Saturday, 11 June 2016

What Denis Suarez Brings to Barcelona and Why They Should Keep Him, Not Sell on


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Like several of Europe's biggest clubs, Barcelona are looking to start their summer work early in the transfer market, no doubt hoping to seal a few incoming deals for next season before the UEFA Euro 2016 or the Copa America get underway.

One of the most probable early deals they will conclude is that of signing Villarreal's Denis Suarez, with the former Barca B player said to be keen on completing the deal as soon as possible, according to Marca's Ramiro Aldunate.

It's not quite as straightforward as it seems, though, with Barca potentially in the same boat as Real Madrid in the Alvaro Morata chase: They can buy back the player thanks to a prearranged agreement at a reasonable cost, then immediately sell him on for a quick profit, given the interest from other clubs.

In the case of Suarez, at least three Premier League clubs are credited with an interest in him, per Aldunate, while Zenit also tried to sign him in the winter transfer window.

There's enough profit there for it to be worthwhile on Barca's part selling him on this summer, but the greater value for them is in keeping and utilising him next season, when he could be an asset to the growth of the squad.

Finally, a season of progression. Now aged 22, for a long time it had seemed as though Suarez, prodigiously talented as a youngster but never quite settling with a club, would fail to realise his enormous potential, but Villarreal proved to be the perfect nurturing ground for him to thrive in.

Suarez left Celta Vigo, where he was a youth player, for Manchester City in 2011 but only managed a couple of cup appearances. A move to Barcelona followed, where he only featured in the B team, before a largely unproductive loan at Sevilla last season. He played 46 times, but almost half of those came off the bench, and he barely managed a dozen full 90-minute displays all season.

In comparable game-time terms, he featured as much in La Liga for Sevilla in 2014-15 as Munir did for Barca this season—in other words, not a whole lot, all things considered.

The move to Villarreal was far more constructive, and Suarez has been a first-choice starter on either side of midfield. He showed his creative work coming in off the flanks, enjoyed a tremendous run of form and end product around the turn of the year and played an important part in the team's run to the UEFA Europa League semi-finals.

Barcelona were linked with a move to exercise their buy-back clause in January, and it seemed a terribly ill-timed move for Suarez to make; just when it seemed he had found his groove and gotten a deserved run in the team, he would give it all up to move back to Barca's bench.

Importantly, he stayed and saw out the season at El Madrigal, and while he's not close to being one of La Liga's best attacking midfielders for the season, he did showcase his abilities and potential to impact in the UEFA Champions League next season, having helped Villarreal finish fourth.

Biggest strengths and roles

So where will he fit? His natural role is as a playmaker, receiving possession between the lines, facing goal and able to run at defenders, opening up spaces to make clever passes to team-mates or creating shooting chances for himself.

His finishing is not a particularly key trait, though he did score a few important goals along the way—and his set pieces are exceptional at times, not that he's likely to get much of an opportunity to take over in that regard at the Camp Nou.

Suarez can play on either flank, cutting infield and dribbling directly toward goal, but his technique and first touch is also good enough for quick combinations of passes and making the most of movement off the ball. His best link play for Villarreal came when sliding passes for Cedric Bakambu to run on to behind the defence, while he also attacked the far post better and better as the season went on, particularly when playing from the left.

There's also a case to make that his passing range and vision is good enough to play one of Barcelona's attacking midfield roles centrally, though this would be more of a secondary role—ideally, he'd be a rotation or replacement for the wider players in the front three, Lionel Messi and Neymar.

Barcelona didn't have that this season—Munir didn't show enough, Sandro Ramirez missed his big opportunity and Arda Turan briefly shone before failing to reach expected levels in the latter third of the season.

Profit or depth?

So, to keep or to sell on? If Premier League clubs are interested, Barcelona could easily sell Denis Suarez on for €15 million. The suggested €3 million buy-back clause, according to El Mundo Deportivo (via ESPN FC's Adriana Garcia), is easily manageable, but Catalan media outlet Sport continues to report that if Barca sell Suarez this summer, Villarreal will net 50 percent of any profit Barcelona make. That reduces to 25 percent if he is sold next summer.

For the sake of bringing in an additional €5 million, or even €10 million, to the summer spending budget, Barcelona would be far better served using Suarez as a creative back-up to the front three.

They still need to buy a central striker in any case, to give balance as well as depth to the second-string attacking line, but Suarez ticks many of the boxes that manager Luis Enrique requires of a player that will spell Messi and Neymar for 2,000 minutes per season: dribbling ability, creativity and vision in possession and a selfless streak in front of goal.

Suarez scored five goals and assisted on 13 over the course of the season at Villarreal; he could reasonably expect to go close to matching those numbers with reduced game time at a far more offensive-minded Barcelona. That, plus Neymar being on Olympic duty at the start of the season, all points toward the Spaniard being an excellent capture for Barca.

They will need quality to come into the team and ensure a good start to the season.

Suarez is an affordable step in the right direction to boost squad depth and ensure a more even level of quality is sustained when the first-choice forwards are unavailable. It's a move Barcelona should make, and they should absolutely be looking to keep him heavily involved for the next couple of seasons.

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