"It is difficult to improve what we have in attack," said Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti when asked about the chances of bidding for Luis Suarez, aka the world's best attacking footballer last season and the shiniest possible bauble for a side like Madrid, this summer. "Suarez is a fantastic player, high quality and very good, but it would show a lack of respect to talk about signings at this stage."
Perhaps Ancelotti didn't get the memo, but respect is something few would accuse Real Madrid of ever showing in their transfer dealings. Leaking interest in Suarez to Marca last week so they could run a full page spread of the player Photoshopped into Madrid's kit is, in the sordid world of the transfer market, taking things a few steps beyond what most other clubs would have the gall to do.
"We're in no rush and we don't have to bring in a lot of players, and we have until August 31st," he added, and that at least is likely to be genuine. Marca stirring the Suarez pot last week was Madrid's opening salvo. In public at least they don't seem to have gotten any kind of reaction from Suarez' camp, but any Liverpool fan thinking that will be the end of things doesn't know Real Madrid.
However, when it comes to Suarez and the inevitable rumble of speculation surrounding a possible move to Madrid, talk of fees in a similar range to those that brought Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo to the Spanish capital are well off the mark when it comes to his value. In fact, to suggest Suarez would be available for anywhere close to the £80-85M those players went for is laughable.
Based on data from the CIES Football Observatory, with Tottenham driving a hard bargain, Madrid ended up going more than £30M over value to purchase Bale last year. The Welsh winger is the seventh most valuable footballer on the planet, worth around £51M. Madrid paid £85M for him—a 67% markup thanks to Tottenham seeing Madrid's interest as hostile and demanding they pay well over the odds.
Luis Suarez, meanwhile, rates as the third most valuable player in the world right now, worth around £86M. Marked up similarly to Bale, his fee would top £143M pounds in last summer's money. Which is where another issue pops up—transfer inflation and a new television deal that, using January transfers as leading indicators, is set to raise fees by 30-35% this summer when an English club is involved.
It can seem a touch excessive at first glance, but based on player value and measurable transfer inflation, in a world where Gareth Bale is sold for £85M last summer, Luis Suarez is worth £187-194M this summer. Anything less and, if the club were eventually decide to sell, Liverpool would be getting a worse deal for Suarez than Tottenham and Daniel Levy did for Bale.
As for Ronaldo, by comparison Madrid got a bargain. With transfer prices sagging slightly following 2009 when he was sold for £80M, the £85M Madrid paid for Bale in 2012 is only a touch off inflation—were the deals done in the same summer, Bale's would have been a few million less and Ronaldo's a few million more despite the Portuguese being rated a £92M player.
For the purposes of this summer it still leaves transfer inflation to account for, which would be expected to boost Ronaldo's price to around £113-117M in the coming months. If, as CIES suggest, Suarez is worth a touch less than Ronaldo, by the measure that says Ronaldo was worth £80M five summers ago, Suarez is today worth £106-109M, far less than by the Bale standard but beyond any fee so far hinted at by the press as reasonable or likely.
And of course, Ronaldo's sale was a relatively amicable affair, Manchester United and the player coming to an agreement he would remain in England an extra season before parting on good terms. United were content selling; Tottenham weren't, at least not unless Madrid bid far above the player's true value. So far, there is little suggestion any dealings between Madrid and Liverpool over Suarez would be amicable.
Despite Ancelotti's noncommittal answer, if Madrid weren't interested in Suarez, Marca wouldn't have run a full page spread of him Photoshopped into Madrid's kit. If there is to be speculation, though, talk of a fee of around £85M is laughably undervaluing Suarez when the absolute bottom end of that value based on the Ronaldo and Bale deals would be around £115M this summer.
Given Liverpool would have nothing to gain from his sale and would treat Madrid's interest as hostile, as Tottenham did when they got Madrid to go well over market value for Bale last year, it seems far more likely a bid north of £150M would be required for the club to even begin to give selling Suarez serious consideration.