The two Supermen in question.
In July, Barcelona has made a trade. A big trade. How it’s panning out six months into a new season? Below, I’ll judge whether it’s Luis “thrive and let bite” Suárez or Alexis “the wing is not enough” Sánchez, who’s the better player. In form of an alphabet. Without calling the victors of all comparisons. So, anyway:
A is for Assists. Last season, Suárez contributed 24 assists for Liverpool – easily the most he’s ever had in the club – while Sánchez had 17 assists for Barcelona. This season, the Uruguayan has 7 assists so far for Barca, while Sánchez managed to register 9 so far for Arsenal. All in all – too close of a competition to really call a victor. Verdict: draw.
B is for Bans. We all know who’s going to win here. Suárez has a history of being banned for racial slurs on Patrice Evra, for biting Branislav Ivanović and finally, for having a second bite – this time, on Italian centre-back, Giorgio Chiellini. By signing him, Barcelona not only got effectively deprived of his services for the length of his most recent ban but also exposed the team for possible, further disciplinary problems in the future – something docile Sánchez has never any trouble with. Verdict: Alexis Sánchez wins.
C is for Champions League. Suárez has a record of 14 appearances and 7 goals in CL – and, funnily enough, none of those happened when he was in Liverpool. As for Sánchez, he also scored 7 goals but in total of 31 CL appearances – serving mostly as Messi’s sidekick when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net. Considering the numbers and the impact they’ve made so far on their teams – the Uruguayan has to be considered superior. Verdict: Luis Suárez wins.
D is for dribbles & skills. Let the videos speak…
E is for efficiency. Last season, Sánchez would register a goal per every 146.2 minutes of play and an assist per every 263.2 minutes of play. Suárez easily dwarves this performance with a goal per every 85.7 minutes of play and an assist per every 135.3 minutes. This season, the statistics look a bit more in Sánchez’s favour (a goal per 137.5 minutes and an assist per 275), but he still remains second-best to the Uruguayan in this department. Verdict: Luis Suárez wins.
F is for Fees. Let’s not forget: Luis Suárez’s move to Barcelona is the third most expensive transfer in football history – only behind the insanity of Bale’s and Ronaldo’s purchases to Real Madrid. Blaugrana has spent £75 million on him, while reclaiming £35 million by giving up Sánchez to Arsenal (who occupies rather modest 28th spot on the list of most expensive transfers). Therefore, mathematically, Suárez should be about twice the player Alexis is – something you can’t really claim by any stretch of imagination. Verdict: Alexis Sánchez wins.
G is for Goals. 31 goals last season speaks volumes about Suárez’s goalscoring ability. It was shocking, absurd, insane – at one point, the Uruguayan would bury it in the back of the net every 54 minutes of his presence on the pitch – and if not for his absence in the early stages of the season, he might’ve broken every record you can imagine. However, this time around, Suárez in FCB shirt has so far only 5 goals in 14 appearances, while Sánchez in Arsenal has bagged 17 goals in 29 games for Arsenal (last season: 18 goals in 38 appearances for Barcelona). That gives 36 goals for Suárez and 35 goals for Sánchez. Close enough. Verdict: draw.
H is for Health. A knee injury almost knocked out Suárez out of last World Cup. Almost. The player dubbed beforehand “only 70% fit and ready” went out there and still led his team to what has to be considered a successful run of games – proving that he’s quick to recover from any health problems. In comparison to him, Alexis’ problems are even tinier: the last time he was sidelined was in late 2012, after a bad tackle from Dani Estrada of Sociedad. To sum it up: not much of a bad history between the two. Verdict: draw.
I is for the Internet. The popularity contest in the web goes as follows (or rather: followers): Suárez – 11 174 182 likes on Facebook and 4 330 000 followers on Twitter; Alexis Sánchez – 3 970 154 likes on Facebook and 608 000 followers on Twitter. Overall: not even close. Verdict: Luis Suárez wins.
Most recent tweet from Suarez.
