On Suso and Player Development Loans

Ole! - Clive Mason

Recent weeks have seen plenty of people wishing that Suso had been kept in Merseyside, but is that really the right call?

With the squad's struggles in the final third over the course of the season, a common refrain among the Liverpool fanbase has been "whither Suso?" With his sterling work for Almeria in Spain this season, it's easy to assume that having Suso around would make a lot of Liverpool's problems better, but... would it really be that easy?

First, let's look at the benefits of having Suso where he is. While it'd be nice to have him playing every week for a Premier League team in the more physical conditions of the English game, having him play every week in one of the top three leagues in the world is still plenty great, especially since it's a league that will allow him to hone his technical and creative skills which are the strong suit of his game. The fact that Liverpool managed to get him with a squad where he's quickly become the creative focal point is just gravy, because it's just going to help his development all the more.

As long as he stays healthy, Suso is probably looking at thirty-plus matches this season in La Liga, which will be absolutely massive for his development. A full season as a squad's playmaker in one of the most technically-oriented leagues in the world is exactly what a player like Suso needed, and it's already showing dividends. He's showing more patience and better decision-making than we've seen from him during his appearances last season. At the pace he's at, his worst-case scenario for next season is looking like a loan to a significant role in a mid-table EPL side next season, or a rotational gig in the first team in Liverpool.

So with that in mind, why should Liverpool have kept him around? For starters, having something approaching a like-for-like backup for Coutinho would have been handy. The lack of his creative presence in the lineup has been painfully obvious since he left the Swansea match holding his shoulder, and Suso arguably could have done more to ease that loss than anyone else on the roster. Plus, he would have given Brendan Rodgers another option behind Daniel Sturridge while Luis Suarez was out, allowing him to replace the misfiring Iago Aspas sooner than he did.

Past that, though, Suso would have been a backup. A good one, and one who could probably get regular substitute appearances when Liverpool is chasing goals late in games, but one who wouldn't see nearly as many games or minutes as he is in his current situation. Realistically, he'd get no more than ten starts, and maybe, maybe, 15 substitute appearances. While he'd be able to fill in the rest of the matches he'd lose with reserve league play, but that's not nearly as useful for development for Suso's development as lots and lots of top-flight minutes would be.

While having Suso around right now might be nice in the short-term, is it really worth harming his future development for that short-term gain? Especially when you consider that his long-term development helps the club's longer-term prospects, it becomes a much murkier picture. It's the club's job to make sure they handle and develop their assets as well as possible, and in this case, it seems like they've done so with Suso.

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