Let’s get something straight from the off: neither Gareth Bale nor Luis Suarez has signed anything or gone anywhere. For all the talk, they remain at Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, respectively. However, it appears increasingly likely that the Premier League’s two standout players in 2012-13 may move abroad during the coming transfer window, with Real Madrid (among others) said to be chasing the pair.
While it would be outrageous if los Blancos were to sign both – they would have to fork out something in the region of £100 million to do so – the powers that be in the Spanish capital have a handy habit of getting what they want, when they want it. It helps that Suarez in particular appears open to a change of scene, if his recent comments on Uruguayan radio are anything to go by.
And so should one or both of Spurs and Liverpool lose their talisman this summer, it would leave them in the rather nasty situation of having to find a suitable replacement – a task much more complicated than it sounds, as players of that ilk don’t just sprout out of the ground (except in Catalunya, perhaps).
The question is: can either club afford not to go out and buy a ready-made superstar to fill the void?
The Reds had mixed results last time they found themselves in this predicament, with Suarez and Andy Carroll signing just as Fernando Torres completed a £50m move to Chelsea in January 2011. One has shone, while the other has not.
Tottenham, meanwhile, lost Luka Modric to Real Madrid last year for a fee of around £33m. But with Rafael van der Vaart, Niko Kranjcar, Steven Pienaar and many others also leaving, the Lilywhites opted for depth in Mousa Dembele (£15m), Clint Dempsey (£6) and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris (£12m) rather than going after a marquee replacement.
However, the Londoners already had Bale waiting to explode when Modric and van der Vaart left, and one could hardly bank on Gilfy Sigurdsson or Lewis Holtby stepping up in quite the same fashion. Similarly, while the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge have impressed since arriving at Anfield in the winter, does either possess the competitive edge or sheer match-winning ability of Suarez?
And what of the calibre of attackers recently linked with a move to Merseyside? Udinese’s Luis Muriel, Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas, Sevilla’s Luis Alberto… hardly household names. And throw in Scott Sinclair, a serial bench-dweller who made a whopping three starts for Manchester City last term. Are these players that can push the Reds back into Champions League contention?
Andres Villas-Boas and Brendan Rodgers have other areas in need of address too, with the former lacking reliable front-men – hence the ‘David Villa to Spurs’ rumours – while the latter is facing a near-total overhaul of his back line.
So, the solution? Don’t let Bale or Suarez leave – they might just be too difficult to replace, especially when Liverpool don’t have any European football to offer. But if it comes to that, the men in charge at White Hart Lane and Anfield had better bait up every hook they have and go looking for some very big fish.