Luis Suarez has been a proper signing for Barcelona since joining the club in the summer of 2014. His 185 goals and 97 assists in 259 appearances (via Transfermarkt) easily makes him one of the best strikers in world football and it’s easy to imagine that Barca would have a hard time finding an heir to his throne.
However, Barcelona must start searching for his replacement and that time is looking very soon. At 32, the striker’s physicality has been a large issue of late and with the event of his latest injury, the second this season, It would suggest that the Spanish champions must now intensify their efforts in search of a striker – be it a back-up at the moment or one for the possible long term.
On an afternoon where there were plenty of concerns and disappointments to witness, the sight of Luis Suarez pulling up injured in the 41st minute to be replaced by Carles Perez was among the first to emerge prior to FC Barcelona being soundly beaten 3-1 by Levante on Saturday.
[❗LATEST NEWS] The tests carried out this afternoon have shown that Luis Suárez has a lesion in the right leg. Therefore, he is currently not available for selection, and the evolution of the injury will determine his availability pic.twitter.com/PWJkgec2Pk
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) November 2, 2019
Picking up the knock and appearing to be in discomfort after Carlos Clerc’s challenge, Suarez had enjoyed a quiet first half at the Estadi Ciutat de Valencia until being hauled off and was seen throwing his boot at the ground in frustration when he sat on the bench sidelined.
Though it initially looked like the length of his absence was unknown, AS subsequently claimed that the striker could be out of action for at least three weeks.
More specifically, this means the 32-year-old will be unavailable for Barcelona’s ties with Slavia Prague in the Champions League as well as Celta Vigo and Leganes in La Liga (via AS). Additionally, he will most probably have to skip friendlies with the Uruguayan national team against Hungary and teammate Lionel Messi’s Argentina as well.
This is undoubtedly a huge blow for the Blaugrana. By missing Messi and Suarez at the start of 2019/2020, they embarked on their worst beginning to a season in 25 years, yet surprisingly headed to the top of the charts in La Liga. However, the volatile nature of the top-seven sides in La Liga suggests there is no room for complacency as only three points separate Barcelona (first) and Granada (seventh) as it stands (Skysports).
On a personal level, Suarez’s contribution to the team can simply not be understated. Since he recovered from his earlier injury in the season Athletic, Suarez has played every minute of every Barca fixture in all competitions and is the side’s top scorer with eight in 11 games (via Whoscored).
It now leaves coach Ernesto Valverde with a huge headache as to who can fill his boots.
The idea of Griezmann playing at the centre with Messi flanking the right and one of Dembele or Fati on the left will probably be strong on Valverde’s mind.
In another combination, there’s the possibility of Messi operating as a false nine, Griezmann switching to the right of a front three and either Ousmane Dembele or Ansu Fati manning the left.
However, Fati on the left and Griezmann down the middle makes the most sense and has already been seen working to great effect as in the 5-2 wins against Real Betis and Valencia earlier on in the season.
While Griezmann bagged a brace and set up Arturo Vidal in the first match, in the latter he allowed Frenkie de Jong to score his first official strike at his new employers while also assisting Suarez for his second.
As Barcelona’s seven-game win streak came to an end this weekend thanks to their third away defeat, any decision on a new approach must not be taken lightly by Valverde in the run-up to El Clasico.
Approaching the end of a year, Champions League knockout round qualification must be secured and first place in La Liga maintained by a manager with pressure mounting on him with each passing game.
On the issue of the void left by Luis Suarez, Barcelona must now make it their priority to get a striker come January.
Much recently, in a recent interview with the New York Times, in-form Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela expressed his desire to play on loan with Lionel Messi at Barcelona and of course it was taken as normal speculation.
However, with the turn of events regarding Suarez’s fitness, the 30-year-old striker will be an ideal backup plan for Suarez till the end of the season when Barcelona can then consider getting a longer-term signing.
If there is any possibility of bringing Carlos Vela to the Nou Camp in January, then Valverde must be knocking on the door of that opportunity. The MLS star has a wealth of experience playing in the Spanish top-flight with his seven-year stint at Real Sociedad (Transfermarkt) and would have no trouble fitting in at Barcelona.