A LOOK AT LA LIGA
Kevin Prince-Boateng and Denis Suárez have been fighting for the column inches in the winter transfer window.
In Spain, Boateng has dominated the headlines as Barcelona's completely left-field signing. They often speak of a midfielder DNA at the Catalan club. He's quite the exception.
In contrast Denis Suárez will effectively be vacating a dressing room locker and role of squad player for the much-travelled Ghanaian star. Suárez has been intriguing the British newspapers with his on-off move to Arsenal. Suárez is the clean-cut footballer who has worked his way through the Spanish system following the paths of Andrés Iniesta, Xavi and even Cesc Fábregas.
Boateng's arrival has certainly livened up the Nou Camp. He may be thirty-one now but he still has an aura. He's been kicking around in Sassuolo, a middling Serie A club. Now he's centre of attention again as he has been for most of his career.
As he looks back on a ten-club livelihood in four different countries, he has the humility to compare himself to the rock star "50 Cent" as he bigged it up as a Lamborghini-driving twenty-year-old in London. It has been a career that has troughed as quickly as it has peaked.
He gloried in the goal that took Portsmouth to an FA Cup final yet was part of the same team that was relegated. For every AC Milan there has been a Sassuolo, it was the bright lights of Tottenham in England contrasted by the lesser light of Portsmouth, there was the Liga outpost of Las Palmas and now there's Barça!
His signing could prove to a calculated masterstroke. It has ignited the season without really upsetting the true stars at the club. When the going gets heavy he can step forward, a little like the Brazilian Paulinho who was previously the most unlike-Barcelona signing. He was utilised when the regulars were waning and brought some dash and panache to the team.
It's a no-brainer. If it works out, then he can stick around. When his usefulness has finished he can move on, as did Paulinho, with his reputation once more enhanced.
In contrast Suárez seems to be caught in a no-man's land somewhere between the Camp Nou and the Emirates. It's obvious that he's unwanted at Barcelona as he's made just two substitute appearances in La Liga this season. His old boss from Sevilla, Unai Emery, was willing to offer him a temporary home at Arsenal in an effort to take him away from his troubles.
Suárez's reputation may have been exaggerated because of his status as a Barcelona player as was Alexis Sánchez and André Gomes. Much has been made of his connection with Emery when he led Sevilla to the Europa League title in 2015. It's a fact that he hardly featured after the group stages and moved the following season to Villarreal.
It's unlikely that Arsenal are going to agree to committing to an investment in a player who has never fully established himself in La Liga. He's a talented midfielder but in a sphere similar to Joe Allen, Danny Drinkwater or Jack Wilshere. He'll have a decade-long career yet will never quite fill the potential to be truly top class.
Suárez did appear to be the heir apparent in the Barcelona midfield - now he's having to move aside for "The Prince".