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Much Ado About Suso

Suso's potential departure is not only a consequence of greater success for Liverpool but typical of the competing interests of clubs and youngsters in football.

Remember Suso's role in the Captial One Cup victory over the Baggies once upon a time?
Remember Suso's role in the Captial One Cup victory over the Baggies once upon a time?
Michael Steele

Liverpool are in the Champions League next season with a manager who is committed to attacking football and enthusiastic about the promotion of capable youth. In Brendan Rodgers' first season at the club, a few youngsters broke through to make a number of starts as Liverpool were struggling for points and competent players. Suso, Andre Wisdom, and Raheem Sterling experienced breakthroughs in 2012/2013 to the delight of many Liverpool fans who were becoming more aware of the potential in Liverpool's academy and reserve sides.

Two of the three went on loan the following season and a January loan for the third was rumoured to be explored when Liverpool were chasing Mohamed Salah. The Salah deal didn't happen and neither did a move for Yevhen Konoplyanka so Sterling continued to play alongside Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge as a key component in Liverpool's devastating attack. It appeared unquestionable that all three would be attached to Liverpool in Brendan Rodgers' third season.

The two loanees, Suso and Wisdom, would either be afforded a final loan for the 2014/2015 season or return to the first-team squad to increase depth, train with a better batch of players, and fight for minutes. Meanwhile, Sterling would continue to be an important part of the squad with increased competition but a guarantee of rotational minutes at the very least. This idea of a Liverpool future has changed with Suso being recently linked with a sensible move, for the player anyway, to FC Porto.

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Suso has one year on his contract. Liverpool probably want to extend that contract. Suso will only extend his contract if he's guaranteed playing time. Rodgers probably won't guarantee games for Suso but generally gives whippernsappers a chance. Suso has benefited from this chance in the past when Liverpool were struggling in Rodgers' first season for results and quality players. Liverpool are projected to be in a far stronger position in terms of depth by the end of August and unless a young player is either exceptional (as Jake pointed out) or available as well as reliable in a position that's thin on the depth chart then they'll have to be patient either at the club or on loan.

Now, such patience may or may not be good for a player's development with uncertainty playing a significant role. Liverpool are have already signed two players in the transfer window and will ensure there is depth in the positions Suso would play in next season. When Suso and his agent look at how the squad is being strengthened with extremely strong links to Adam Lallana and a host of other players then it becomes clear that it will be difficult to fight fairly for minutes. Raheem Sterling not only plays on the right and left, as Suso did for Almería, but in the "hole" where Suso is believed to be most dangerous on the pitch.

There are other obstacles in the form of the Premier League's deadliest marksmen in 2013/2014. On a few occasions, Sturridge and Suárez played in forward roles on the left and right sides respectively. Then there is Philippe Coutinho who can operate on the left but is increasingly used as a number ten or central midfielder, to excellent effect. Coutinho in the middle makes sense too. What may be worrying for the Spanish youth international is the fact that players ahead of him such as Coutinho and Sterling, may have to spend time on the bench.

Where will minutes come from beyond sustained League Cup and early FA Cup minutes? What will become of said opportunities if Liverpool continue to struggle in those competitions under Rodgers? Suso may be young but players should be getting regular football in their early twenties and Suso will turn 21 in November. This is the time where after two or three seasons of regular football, Suso should be a player who has sufficiently developed his game enough to look forward to the next stage of his career at 23 and 24. This is why the January transfer window in 2013 was a blessing not only for Liverpool but for two players whose best performances were not at their parent clubs but on loan.

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Suso's desire for regular football is understandable but this may be the season where his gifts meet the fortuitous circumstances that he himself profited from in 2012/2013. Jon Flanagan was ready, willing, and able to capitalise on the paucity of options available in the fullback positions to such an extent that he nearly made England's World Cup squad after starting 23 league games for Liverpool. This was a player who Liverpool's manager admitted nobody wanted on loan earlier in the season and now he's in line for a new contract along with an opportunity to continue his development at the club.

Raheem Sterling took advantage of Liverpool's failure in the transfer window to reveal that he was indeed one of the brightest young attacking players in European football. Salah and Konoplyanka would have to fight for their lives in training and on the pitch to start ahead of Sterling now. Nine goals and five assists in the league in 33 appearances has brought what should be an unforgettable World Cup experience and a potentially lucrative contract extension.

