When FC Barcelona signed Luis Suarez from Liverpool in 2014, there was no doubt that they were getting one of the best strikers in the world albeit one with a history of controversy, the latest at the time being his biting incident with Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 world cup in Brazil. At the time, Barcelona were coming off the back of an extremely disappointing season under Argentine manager Gerardo Tata Martino where the Catalan club finished the season trophy-less. That season was also Messi’s “worst” season as the Argentine talisman scored “only” 41 goals and 15 assists in 44 appearances in all competitions, his lowest return since moving to the false nine position. Barca parted ways with Martino and since it was clear that the club needed some rejuvenating and a transfer ban hanging over their heads, they splashed the cash and brought in a number of new faces including Jeremy Mathieu, Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suarez.
BREATH OF FRESH AIR
The signing of Luis Suarez was a breath of fresh air into a Barcelona team that had become stale and lost their edge, he took some time to get going as he had to serve a lengthy ban and took some time to get back to full fitness, when he did arrive, he was imperious and formed a potent partnership in the much vaunted ‘MSN’ trident alongside Messi and Neymar; the strike force that propelled Barca to their second treble. Suarez was particularly important in the Champions League that season with two exquisite goals away against Paris Saint Germain and the go-ahead strike in the final against Juventus helping Barca to the title.
Suarez’s numbers in his first season for Barcelona showing his influence both domestically and in Europe
In his next season, Suarez peaked in his performances for Barcelona, the Uruguayan marksman scored as whopping 40 league goals and made a further 16 assists, a career high for him, apart from this, Suarez is pretty much the only striker since Samuel Eto’o to forge a proper partnership with Lionel Messi as the South American duo share an almost telepathic understanding on the pitch and also off it. However, things have been steadily declining and we’ll see why.
When Barcelona signed Luis Suarez, they signed one of the best strikers in the world albeit one that was never far from controversy, now, El pistolero is no longer one of the best strikers and that has become clear as his statistics clearly show an obvious decline in performances and output since his arrival.
Luis Suarez’s goal statistics from the 2015/2016 season to last season
The above graphic bears this fact out clearly, as there has been a noticeable drop in his numbers. After scoring 16 league goals and an additional 7 in the Uefa Champions League in his debut season for Barcelona, Suarez hit an insane 40 league goals, becoming the only player to break the Messi – Ronaldo pichichi duopoly. Since that season, however, everything has gone downhill, as he scored 28 and 23 goals in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Now, while that might not look too bad, after all, any striker that can guarantee you 20 goals a season is good, what really hurts Barca is that it is an obvious drop from his usual high standards. The Uruguayan now misses easy chances, loses the ball a lot and couldn’t dribble past a cone to save his life. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Champions League, while firing blanks in the game against PSV Eindhoven Suarez has now failed to score in 13 Champions League matches and is yet to score an away champions league goal in 3 years! It also just happens that Barcelona have been knocked out at the quarter-finals stage of the Champions League for 3 years in a row, with their star number nine going missing all the time, this is even more damning when you realize that Suarez has had Messi, Iniesta, formerly Neymar and now Coutinho creating for him and he still has been unable to produce the goods.
Graphic showing Luis Suarez Champions League statistics. See how clearly his numbers have dropped, from 13 to 3 and he scored just ONE goal in the champions league last season
WHERE TO NOW FOR BARCELONA
The problem has not gone unnoticed by the Barcelona hierarchy as they have sought to manage the situation and remedy it without spoiling the dressing room, and even though Ernesto Valverde has repeatedly said that he has full faith in Suarez, Barcelona’s pursuit of Antoine Griezmann in the summer and their willingness to spend a 9 figure sum on the Frenchman was a sign that they had begun planning for a post Suarez world. In the end, the Frenchman decided to extend his contract with Athletico De Madrid and Barca have only Munir El Hadadi as Suarez’s back up.
Barcelona do have a Luis Suarez problem. This is evident from his dwindling statistics in the past three seasons both domestically and in Europe; apart from the dropping numbers of goals and assists, Suarez now loses the ball easily and rarely wins his duels anymore. However, Luisito is still a fighter and a problem for any defence that he comes up against. Also, his understanding with Messi is still second to none as evidenced by his assist for Messi’s hat-trick goal against PSV. Its true that his pace is gone and age is no longer on his side, but he is still a high earner with a big reputation and no proper backup, which means he will probably play every game this season. Barcelona must find a way to replace him properly and manage him until they can do so, Alcacer’s sale to Borussia Dortmund was a bit surprising in that regard, however, they need to find someone to fill his boots and in the meantime, Suarez needs to start scoring easy chances.