By Shikharr Chandra
The end of last season sprung many surprises and none more major than what the Anfield crowd had been treated to the entire campaign. When Brendan Rodgers took over from Kenny Dalglish, the idea that the Liverpool board had in mind was to not only to take this club back to the Champions League but to redeem its lost identity. A club with a glorious history had somehow been under the shadows of more evolving clubs in Manchester City and Chelsea, but last season brought back the good old memories for their fans.
They ended the campaign trophyless but what kept the fans in good spirits was the improvement the team showed last season. Finishing seventh in his first season, Rodgers guided the club to second place in the following year, a mere two points behind the champions Manchester City, scoring more than 100 goals as well. Liverpool's incredible attacking prowess struck fear in the minds of defenders and it seemed Rodgers had finally found the right balance.
But as we approach the start of the new campaign, there is an air of uncertainty looming around Anfield as Luis Suarez gets set to begin his new journey at the Camp Nou. However, the question is, can you replace Suarez?
31 goals, 19 assists and that too despite missing the early part of the season due to suspension. Suarez was the undisputed king of last season's campaign. No one even came close to what the Uruguayan managed not only in the Premier League but in the whole of Europe barring Cristiano Ronaldo.
The striker almost single-handedly at times guided the club across the finishing line. Daniel Sturridge went on to thank Suarez especially at the end of last season, highlighting their understanding as one of the key reasons that the club did so well.
There is more to Suarez than just goals. It is his overall game that makes him so vital for any side. His assists tally of last season comes across as a good indicator of how hard he works on the field. From winning the balls to helping out the midfield and working on the wings as well when needed, Suarez's work rate has been exceptional.
It is his sheer presence in the side that leaves the opposition managers in conundrum. The Uruguay-England clash in the World Cup group stages comes across as the perfect example of that. His positional sense, his ability to carve out opportunities from the slightest chance and his dribbling makes him one of the most lethal center forwards.
Dennis Bergkamp in his book mentioned that what makes Suarez different from other forwards is his ability to create things from where people usually give up.
While many expect Liverpool to better their performance from last season, Suarez's departure would hurt their ambitions more than anything else.
Liverpool now find themselves back to square one. This season's transfer activity has seen the club bring in Adam Lallana, Emre Can and Rickie Lambert. The club is closing in on Lazar Markovic and Divock Origi as well. But how many of the aforementioned players can light up the game like Suarez does?
Tottenham suffered a similar fate last season when Gareth Bale moved to Real Madrid for a record fee. The club ended up paying hefty sum for various players but in the end, majority of them failed to live up to the expectations of the manager ultimately costing Andre Villas-Boas his job.
Tottenham does not come across as the only example. Manchester United struggled to succeed without Ronaldo and Chelsea still haven't found a man to lead their attack ever since Didier Drogba's departure. Arsenal's fall from grace ever since the departure of Thierry Henry is another example of how difficult it has been for clubs to find a replacement for their star player.
The thing about selling someone like Suarez is that you get a hefty sum in your hand, but how many players are there in the world who are as complete a player as the Uruguayan is. How many can score from the center circle, or nutmeg anyone or dribble past defenders with such ease? There might be a handful, someone like Lionel Messi or Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but are they willing to move to Anfield?
Despite all his madness, there aren't many players who can fit in the same bracket of talent as he does. Although he will miss the first three months of action at the start of the season, he would have only made the team stronger with his presence once he returned as was evident last season.
As Suarez exits Anfield, he leaves behind a gaping hole that Rodgers needs to think about carefully as it might end up defining not only this season, but their entire re-building plans.