When Ronald Koeman arrived at Camp Nou this summer, we all knew there would be changes at Barcelona. There needed to be changes at Barcelona.
You can’t keep getting mauled in the Champions League without reacting. Losing to Napoli in 2017/18 was bad, losing to Liverpool in 2018/19 was worse and getting comprehensively obliterated by Bayern Munich in 2019/20 was the lowest of the low.
Koeman arrived at the dugout with the promise that he would rebuild the team, offload the deadwood and steer Barça back to the top of the mountain. So, why was his first order of business to undermine one of the team’s few stars not called Lionel Messi?
The boss recently confessed that he sought out Suárez to tell him personally that he was no longer a guaranteed starter in this team, challenging the Uruguayan to ‘prove him wrong‘ and earn a spot in the team.
That’s nothing short of atrocious.
Koeman challenged a 33-year-old Suárez to justify his worth to Barcelona, despite the fact that he’d been doing that to devastating effect since arriving at the club back in 2014.
This is a striker who became the third-highest goalscorer in Barcelona history last season as he took his tally to 198 goals in just six seasons – an average of 33 goals per season.
This is a striker who still managed 21 goals and 12 assists in all competitions last season, despite needing to recover from serious knee surgery to be able to return after lockdown.
How on earth can Koeman believe that Suárez needed to prove himself to anyone?
Now, the argument that Barcelona needed to ‘rejuvenate’ is correct. There were a lot of ageing players in the squad who no longer justified their high wages, and that’s why decisions to cut ties with Ivan Rakitić and Arturo Vidal for pennies were barely questioned. The team needed that.
However, Suárez clearly still justified his wages, and the fact that he bagged two goals and an assist in just 20 minutes on his Atlético debut proves that he still does. Meanwhile, Antoine Griezmann is yet to score this season and still has just 15 Barça goals to his name.
Suggesting that Barcelona should have sold Griezmann ahead of Suárez wouldn’t take into account the difficulties surrounding such a deal (although they definitely should have tried). The Frenchman’s high price tag made it almost impossible, but Griezmann is the one who still has to prove himself, not Suárez.
What selling Suárez has done is lower the wage budget. Until this point, that has always been the justification coming out of Barcelona, and while it’s a bit mercenary, it’s fair enough. Barcelona are a business who are struggling financially because of the COVID-19 outbreak .
To suggest that this had anything to do with his performances on the pitch is utterly ludicrous. Suárez is objectively one of the most dangerous strikers in world football, and he’s earned that reputation. He doesn’t need to convince anyone.
It’s the ultimate disrespect to challenge the third-highest goalscorer in club history to prove himself, and Suárez was right to walk away from that environment. The club were no longer prepared to stand by a player who had given his all for six successful years.
It sets a dangerous precedent for any player thinking of moving to Camp Nou. You might win four La Liga titles, lift the Champions League trophy and score a historic number of goals, but when Barcelona need to, they’ll throw you under the bus.