On-Loan: Suso Learning Tough Lessons

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso

After a scintillating start to his loan spell in Spain, Liverpool's exciting young attacker has been having a rougher go of things lately.

The loan of Suso has generated a lot of discussion amongst Liverpool fans since he was sent to UD Almeria in July. Some look at his performances and think that he should be here, in red, right now, contributing to the squad. Others are fine with him where he's at, absorbing as much first-team playing time as his temporary Spanish club can give him. A few understand the loan, but wish he'd wound up on a better club, not one that will be fighting until the last day of the season to avoid relegation, with most of those preferring he'd stayed on English shores.

No matter where your opinion falls along that spectrum, there's little doubt that things started almost explosively well for the Cadiz-born attacking mid. Stepping straight in to Almeria's starting lineup from week one, Suso was a major creative fulcrum for the side from the get-go, collecting three assists and a goal in Almeria's first five matches. Working mostly as a wide player in a 4-2-3-1, Suso has operated much like Coutinho does for Liverpool, drifting in wide and taking on playmaking responsibilities.

Suso's wonderful start continued through November, adding a further three assists and a second goal to his season tally, including a truly wonderful performance against Valencia in a 1-2 away win at the end of October. That match saw Suso handed the keys as the central attacking mid, playing off the shoulder of Rodri, Almeria's main striker and leading goalscorer. Suso provided an assist to defender Marco Torsiglieri on a corner, and generally did an excellent job of dictating play and helping keep Valencia off-balance and on the back foot despite their seeming superiority to their opponents.

Things started to go sideways for Suso not long after that, though. His performances slipped a bit, and then whispers of ill behavior started to emerge. There's been precious little detail as to what that behavior may have entailed, however, and to his credit, Suso himself has strongly denied any allegations of wrongdoing. He took to his (since deleted) Twitter account and gave stern refutations as to some of the more common stories involving alcohol-fueled practice issues.

Whatever the truth is, it's definitely had an effect on his standing with his loan club. Suso started just one match in December, and did not start again until Almeria's Copa Del Rey matches last week and earlier this week. He did make three substitute appearances in the meantime, but totaled just thirty-five minutes across them. It's possible that part of this was preserving his legs to aid Almeria's domestic cup run, but at his age and just coming off Spain's winter break, that reasoning feels a little dubious. Hopefully he gets back on the right track and resumes terrorizing Spanish defenses before much longer.

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Many already liked Suso's potential for Liverpool's future, and the excitement around that future has only grown over the course of the season. Suso has outstripped even some of the most optimistic expectations for his loan spell, and is setting himself up to be a potentially important part of Liverpool's squad sooner rather than later.

What happens with Suso next season depends very much on how the rest of Liverpool's season goes. If they make the Champion's League, he'll have a clear role in the squad, likely serving primarily as Coutinho's backup (though best operating from the right rather than Coutinho's left side) to help deal with the extra matches brought on by continental competition. Otherwise, another loan should be on order to maximize his playing time, most likely to a lower-table (or just-promoted) EPL club in order to help him get adjusted to the speed and physicality of the EPL after his year away.

Either way, things are looking bright for the young Spaniard. Suso looks every bit a player who can be an important piece for the club, and potentially even more than that. There is real cause to get excited about him, and this loan has done a lot of good to advance him as a player. The loan he's been on has done a lot to improve and solidify his skills, and advance Suso's overall standing as a player. Liverpool sending him to Almeria was absolutely the right call, and hopefully the rest of the season will continue to see that out.

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