When Real Madrid sold Gonzalo Higuain last summer, the natural assumption was that they would replace him with another striker to maintain the competition for Karim Benzema.
A couple of months earlier President Florentino Perez sent a message out to the Liverpool striker Luis Suarez. “Suarez is a great player and I am sure all in the world would want him,” Perez told Marca, via The Telegraph. “I like him and others too.”
The forward was also keen to broker a move after growing increasingly frustrated with his treatment from the English media.
“I have a contract with Liverpool but would find it difficult to say ‘no’ to Real Madrid,” Suarez told a Uruguayan radio station, via Chris Bascombe of The Telegraph.
“I’ve worked hard since childhood to get where I am and I keep getting constant criticism from the English press. It makes me tired. Liverpool want me to stay, but do not know what will happen.”
Liverpool was determined not to sell, and with Los Blancos focusing their efforts on the recruitment of Gareth Bale, they weren’t quick to make a bid.
“So far I have not received any official offer from Madrid,” said Suarez in a come-and-get-me plea. It never materialised, yet both clubs have surprisingly benefited from the situation.
Suarez is in the form of his life, and Liverpool is in the Premier League title race. He was even rewarded with a four-and-a-half-year contract in December, per BBC.
“I believe I can achieve the ambitions of winning trophies and playing at the very highest level with Liverpool,” said Suarez at the time. “My aim is to help get us there as quickly as possible.”
Meanwhile, in the Spanish capital, Benzema is revelling in the added responsibility and with the assurance that he will start almost every game. Many thought the Frenchman needed another top striker to stop complacency, but the reality was he needed the confidence of his manager.
Despite how events have unfolded, there is every chance Real Madrid will return for Suarez in the summer, though it will just cost them almost double what they originally intended to pay. Having been such a revelation at Anfield in the last 12 months, few would begrudge him the move.
If that was to take place, the prospect of the attacking three of Bale, Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo would be devastating. Individually they are in the top 10 attacking players in world football, but as a combination, would they be as effective?
The first thing to consider is how Carlo Ancelotti would manage the egos in the dressing room. This wouldn’t be that much of a problem, as both Ronaldo and Suarez have an unfavourable reputation due to their on-pitch persona but privately aren’t that way inclined.
When out on the field, it could be a different story; we have seen both Suarez and Ronaldo show their displeasure with other players’ decision-making in recent weeks. Providing they understand the team comes first, then this isn’t an issue.
All three players are very individualistic but realise you don’t win anything on your own, no matter how good you are.
Communication between the three wouldn’t be a concern, despite the fact they are all from different countries and originate from completely contrasting parts of the world. Bale is undertaking Spanish lessons, and the others both speak English to a high standard.
Real Madrid expects to have more possession than the majority of sides in La Liga, so breaking down compact defences can be a problem. Suarez’s clever footwork enables him to weave in and out of defenders, whilst his awareness of his teammates has improved considerably. With Ronaldo and Bale adept at long-range shooting, he would be able to lay the ball into their path for a strike at goal.
When shooting from distance, there would be opportunities for Suarez to poach rebounds and follow in those attempts. This is something Benzema does, and although it wouldn’t come that naturally to Suarez at first, he is a clever player who adapts well to new environments.
Suarez is comfortable in all situations, which is what makes him such an effective player. His movement away from opposing centre-backs is at times reminiscent of a false nine, whilst having played out wide for Uruguay and Liverpool, he is happy to drag defenders into unfamiliar territory. This would leave space for Ronaldo and Bale to cut inside on to their stronger foot.
Brendan Rodgers’ team developed last term a Barcelona style but have since adopted a philosophy closer to that of Borussia Dortmund, as this excellent piece by Hassan Cheema at FourFourTwo explains. Both systems require high-quality pressing, but the Dortmund way is more vertical and direct.
Real Madrid under Ancelotti is more possession-based than with Jose Mourinho at the helm. The Portuguese coach constructed Madrid into the best counter-attacking team in the world. This means the two sides aren’t that far apart in terms of their strengths; this would obviously make the transition easier for Suarez.
The lightning pace with which they could hit sides on the break would be phenomenal. Suarez can resemble traits of Mesut Ozil when finding Bale and Ronaldo racing towards goal.
The ability of all three players means few would fancy their chances in a one-against-one situation, but if two defenders are attracted towards an attacker with the ball, you risk leaving one of the others free.
Free-kicks would be very interesting; are there three better players in one squad at dead-ball situations? Suarez has scored some great ones, notably against Manchester City and Everton. When Bale arrived at the Bernabeu, he left the job to Ronaldo, but the former Tottenham winger has been exceptional at them in recent weeks.
This led to the question of whether the Welshman should take all of their set pieces:
“No, on the left wing Gareth Bale has more chances—as he showed against Betis—and Cristiano has a better chance from the right,” said Ancelotti in response at a press conference, per ESPN. “That is the decision we have taken for them both. Cristiano is stronger with his right, Gareth with his left.”
There is a certain amount of baggage and hysteria that surrounds Luis Suarez, but the thought of Ronaldo, Bale and Suarez as an attacking three should be enough for Madridistas to forget this element.
This could be a premonition of the future or it may never happen; at least for now Suarez is more than happy with Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho for company.