Suso could be remarking on a similar story next season alongside Jon Flanagan and Raheem Sterling on Football Focus in March 2015 or he could be cursing the impressive form of Coutinho, Sterling, Borini, and transfer addition XYZ. There are no guarantees for an admittedly talented player who may need more than just hypothetical scenarios predicated on the fortunes of others. Some may ask him to prove himself worthy of minutes on the training pitch and in cameo appearances but even this may not be enough next season. At this juncture, much is not quite as certain as one would think.

As for the club, there is little doubt that Liverpool hold the registration of an impressive young player who could develop into a valuable asset. The problem is that assuring minutes for young players is not only dangerous but almost impossible. Certain players force such promises through the sheer volume of skill they possess on the field and continue to train as if they are attempting to secure their place for the next game. Luis Suárez immediately nutmegs his way into the discussion as a fitting example. There are also players who have done enough in previous seasons to be guaranteed to start the season as first-choice selections. There are always players managers trust and will continue to trust especially if that trust is rewarded with performances that reflect well on the man in charge.

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The problem for clubs is that sometimes a young player may be on the verge of blossoming and requires sufficient playing time to come into bloom.

The problem for clubs is that sometimes a young player may be on the verge of blossoming and requires sufficient playing time to come into bloom. If a player leaves to realise his potential elsewhere, it can leave a club embarrassed especially if that player becomes exactly what his former club needs. Paul Pogba's relationship with Manchester United's former management is one such example. The French international may have one of the most difficult and infuriating agents around but Pogba is worth the trouble as he is one of the most fearsome midfielders in world football at just 21.

Clubs competing in the Champions League may need to count on depth just in case because once the transfer window closes, it may be folly to leave a certain area of the team susceptible to a single injury. That would be negligent and so, depth is sought to remedy such possible maladies. Nemanja Matić left Chelsea at 22 only to return three years later but would he have garnered the necessary experience for growth at Chelsea in the intervening three years? Probably not. Was it a mistake for Chelsea to let a player go in a position where Frank Lampard, Ramires, Michael Essien, and Jon Obi Mikel offered Carlo Ancelotti options in the middle of the Italian's second season at Stamford Bridge? Probably not. The same applies to Carlos Vela who has steadily increased his goals and assists at Real Sociedad over the past three seasons.

Liverpool's growth as a club means that there will be times when good young players are let go and only the very best are kept. Or, the most suitable players for the system remain. It could be a case of being the right age for upcoming player and established player. For example, Jordon Ibe is only 18 years-old and could break through in the next 18 to 24 months with his pace, physique, and technique. A central midfielder or controlling midfielder might be looking at opportunities to feature as Liverpool's captain, Steven Gerrard, is 34. Sometimes, it is just a matter of timing.

Clubs should be able to see which young players are the best picks before selling on the rest and managers are correct in demanding that players shouldn't demand playing time. That doesn't mean clubs are trafficking young talent through its systems because any young player with the right quality, temperament, and education will find a fine home elsewhere. Suso certainly has the ability and appears to have been coached well at Cádiz CF and Liverpool FC. Application, discipline, and focus remain to be proven. If his approach is modelled on Cristiano Ronaldo's then his departure will be met with regret but if it is akin to Ricardo Quaresma's...there will be no mourning of Suso's passing. Liverpool's commitment to young players is without doubt under the stewardship of Brendan Rodgers and his philosophy should be attractive to technical, intelligent, and enterprising players of all ages.

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Is there a guilty party or is this one of the inevitabilities of football when the biggest clubs hoover up as many able fledglings the game has to offer? Should Suso take this opportunity to control his destiny with the power that his contractual situation presents his inexperienced shoulders or should he subjugate himself to the will of his club, whose intentions may benefit his career? Does FC Porto, that Portuguese conveyor belt of footballing talent provide a fitting stage for a 20 year-old attacking midfielder with two seasons of top flight football in two different leagues that are regarded as some of the finest in Europe?

As an aside, Liverpool's academy should start producing players who may not make it at Liverpool but feature at other clubs in England and Europe. In short, the academy needs to make Liverpool some money when Liverpool hatchlings must forge their way elsewhere. Three goals, seven assists, and carving out 32 chances to help a club remain in La Liga is as impressive as Fabio Borini's seven goals and two assists to help a club remain in the Premier League. Rodgers probably and correctly judges both as not quite ready to start regularly but should be worth remaining as squad members and building from there.

Suso is not particularly quick nor is he as diligent with his pressing as Rodgers would require. However, he is clever with the ball and possesses the awareness, skill, technique, and bravery at a young age to be useful to FC Porto, Sevilla, and Liverpool. He has stated his priority is to play for Liverpool but as with any young player, his biggest concern is his progression as a footballer and right now, what decision will serve Suso's evolution as a "technician" in the final third of the pitch?

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