I’ve seen plenty of people writing tweets about the past decade and declaring that Luis Suarez is the best Liverpool player during that time. I understand them, of course. He was an electrifyingly good footballer, doing genuinely outrageous things. His goals against Norwich City were a Goal Of The Season competition in which he was only competing with himself. Whilst I have never bought into the nonsensical idea that he was solely responsible for our incredible title challenge in 2013-2014, I don’t think it happens without him leading the line. I also think we probably would have won the title if Brendan Rodgers would have trusted his squad a little more and given the Uruguayan a bit more of a rest every now and then. Yet the notion that he’s our best player over the past ten years or so sticks in my craw for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the manner in which the current crop of players are performing every week.
#LFC Top 10 Players of the Decade
2 Van Dijk
— David Nichols (@DavidNicholsMP) December 7, 2019
There are also the rather less savoury parts of Suarez’s personality that must be talked about in relation to his place in the best players of the decade chat. None of them take away from what he was able to do on the football pitch, of course, but when you have a player who missed so much of his time at the club because of accusations of racism and his willingness to get a bit toothy with fellow professionals, it at least has to warrant a mention. Don’t misunderstand me about this piece, either. I’m not for one second suggesting that he was over-rated or shouldn’t be talked about alongside other contenders. It’s just that the certainty with which so many have declared him to be our best player of the past decade seems to have been done in a manner that suggests that they’re under-estimating what our current squad is capable of. Here I’ll have a look at why I don’t think Suarez is the one for me.
Salah & Mané Are Arguably Better Than Him
During his time at Anfield Luis Suarez scored sixty-nine goals in one hundred and ten league appearances. A remarkable recored that saw him go at a rate that he’s actually improved upon since joining Barcelona. Yet when you look at what Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah have done in the same competition, you can see that they rival him in terms of impressive goalscoring feats. For Mané the figures say fifty-four goals in one hundred and seven league games, whilst for the Egyptian King it’s sixty-one in eighty-seven. Just think about that for a second. Salah, who many feel hasn’t had a particularly great season so far thanks to niggling injuries, is just eight league goals away from Suarez’s total despite having played twenty-three fewer games. If last night’s match against Salzburg is anything to go by then many of them have been just as outrageous as those netted by the Uruguayan.
Not sure a photo could better sum up the unbelievable brilliance of Mohamed Salah than this. pic.twitter.com/Iw1LqgPyY7
— Leanne Prescott (@_lfcleanne) December 10, 2019
Even if you wanted to talk about the teams that the players played in I’m not sure the balance is in Suarez’s favour. Whilst the current crop is unquestionably more talented, there’s an argument that the team the current Barcelona forward played for was set up to get the very best out of him, given the complete lack of balance that it displayed throughout his time at the club. It was a much more attacking unit that eventually abandoned any pretext of offering the defence any protection, instead opting to outscore the opposition at every opportunity. Sadio Mané offers the same level of graft that Suarez did and does so whilst also being one of the best attacking players in the world. Suarez left Liverpool with only the 2012 League Cup to his name. Salah and Mané have already won the Champions League and notched up a record points in the Premier League. They’ve also managed it without any controversies to speak of.
What Of Other Players In The Current Squad?
It’s easy to look at the mercurial nature of Luis Suarez and decide that his talent meant that he was the best player to have played in Red over the past decade, but it’s also easy to look good when your job is to stick the ball into the back of the net when your job is more based on stopping the opposition from doing that or, even worse, carrying the water of others then you’ll very rarely get a look in. That many people feel that Virgil van Dijk was hard done to when he was not awarded the Balon D’or earlier in the month tells you everything that you need to know about his ability as a footballer. He has completely transformed the look and feel of this side in a way that many pundits, including Jamie Carragher, didn’t believe was possible. As with Alisson Becker behind him, the big man makes it look easy by always being in the right place at the right time, forgoing in the need to produce something spectacular.
WE. KEEP. GOING. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/TceFfavvk3
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 10, 2019
Jordan Henderson is rarely going to make anyone’s ‘best player’ list, yet the midfielder grafts, works and gives his all to make room for others to shine. Of course Luis Suarez was a more technically gifted player, but what the Liverpool captain does both on and off the pitch for others should never be under-estimated. Then there’s Steven Gerrard, who was arguably past his best by the time this decade rolled around and yet was constantly the driving force behind the Reds just about remaining relevant. There’s also the fact that he completely reinvented himself in order to push his boyhood club so close to the holy grail in ’13-’14. Does he not deserve to be mentioned alongside Suarez, or is it only goalscorers who can be considered to be great? Speaking of reinventing roles, Trent Alexander-Arnold has practically done exactly that by becoming a playmaker from right-back, with only his youth stopping him from being part of the conversation.
I completely understand why so many people have put Luis Suarez at the top of their list when it comes to conversations about the club’s most talented player of the past ten years, but I do think there’s a risk in there of not appreciating what we have right now. This is the best Liverpool squad most of us have ever seen. Let’s enjoy it whilst we can.