Liverpool head coach Brendan Rodgers recently intimated that he valued wantaway frontman Luis Suarez in the same bracket as Paris Saint-Germain’s new £55 million recruit Edinson Cavani. Despite what some cynics may think, the Northern Irishman is absolutely right in that assertion.
"When you consider that Cavani has gone for 55 million pounds you know ... Luis is up there in that bracket of top talent," Rodgers told the Liverpool Echo (via Goal.com).
During both Uruguay internationals’ club careers to date, Cavani has scored 149 goals in 275 matches for the likes of Danubio, Palermo and Napoli (per Soccerway), giving the 26-year-old a scoring ratio of a goal every 1.84 games.
In comparison, his compatriot, also aged 26, has managed to net 185 goals in 301 fixtures for Nacional, Groningen, Ajax and Liverpool (also per Soccerway). That works out at a slightly superior average of a goal every 1.62 contests.
And for the national team, again it is the Reds forward who has the more impressive record in front of goal, having scored 31 goals in his 65 internationals to Cavani’s 16 strikes in 54 games for his country.
However, an attacker’s most recent work will always be given more weight when working out his market value than that at the start of his career.
Cavani continued his devastating run from the previous two campaigns in netting 37 times in just 42 matches for 1.13 goals per game. Suarez, meanwhile, managed 28 strikes in his 43 fixtures for the Reds at a rate of a goal every 1.53 contests.
So from a purely statistical point of view, Rodgers and Liverpool’s American owners, the Fenway Sports Group (FSG), have a strong argument to make for valuing their star man in the same bracket as Cavani. Though the recent numbers favor Cavani, Suarez's tallies show greater consistency.
But football, even when discussing the absolutely pivotal role of the striker, is not purely about numbers, as the case of the controversial Suarez clearly demonstrates. Many more factors help to determine a player’s true worth.
For one thing, Suarez has a long-term contract at Anfield that runs until 2018. He put pen to paper on a new £100,000-per-week deal only last August, and that greatly increases a player’s market price.
For evidence, see Robin van Persie’s cut-price £24 million move from Arsenal to Manchester United last August. The Gunners had little leverage in negotiations after Van Persie declined to extend his contract. Had Suarez’s contract been expiring next summer, then the Reds would have to ask for a far smaller sum for their mercurial frontman.
And then one has to also take into consideration exactly what the player in question can bring to a new team. When discussing a striker, that will inevitably centre around their aforementioned goalscoring record.
However, Suarez is a marksman who offers so much more than simply putting the ball in the back of the net. He takes as much pleasure from creating goals for teammates as he does actually scoring them, as one can see from the 24 strikes that he also set up for Reds colleagues last season.
Cavani, on the other hand, laid on just five goals for other Napoli players in 2012-13.
Any prospective buyers of Suarez this summer will not simply be landing a goalscorer; they'll get an all-around attacking playmaker, which is an absolutely invaluable commodity in a frontman.
And it is this unrivalled versatility that really elevates Suarez into the upper echelons of strikers in the world game today. The Uruguayan is equally comfortable with either foot, as well as in a number of different positions across the forward line.
That could be either as a front man leading the line by himself; in the “hole” behind a sole centre forward functioning as a “false No. 9”; up top alongside another striker in a more conventional 4-4-2; or as a forward operating either side of an out-and-out marksman in a 4-3-3 formation.
Thus, Suarez will offer any interested suitor a variety of options up front with his tactical flexibility. Whatever role a manager does decide to give him, he can be sure production will result, again given Suarez's career numbers.
What's more, the forward is also one of the deadliest set-piece exponents currently plying their trade, and that is even before we begin to mention his unparalleled dribbling and close control.
It is perhaps this last eye-catching aspect of Suarez’s game that really confirms him as a top-level, £55 million-rated striker. How many other rival forwards in the game at present can match his abilities when running at opposing players with the ball at his feet?
This is undoubtedly the “X-factor” in the 26-year-old’s game, and when combined with his impressive goalscoring record, versatility, set-play abilities, age, virtually unblemished injury record and current contract situation at Anfield, it adds up to a multimillion-pound centre forward at the very top of his game.
Sure, some cynics may point to his hit-and-miss record in front of goal during his first 18 months at Anfield. However, as has been the case with many a frontman before him, acclimating to the peculiar demands of the Premier League can take time to adjust for even the best and most experienced of marksmen.
In fact, the only factor counting against Suarez is the baggage that he inevitably brings with him from club to club. The very real fear for any potential buyer is that the hot-headed player may end up spending more time in front of a disciplinary commission and enduring lengthy suspensions than he does on the actual field of play.
However, that negative, which could ultimately affect both the global reputation of a club as well as the Uruguayan’s own sell-on value, is easily offset by what Suarez could provide for a team on the pitch.
All of which means, if Fernando Torres was worth a British-record fee of £50 million in January 2011 and now two years later Cavani is valued at £55 million, then Suarez cannot possibly be sold this summer for a sum less than that latter figure.