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Barcelona have found Luis Suarez heir, but Liverpool can divert him to Anfield first

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Lautaro Martinez

martinez

It took Lautaro Martinez just two minutes to make a good impression at Camp Nou. That’s all he needed to find the back of the net for Inter against Barcelona in a Champions League group game earlier this season, racing in behind the Catalans’ defence to slide a finish past Marc-Ander Ter Stegen having held off the attentions of Clement Lenglet.

From that point on, Martinez has been the subject of relentless speculation linking him with a move to the Catalan club. The Argentine has enjoyed a breakout season in Serie A, scoring 11 goals in 22 league appearances, also netting five in six in the Champions League, leading many to see him as the natural heir to Luis Suarez.

Suarez has become a Barcelona giant since making the move to Catalonia from Liverpool six years ago, but there are signs that the Uruguayan is now on the decline. That is perhaps to be expected given that the striker is now 33 years old. Injuries have become more frequent, with Suarez taking longer and longer to recover and find full form and fitness even when he is back on the pitch.

Barca must devise a succession plan to mitigate the blow of losing their first choice centre forward, whenever they day comes, and Martinez would be the ideal replacement. There are similarities between the two in the way that they use space and wriggle through opposition defences. And perhaps most notably in their instincts in front of goal.

As attacking hubs, Martinez has averaged more shots on goal per game than Suarez this season (3.9 per match compared to 3.1 according to WhoScored). The Argentine has also averaged more dribbles per game this season (1.3 compared to 1.1), but hasn’t been as prolific when it comes to key passes (1.3 compared to Suarez’s 0.9 per game). That might something to do with the outlets around Suarez.

Martinez and Messi

Why should Barcelona have a free run at Martinez, though? The Inter striker would also be a good fit for Liverpool, with the Anfield side expected to be in the market for a new centre forward this summer. Timo Werner has been strongly linked with a move to Merseyside, with the RB Leipzig man very public in his desire to join the Reds. There’s reason to believe Werner would be a good fit for Jurgen Klopp’s side, but what if Martinez would be an even better option?

Dislodging Roberto Firmino from the Liverpool lineup might be difficult given what the Brazilian offers them, but Martinez is a truly elite level forward who would stand as good a chance as any other player. Even if he doesn’t, his age means he would be part of a long-term succession plan for his fellow South American. The Argentine has also shown for Inter this season that he can facilitate others, demonstrated by his partnership with Romelu Lukaku, while also providing a cutting edge himself.

Firmino sees much more of the ball for Liverpool than Martinez does for Inter, averaging 32.7 passes per Premier League game compared to the Argentine’s average of just 13.7 passes per Serie A outing (according to WhoScored). This is where the biggest difference between the two players lies, but is this a result of the teams they play for or a natural trait of the pair?

Price would be an obstacle to Liverpool making a move for Martinez. While Werner reportedly has a release clause in his RB Leipzig contract that means he will be available for £52 million (according to Sky Sports) this summer, Martinez’s release clause at Inter is believed to stand at €111 million (according to AS). That would make him Liverpool’s most expensive signing ever, and by quite some distance.

Nonetheless, if Klopp is open to the idea of adding Werner to his attacking ranks with no clear role for the German striker, there should at least be some consideration to what more Martinez could offer. If he is to follow in the footsteps of Suarez, then there could still be a spell at Anfield in his career path.

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