Less than two weeks away from his team’s Confederations Cup opener against Spain, Oscar Washington Tabarez started a first choice squad in Montevideo, with one notable exception. Luis Súarez was on the bench for the team’s first game since March, his team preparing for a Tuesday World Cup qualifier where they’ll be without their suspended star. With a resurgent Diego Forlán ready to re-assumed a prominent role, the Uruguayans may have enough to beat Venezuela, even if they’ll have to improve on Wednesday’s performance to do so.
After a first half that saw Dmitri Payet and Yoann Gourcuff nearly put an experimental France side ahead, the teams eventually went into halftime drawn 0-0. After the break, Suárez was brought on, a move that defined that match. In the 49th minute, the Liverpool star blasted a Maxi Periera ball past Steve Mandanda for the day’s only goal. In a matter of minutes, Suárez had won the match for La Celeste.
“We had opportunities in the first half to take the lead but then they brought on a player like Suarez,” France coach Didier Deschamps told French television after the match.
“It was a pretty even game all things told and one moment from Suarez made the difference.”
Deschamps’ reaction, and the match he’d just lost, sums up Suárez’s value. While he isn’t the only player who can sway a match, Suárez is one of the few that can do so on a regular basis – one a handful of players a club can justify being dependent on for goals.
As Liverpool found out this season, that skill is often the only difference between out-playing a team and actually taking full points. While Brendan Rodgers’ team is capable of playing an attractive, controlling brand of soccer, the difference between putting opponents away and struggling to convert passes into chances is often a player like Suárez.
All of which prompts the obligatory question: How much is a player like that worth? He’s 26 years old, he has a ton of issues that mean his value’s lower than his pure impact, but ultimately, Luis Suárez is a man who could slot into any team in the world. So when clubs like Real Madrid come knocking, how much does it oblige Liverpool to cash in and, because Suárez is so important, go back to the drawing board? How much justifies taking the chance that you can find the right combination over the summer and not lose ground in the league?
The latest speculation puts that price at over $77 million (or £50 million), with Liverpool intent on getting more than the fee they got for Fernando Torres. With that evaluation, only a handful of clubs can make competitive bids, which is why you hear Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and few others linked with the temperamental Uruguayan.
Regardless, while talking about a team that’s had to replace a marquee striker recently, we have some idea what it would take. Liverpool would need a record fee to justify going back to the drawing board.