the big stage too. The only thing he can’t do is beat you in a sprint; but his movement is so good that he doesn’t often get found wanting for pace. And because his game doesn’t rely on speed or the kind of intense physicality that Suárez relies on, Kane will age like a fine wine.
He’s a lethal goalscorer. He has 160 goals in 243 games for Spurs and a remarkable 20 in 35 for England. He can score with his left, right or even head. He’s bagged tap-ins and long-range thunderbolts. He loves it against small teams and the big boys too. And what would be most useful to Barcelona: he takes one hell of a penalty.
But he’s not just goals, is Kane. He’s a wonderful team-player capable of astounding passes showing true creativity. He is able to drop deep and link play, or function as an offensive pivot at the head of the side. What’s more, this is the most unheralded part of Luis Suárez’s game and the aspect that would most likely be missed when signing an elite goalscorer. Well, not if that goalscorer is Kane.
Obviously this is a dream signing. Kane signed a contract just last summer and it still has five years left to run. Sure, Barcelona could likely double his current wages, but Daniel Levy is a shrewd negotiator who would surely demand a transfer fee in excess of the €222m that PSG paid for Neymar back in 2017. Breaking the world record when they have other areas that need attention just isn’t feasible.
Realistic: Maxi Gomez
When it comes to realistic striker signings, it’s always wise to look at lesser-known strikers that the club has been scouting. For Barcelona this leads to Celta Vigo’s Maxi Gomez. There’s many reasons why this is a safe bet for the Blaugrana, and the first is cost. Gomez has a €50m release clause, which by modern standards is a relatively good deal for a promising young striker.
And Maxi Gomez is young, he’s just 22-years-old and currently enjoying his second season in La Liga. He smashed home 17 goals in his debut campaign, and has struck 9 times for Celta thus far this season. Even more impressive is that just three of his goals have come at home: he has been extremely reliable on the road, scoring almost half of Celta’s 15 away goals.
He’s a powerful striker who loves to mix it up with opponents and can dominate in the air. He’s not lightning quick but has a touch of pace, similar to Suárez when he was younger. And whilst he lacks Suárez’s hocus pocus, he knows how to perform in big games like the Barcelona man; scoring once against each of Spain’s biggest sides (Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atlético, Valencia and Sevilla). That kind of mentality, plus the fact that he’s actually friends and compatriots with Suárez make him a very attractive option for Barça.
Neymar wants to come back to Barcelona! At least that’s what the media will have you believe. Apparently the Brazilian isn’t happy in Paris, which isn’t that hard to envision given less people take him seriously now than they did when he was “in Messi’s shadow” in Catalunya; and Neymar very much wants to be taken seriously.
So what if Barcelona simply replaced one member of the legendary M-S-N with another? Not directly, obviously. Neymar is no striker, he’d have to resume his previous position on the left of attack. This would place Leo Messi as a false nine and allow the pair to resume the interplay that devastated a continent for four years.
Of course, PSG spent a world record €222m on Neymar and would want that back and then some if he were to go back to Catalunya. Plus he’s not a no. 9 and so isn’t a true replacement for Suárez, and it’s highly unlikely that the Barcelona fans would welcome him back either. So, whilst fanciful, this move is definitely a wildcard.
Squawka Suggests: Richarlison
An athletic no. 9 is probably the best way for Barcelona to go. They have several technicians, they need someone up-top who can score goals but also get involved physically to give the team a different dimension. That’s what Suárez does, and it works. Maxi Gomez is a very good, potentially great striker. But he lacks that touch of unpredictable genius which so often gives Suárez the edge. It’s not even about tricks necessarily, but the absurd levels of defensive effort he puts forth and his range of unorthodox finishes.
Richarlison has all that in spades. He’s a workhorse off the ball, a supreme dribbler on it, and he can score. Sure, he only has nine goals in the Premier League this season; but just five players have more and they’re all in their mid-to-late 20’s and playing for big six sides.
For comparison, the 22-year-old Richarlison has only had 10 “big chances” so far this season, from which he’s scored six of his nine goals. Harry Kane has had 17 big chances, Mohamed Salah 21 and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 22! If you put Richarlison at the head of the Barcelona team with Leo Messi and Ousmane Dembélé feeding him passes, he’d probably score a whole heap more.
It should be noted that the Brazilian is very raw, so this signing would be more of a project than the others – but with Suárez as a mentor for a season it could actually work out well. Richarlison’s potential is both evident, enormous, and evidently enormous: he’s going to be world-class (he has 3 in his first 6 caps for his country) and could be the latest brilliant Brazilian whose name starts with R to star for Barcelona.