J is for Juventus. Just after Suárez’s move to Barcelona, the Uruguayan star admitted that he rejected the offer from Juventus in summer 2012; what convinced him to stay was Brendan Rodgers’ promise that club’s results will improve next season. Two years later, the notorious Italian champions were pursuing potential signing of Alexis, hoping that his well-known friendship with bianco-neri star Arturo Vidal would persuade the winger. Unfortunately for the Serie A side, they were severely outbid by Arsenal with £35 million – almost twice the fee they were ready to pay.
K is for Kosovo. While Serie A was failing to bring Sánchez back, the suspended Suárez was approached by Kosovian team KF Hajvalia with a loan offer that would involve 30 000 € fee and 1500 € salary. A hoax? Yes, but with a twist: since Kosovo is not officially acknowledged by FIFA, Suárez could happily play in matches until his association ban expires. Sadly, the striker refused – but what a great publicity move for Kosovo!
L is for Last Game. They say you’re as good as it was. Well, let’s see: Suárez scored a goal and assisted once in Barcelona’s 3-1 win over extremely dangerous Atletico Madrid (WhoScored.com’s rating: 8.01 out of ten); meanwhile, Alexis has single-handedly destroyed Stoke City with 2 goals, one assist and WhoScored’s perfect ten-out-of-ten rating. Considering the difference in strength of their opposition… Verdict: draw.
M is for Messi. Since Josep Guardiola has departed from Camp Nou, Leo Messi rules the club with an iron fist – and pretty much everyone interested in football knows that. So far, it’s been reported that in 2013, the Argentinian has expressed great annoyance with Alexis’ style of play, telling him behind closed doors to take less shots and just pass the ball to him instead. Was that a factor in a fairly quick departure of the Chilean? We may never know – but so far, his Uruguayan successor obeys the old instructions from Messi – most likely, for the good of both of them.
N is for National Teams. Since his debut in February 2007, Luis Suárez has played 80 times for Uruguay and scored 44 goals in those games. Meanwhile, Alexis Sánchez, playing for Chile since April 2006, has registered 77 caps and scored 26 goals. Not only that: during last World Cup qualifiers, Chile and Uruguay faced each other twice and on a first occasion, Suárez has completely demolished the visitors by scoring four goals in a 4-0 swoop, while Alexis was just watching the spankfest. Verdict: Luis Suárez wins.
O is for The Özil Factor. After joining Arsenal, Alexis will have to face it. Two years ago, Mesut Özil was in his place, displaying terrific form just after his move to London only to completely fade away later due to poor fitness, team’s overall decline and opponents figuring out his game. Sánchez, who’s been Gunners’ second big acquisition after Özil, must not follow the same path. See also: the letter Z.
P is for Praises. “I think it’s fair to choose a player from the two teams that are surprising everybody, which is Chile and Costa Rica. So, I would go for Alexis Sanchez and Joel Campbell” – Jose Mourinho, singling out World Cup stars after the group stage; “He’s everything you’d want from football.” – Gary Neville on Sánchez.
“What I like about him is that he just keeps going. Sometimes a striker can try to dribble, show some skills and lose the ball. If that happens, you can lose your confidence. But that never happens to Suárez. He tries, tries and tries again.” – Chrisian Benteke; “He’s the best striker a national team can ever have.” – Diego Maradona on Suárez.
Q is for Quotes. “When I went to Barcelona, it was almost as if I had to learn how to play football all over again. Now, I’d give myself 5 out of 10” – Alexis in September 2012, upon being asked about his Barca development; “Honestly I can say that I’m not the Luis you see on the pitch when I’m off the pitch” – Suárez in October 2014, asked about the reasons of biting incident with Giorgio Chiellini.
R is for Real Madrid. In Barcelona, one thing is obvious – one brilliant perfomance in El Clásico can easily outweigh a dozen bad ones against other teams. Luis Suárez already has made a contribution to the rivalry, assisting Neymar with a pass that led to an early Barcelona’s lead in the most recent clash. However, that game was eventually lost 1-3 and the ex-Liverpool star is still nowhere near Alexis’ achievements in games against Real. The Chilean has a nice record against Blaugrana’s arch-rivals – in December 2011, his goal helped in 3-1 Barca’s victory at Santiago Bernabeu while in 2013, he scored a match-winner – and a stunner as well. Verdict: Alexis Sánchez wins.
