While the big news out of Liverpool the last two days has been Chelsea's pursuit of Fernando Torres, the Reds have pulled off quite possibly the best signing of the January window so far in bringing in 24 year old Ajax winger/striker Luis Suarez. I'm likely slightly biased here, as Suarez was the number one guy I wanted to see us sign. I might also be one of the few that thought we needed to focus on an attacker more than cover at center back, but I really think we missed the boat on this one.
Suarez is probably best known for the intentional handball on the goal line last year that stopped Ghana from scoring a last minute goal against Uruguay and thus becoming the first African team to ever reach a World Cup semifinal. Suarez was shown a straight red card and sent off, Asamoah Gyan missed the resultant penalty, and the game immediately went to a shootout - which Uruguay won. While many will never see beyond that moment of his career, the fact remains that he's currently one of the finest attacking players in the world. His goal scoring record at Ajax and on the international level has been extraordinary, and he's been very solid in the Champions League as well. After the jump we'll take a slightly closer look at the two, and how they'd have fit with our club.First let's look at our rumored target, Fernando Torres. Torres is undoubtedly the more accomplished of the two at this point of their careers. He turns 27 in several weeks time, and buying him now would likely represent buying at the physical peak of his career. When he's in form, Torres may be the best lone striker/center forward in the world. His blend of size, strength, speed, technical and arial ability, and his ability to finish can likely only be matched by Didier Drogba or Cristiano Ronaldo. Adding Torres would be an absolutely perfect replacement for Didier Drogba who is six years Torres senior. He'd also give us a legitimate world class striker who should have at least 4 or 5 good years left, something we don't currently have with our aging first choice front men. The current rumored price tag is 40 million pounds plus young striker Daniel Sturridge, although it wouldn't surprise me at all to see us pay slightly more than that. Unlike Suarez, Torres has not played in the Champions League this year and thus would be eligible to play for Chelsea this season.
What Torres doesn't bring us is youth. As mentioned earlier, we are likely buying Torres at the absolute physical peak of his career. As his contract winds down, he's highly unlikely to bring back much of a return, especially compared to the cost of acquiring him. He's also going to be on a very high wage, currently being paid about 2.5 times what rumored target David Luiz has supposedly agreed to. There are also questions of fit in our system. While Torres certainly is a welcome addition, he and Drogba bring an almost identical skill set to the table. Unless we switch to more of a 4-4-2, it seems unlikely that we will be able to get maximum return out of both goal scoring machines. His addition would likely mean the departure of either Didier Drogba or Nicolas Anelka this summer.
Luis Suarez is only 24 years old, meaning his best years are likely immediately ahead of him. He was cheaper than Torres, costing Liverpool about 26.5 million pounds when all is said and done. His primary position is either as a right wing of a 4-3-3 (a black hole for Chelsea), or as a secondary striker in a 4-4-2 (an ideal partner with a player like Drogs). His wages are not yet out in the open, but it's a safe bet that he's making far less than the 110,000 per week that Torres currently makes. He'd fill a major void in the Chelsea squad right now, and his right footed presence would be a welcome addition going forward as most of our youth is left footed. When his contract is winding down, it's likely he'll be worth a considerable amount of money still should we decide to sell.
Suarez at this point is probably the inferior player overall, and he's never been exposed to the Premier League yet. There are certainly fair questions to be asked of how he'll adapt, and at such a high price that's a risk. Adding Suarez would also still leave a major hole to fill going forward, as he's never going to be able to be the main target on a great team. While he's a perfect compliment to the current crop of players we have, it's very possible to shape a team without a player of his skill set (where a primary target is always essential). He's an absolutely top shelf complimentary piece though, and I actually prefer him at this point to Alexis Sanchez who we've been linked to, as I believe he's a more well rounded player.
This brings up the question asked in the title, who should Chelsea have targeted this winter? Torres is clearly the bigger name, and isn't cup tied. Suarez is younger and cheaper. Both fill holes going forward, and both still leave gaps to fill as well. Personally, I'd have rather signed Suarez at the lower price and gone after Lukaku as Drogba's eventual replacement this summer. At this point, I'd almost prefer to see the Torres deal not go through and have us target Lukaku and Sanchez this summer while focusing on Luiz right now (I imagine Lukaku and Sanchez will likely be slightly more expensive, but not by much). I doubt that realistically happens though, as if we fail to sign Torres this winter he has a buyout clause which triggers this summer and Roman is clearly interested. I wish we had gone after Suarez, but Fernando Torres would certainly be a great consolation prize.