It may be wise for Luis Suárez and Gareth Bale to take a moment to take stock and savour Wednesday night’s Clásico carnival as there’s a very good chance that this will be the last for both – the sell-by date is fast approaching.
Though the diminutive Uruguayan took centre stage with his brace, the two imports from the English Premier League are both battling their demons and it’s likely the demons are going to win.
Suárez’s overall stats are still good, but age is catching up with him and it looks like his days are numbered at the Camp Nou.
Overall, he’s scored 19 goals in 35 games, but the figures flatter him. He’d gone five games without scoring until last weekend against Sevilla and he looks a shadow of the player who used to strike fear into defenders. Now he looks sluggish and looks every one of his 32 years - even if he can still execute a perfect ‘Panenka’ penalty.
Stories have dropped in Spanish newspaper outlets of interest from Manchester United. I’m sure there will be a link with Liverpool to follow. This is what happens when a player’s agent, or indeed his club, are seeking an exit strategy. It’s possible that he will stay but Barcelona need a fresh young striker to at least share duties with Suárez and unburden him.
He can swap notes with the visibly unsettled Gareth Bale. It appears that the Wales international’s exit is imminent. It’s well documented that he struggles to speak Spanish but he has been communicating his feelings quite clearly in recent weeks.
When he scored the winner against Levante he swatted away the celebration from his team mate Lucas Vázquez; this follows rude gestures following his significant goal against Atlético. He’s clearly upset at being benched for three successive games; in fact he hasn’t completed 90 minutes in La Liga since November.
Stories have been circulating about the lack of harmony in the changing room. Marcelo, whose locker is next to Bale’s, revealed that they don’t converse due to his lack of Spanish. He can speak to former Chelsea star Thibaut Courtois in English, but relations may be frosty after the goalkeeper revealed that Bale’s nickname is ‘The Golfer’ as that is his preoccupation. It was also reported that Bale prefers an early night to a late-night team bonding meal with team mates.
I suspect he will be packing his four Champions League medals into a suitcase this summer and heading back to a league where he can communicate with work pals - well most of them anyway!
One player who is going nowhere and appears to be defying the ageing process is Lionel Messi. It’s remarkable that his 50th career hat-trick was just a footnote when he humbled Sevilla. Now aged 31 he’d be forgiven if his powers were diminishing but they remain very much intact. Yet again the number of goals he’s scored outnumbers the games he’s played in.
While stories will be leaked of Suárez and Bale heading back to the Premier League, Messi is going nowhere!