S is for Stunners. While we’re at it: here they are:
T is for Tactics. I don’t think anyone can argue that it’s easier to fit Alexis in Arsenal’s system than to do the same with Suárez and Barcelona. First of all, Gunners have fairly similar style of short passing and retaining possession The Catalan side has. Secondly, Sánchez himself seems to be a tad more versatile player than Suárez, being completely capable to play in all attacking midfielder roles as well as a supporting or even leading striker. And thirdly – there’s a comeback of the letter M. Messi. He’s Barcelona’s uncontested number 9 which basically forces Suárez to play further wide. And while might be accepting that gladly, the problem is that this new position hinders some of his strengths. Therefore… Verdict: Alexis Sánchez wins.
U is for Upsets. Suárez had more than enough of them: from problems with the adjustment to European football in his first season in Groningen; through losing the top Dutch goalscorer accolade by just one goal to Mounir El Hamdaoui; no silverware in Liverpool for too many years; disappointingly long suspensions following ultimately harmless, but gross incidents with Chiellini and Ivanović; failing to win the Premier League title at the last second despite giving 120% of skill and determination… Yeah, A LOT is there.
Compared to that, Sánchez career was much less disappointing: however, he would prefer to forget about 7-0 aggregate spanking his Barcelona received in 2012-13 Champions League semifinal; or about recent 0-2 loss to Southampton after which he supposedly raged hard in the dressing room; or about what happened during the World Cup (see: the letter W).
V is for Volleys. Here we go again:
W is for World Cup. Shortly before their transfers, Suárez and Sánchez had a topsy-turvy string of games in Brazil. The former helplessly watch his team losing first game to Costa Rica while his knee was still not fully operational. Upon his returnal against England, the Uruguayan scored twice by finishing pitch-perfect Cavani’s cross and then chasing a long ball from a goalkeeper to blast it in from a tight angle. Then, the game against Italy was up – and Luis S. shocked everyone by sinking his teeth into opponent’s arm. And that was it for him – a ban and a subsequent defeat of his “toothless” team to Colombia in the next round.
Alexis’ story was equally tragic – but this time in a much more heartbreaking way. Always a stellar performer for his country, this time he went on an absolute tear, scoring once and becoming the man of the match against Australia, then causing insane problems to Spain’s defenders in Chile’s 2-0 victory only to be kept quiet against Netherlands – and then, to score against Brazil in a Ro16 clash. However, when it came to scoring penalties, he did this… Verdict: draw.
X is for Experience. Tremendous. In other words: 286 professional, senior games by Suárez and 305 professional, senior games by Sánchez. That speaks for itself. Verdict: draw.
Y is for Year. A full year had to pass before Alexis has accommodated to Barcelona’s style; a year during which, many doubted that the Chilean will ever become worthy a shirt in crimson and blue stripes with number 9 on it. Now, he’s gone. But that year is exactly the main reason why Barca’s decision to get rid of Sánchez seems and will always seem dubious. Because the lost money can be regained – but the lost time the team spent to gel with it’s new component will never come back. Is Suárez really brilliant enough to compensate for such waste?
Z is for The Zlatan Factor. Just like the Chilean faces Özil’s ghosts (see: the letter O); the Uruguayan faces the possibility of sharing the fate of Zlatan Ibrahimović. The PSG star had a good first season for Barcelona only to become more and more marginalized by Pep Guardiola and eventually leave the Catalan team in disgust. Can Suárez do better? He has to remember that FCB has a story of outcasting great players: latest examples include Cesc Fàbregas and… Alexis Sánchez.
Final verdict: 4 points for Sánchez; 4 for Suárez. And 6 draws. It’s a perfect tie!