“Who is the next Luis Suarez?”
It’s a question that has followed Liverpool ever since their former talisman left for Barcelona shortly after the 2014 World Cup. The feeling among some fans— as well as neutral observers, and the media, and opposition fans— was that unless and until Liverpool replaced Suarez’ presence and goalscoring ability, they would remain mired in mediocrity.
The first player in the New Suarez Sweepstakes was Mario Balotelli, who, obviously, couldn’t make it work at Anfield. The tag has been tentatively attached to every member of the forward corps since then (as well as one or two midfielders). Earlier this season the BBC speculated that Sadio Mane was indeed the New Suarez.
The current consensus is that the New Suarez is definitely Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian international has 12 goals in the Premier League and 17 in all competitions, and it’s only December. This has drawn favorable comparisons to Suarez’s tally in the 2013-14 campaign, as well as other luminaries from Anfield’s past, including Robbie Fowler and even Ian Rush. The point is, he’s doing well for himself, and plenty of people are definitively calling him the New Suarez.
But ahead of the match with Brighton on Saturday, his teammate James Milner told reporters that the comparison doesn’t quite fit. Not because Salah isn’t a tremendous player, just that he and Suarez have different styles of play, and that makes one-to-one comparisons tricky.
"Both are top players, but Mo will want to be his own player. It is obviously nice being compared to top players, but ultimately he wants to play his own way. He is a different player to Suarez and hopefully he can keep delivering and improving."
It’s true that they are different players with significantly different styles of play. It may be something of an apples-and-oranges comparison.
But this is also one of those “What We Talk About When We Talk About...” kind of conversations. I would argue that the New Suarez talk is less about styles of play than it is about results and impact, what he adds to the team on the pitch and how he rallies the fans. In that respect, I’d argue the Suarez comparisons are more than fair.
Milner did concede that Salah’s immediate impact caught him off guard.
"I am pleasantly surprised at how well he has done so quickly, I know what a good player he is. But changing leagues— I know he has been here before, but the leagues are different, the football is different, the life is different, you are moving your family and settling in. So it is a big change for anyone to do that and for him to hit the ground running like he has and played as well as he has and scored the goals, that is credit to him."
Indeed it is.