At best, Andy Carroll and Liverpool was always a hopeful pairing, with even his staunchest supporters uncomfortable with the exorbitant fee he had commanded and willing to admit he needed to develop a more rounded game to become the flexible attacking force the club seemed to need. For many, though, he was always the wrong choice, both for the style of play traditionally associated with Liverpool and to easily fit in with the players already at the club when he arrived.
By brining in the likes of Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam the summer following Carroll's arrival, there was a clear signal of intent by Kenny Dalglish, one that spoke to leaving a crisp passing game behind and embracing a more direct style that dovetailed Carroll's talents. The problem with that—at least beyond that it wasn't a direction most fans were enthused by, even if Dalglish's status kept the grumbling to a minimum—was that Luis Suarez, Liverpool's other big signing from the January before, wasn't ideally suited to that more direct style.
Suarez Would Command a World Record Fee
Edinson Cavani believes that at this point it would take a world record fee to pry Luis Suarez away from Anfield—and that Suarez would be worth every cent.
"What we try to do here is create the environment for the elite player, and he is an elite player," said Brendan Rodgers when asked if Suarez' ever-improving form since he replaced Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool manager vindicates the decision to cut Andy Carroll loose. "I had to make a call last year by letting Andy Carroll go out and create a situation where we could get the benefit out of Luis' talent. But he still had to perform and he has done that tremendously well. It was maybe said that he needed a lot of chances to score goals before but his goals record was still fairly good. Now it's an opportunity and it's a goal."
When Rodgers first arrived, for all Suarez' talent, the striker had a reputation for being wasteful in front of goal. He would often single-handedly craft himself an opportunity with a brilliant piece of skill only to be let down by his finishing. It looked an issue of technique or composure in front of goal more than anything, but as Rodgers saw it, playing off of Carroll moved Suarez away from being the focal point of attack and meant he had to do more work to craft those chances. If instead the team set up with the goal of giving Suarez his chances more easily, an improvement in finishing might follow.
"My thinking was that if Luis is playing with a big guy he is playing off the second ball, and his anticipation skills are very good," added the manager. "But I just felt that wouldn't benefit him because when you play with a big target man it is hard not to make that the focal point of your team. Everything has to be set up around the big guy and sometimes you get sucked into going more direct and my history as a coach is not to work that way.
"Removing that means you have to connect your game better though the lines. Possession is not good enough on its own, you have to penetrate. With a player like Luis, who is always on the move in between spaces and in behind, that serves him best. He can drift all over the back line, he spins on the shoulder, he has got that freedom, and then other players go in and take the place. The style has exploited his qualities."
That Suarez now looks far more dangerous at the club level than he does for a very direct Uruguay would seem to further support Rodgers. It also makes for the second star striker a Liverpool manager has set up his side to cater to, with Rafa Benitez' efforts to feed Fernando Torres down the channels for a time turning the Spaniard into the best striker in England.
Perhaps, then, while it's easy to wonder what magic Suarez might weave in a better side than Liverpool's, it could be that as with Torres his effectiveness would wane considerably were he to move to a club that didn't make exploiting his talents a top priority.