As Barcelona head into the international break after a superb start to the season, one big questions lingers … what has gone wrong with Luis Suarez? And subsequently, how are Barcelona preparing for a future without him?
Several players have been heavily linked with Barca, most frequently Antoine Griezmann, Paulo Dybala and Timo Werner but let’s not forget we also have Paco Alcacer. So, let’s take a look at the strengths, weaknesses, and overall prospects of each respective player.
We start off with the Atletico Madrid man, Antoine Griezmann. As he has shown on a large stage for over two years now, Griezmann has the quality necessary to be a Barcelona player. His ability to combine that quality with his pace and athleticism is something remarkable, and truly differentiates him from other strikers.
Where Griezmann adds to his value is his ability to play defense. As often expected from a Diego Simeone striker, scoring goals isn’t the only requirement, tracking back and putting pressure on the ball is necessary as well.
These two things have also been staples of the “Barcelona” system over the past decade, and Griezmann would adjust very well. However, while extremely talented, there are two large problems with any potential move for Griezmann.
Firstly, while he has consistently played great for Atletico and France, but when put under pressure on the biggest stage, he has faltered. Look no further than the missed penalty in the Champions League final versus Real Madrid and his disappearing act against Portugal in the final of the 2016 European Championship.
Secondly, there is the fact that he might not share space well with Lionel Messi. Both players enjoy wandering and finding spaces in an opponent’s defense before picking up the ball.
How Griezmann would slide into this lineup without causing a disturbance to Messi is something that must be taken into account. While his quality is great, there is a psychological and systematic concern about Griezmann… is buying him worth the risk? A player with his talent and work ethic should be deserving of the risk, regardless of spacing concerns.
Secondly, a name that has continued to be mentioned in transfer rumors is Timo Werner. The RB Leipzig forward is more of a traditional forward who thrives in wonderfully finishing off his team’s attacks.
At only 21 years of age, Werner has consistently shown his quality for two years ending last year’s Bundesliga campaign with 21 goals and leading his side to a shock Champions League spot.
So far this year, Werner has added six goals and two assists. In addition, he has also proved his worth on the international stage for the German national team, claiming the Golden Boot at the 2017 Confederations Cup with three goals and two assists.
Clearly, Werner is a player who is developing at a fast pace and could be an extremely effective buy for Barcelona. One necessary point to bring up though is his age. Similar to many young players brought into Barcelona through the transfer market, it takes younger, less experienced players a longer time to settle into the Camp Nou. Patience is required and Werner would be wise to use Luis Suarez as a mentor if brought to Barca.
Another interesting option would be that of Paulo Dybala. Similar to Griezmann in his proven quality, Dybala is also extremely young considering his accomplishments. He has consistently led his Juventus side to amazing wins and Barcelona fans will surely remember his two goals in last season’s 3-0 Champions League quarter-final defeat in Turin.
The biggest trepidation regarding Dybala is similar to that of Griezmann; his spacing. As observed in the current Argentina squad, Jorge Sampaoli has been unable to accommodate both Lionel Messi and Dybala in the same starting eleven because of their similarities. A solution could lie in bringing in Dybala 1-2 years from now and letting him learn from Messi before becoming a focal point of the team.
Last but not least, a striker with great potential is somebody already in the team, Paco Alcacer. Still only 24, he has already made a mark this year, evidenced with his two goals versus Sevilla in a 2-1 Barcelona win.
While Alcacer might not be grabbing headlines just yet, the talent is there and his confidence appears to be returning after a rough first year. While not considered a super star yet, if Alcacer continues developing, we could see a natural replacement for Suarez come from within the squad.
Ultimately, there is an abundance of striking talent in teams throughout Europe. For Barcelona to successfully pick a striker to replace Luis Suarez, they must take a player’s skill, age, and positional play into account.
Suarez will turn 31 in January and ensuring there is a forward to replace his goalscoring exploits when the time comes is critical to Barcelona’s future success. Whether we see that replacement in the next summer window or in two years, it is clear the time for planning is now. Visca Barca!
Who do you think should replace Luis Suarez at Barcelona when the time comes? Let us know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!