Barcelona striker Luis Suarez‘s season appears to be over after undergoing surgery on a medial meniscus injury in his right knee.
Suarez, who played the full 90 minutes of Barcelona’s astonishing 4-0 Champions League defeat at former side Liverpool on Tuesday, looks set to miss the remainder of the La Liga season – where the Catalan club have already wrapped up the title with two games left – after having surgery on Thursday.
A statement on the club’s website read: “Luis Suarez has a medial meniscus injury in his right knee and surgeon Dr. Cugat will perform arthroscopic surgery on the Uruguayan under the supervision of the Club’s medical staff.
“The outcome of the process and an estimate of how long the striker will be out will be announced following the surgery.”
No timescale has been placed on his return but Suarez’s participation in the Copa del Rey final against Valencia on May 25 and for Uruguay in the 2019 Copa America, which begins on June 14, are believed to be in major doubt.
Should Barcelona fire Ernesto Valverde?
From one perspective, this is a ludicrous question. This is a man, after all, who inherited a team which had won only the Copa del Rey and immediately claimed back to back La Liga titles, both of which were taken in highly impressive fashion.
Managers will readily tell you – Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane have done so in recent weeks – that winning a domestic league is the greatest achievement for a coach, even more so than the Champions League.
To win La Liga, Barça had to overcome 19 teams over the course of 38 games and nine months, with all sorts of weather conditions, timings, suspensions and injuries.
Valverde has not only succeeded in doing that, but he has done so twice consecutively, losing only four games along the way – two of which came in the latter stages of the campaign (against Levante last season and at Celta Vigo on Saturday night) when the title had already been secured.
Last season’s league trophy was won by a margin of 14 points over second placed Atlético Madrid, and the gap at the moment is nine points with two games to go.
That, without any doubt, is utter dominance, and Valverde deserves a lot of credit as the man who oversaw his team on their long slog to back-to-back titles.
There is of course, a but. In fact, there are two buts, and they are colossal. But Roma. But Liverpool.
Valverde, no matter how long he stays at Barça and no matter what he goes on to achieve for the remainder of his managerial career, will forever be damned his association with those two shocking results. He will always be remembered as the manager who was knocked out of the Champions League by squandering three goal leads two years in a row.
Whether or not it is fair to judge Valverde by a couple of games rather than his overall body of work, that’s just the way things work. It’s the same for all managers, as Jurgen Klopp will discover if Liverpool now don’t win the Champions League Final and he is lambasted as the man who always finishes second, with the wider transformation he has effected at Anfield overlooked.
Ernesto Valverde on Liverpool's win: "They were better and we have to accept it. The scoreline was 4-0 and when that's the case there are no excuses. They played well, and we have to congratulate them for reaching the final." pic.twitter.com/1vVT1NYzfh— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) May 8, 2019
Managers are judged by one-off results, and they are especially judged by one-off results in the most important games. Just look at Real Madrid, where Zidane escaped with a golden glow thanks to a (fortuitously gained) Champions League triumph despite a shambolic league campaign, and then his successor Julen Lopetegui was ditched mainly because he lost 5-1 at Barcelona.
And in that respect, it cannot be denied that Valverde has failed horribly by presiding over calamitous collapses in his team’s most important games of two consecutive seasons.
Two years in a row, the Champions League was there for Barça’s taking. Liverpool were not as strong last year as they are now and Madrid were easily beatable too; while this year holding off Liverpool would have meant a final against Tottenham or Ajax, by no means European superpowers.
And make no mistake, more than any other the Champions League is the trophy Barça want to win and think they should be winning, especially this year after a season which had been haunted by the ghosts of Rome.
For the last 12 months, Barça have been furiously focused on banishing those demons by going all the way in the continental stage. It was, without any doubt, their number one priority. And they had such a great chance, but then they blew it.
A golden rule of coaching is that players must not commit the same mistake twice, and any player who breaks that command will soon lose their place in the team.
Valverde's last three seasons in Europe:— Andreas Vou (@AndreasVou89) May 7, 2019
2016-17: UEL Round of 32
Athletic 3-2 APOEL
APOEL 2-0 Athletic
2017-18: CL QF
Barça 4-1 Roma
Roma 3-0 Barça
2018-19: CL SF
Barça 3-0 Liverpool
Liverpool 4-0 Barça
By overseeing a repeat of the meltdown in Rome, Valverde has done exactly that. The same mistake twice. A second leg collapse with the Champions League crown almost within reach. A tie that Barca had under complete control but then imploded, unable to withstand the spirited efforts of their opponents. They faced pressure, and they wilted.
That kind of mental lapse, ultimately, can only be attributed to the manager. Especially when, breaking the golden rule, it happens twice.
Valverde must go, and he can’t really have any complaints. It might not be fair, but it’s the way things work.
Istanbul lives long in the memory but the performance in the 2005 Champions League has arguably been surpassed by Liverpool’s display in getting to the 2019 final – a 4-0 demolition of Barcelona could go down as the greatest performance in the club’s history.
Trailing 3-0 from the first leg of the semi-final, braces from Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum condemned bewildered and brittle Barcelona to a deserved defeat over the tie as Jurgen Klopp led his side into a second successive final.
They had their chances in the first half but Lionel Messi and Co looked toothless throughout as they failed to make the most of a succession of openings that came their way.
Excellent in the first half, Arturo Vidal was essentially anonymous – much like everyone else in a luminous yellow shirt – after the break as effervescent Liverpool shone.
Here we take a closer look at the Chilean’s lukewarm performance.
Anfield was jacked even before kick-off – but the hopeful crowd suddenly erupted into expectation when their beloved Reds took the lead. Jordan Henderson slalomed into the box and forced a save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, the rebound pounced on by Origi who gleefully tapped in.
They naturally opened themselves up to Spanish scrutiny as they looked to blast their way back into the game – but Alisson stood up to everything, while woeful finishing also allowed Liverpool off the hook.
They started the second half poorly and Liverpool just kept coming. Eleven minutes into the second period, the hosts were, incredibly, level, Wijnaldum’s quickfire brace making the impossible suddenly plausible.
He swept home Trent Alexander-Arnold’s deflected cross and then towered in a header from Xherdan Shaqiri’s peach of a delivery from the other side. Quick-thinking from the young right-back then saw the hosts snatch the lead; Barca dallied at a corner and Alexander-Arnold swept low to Origi who smashed home his second. Unreal scenes.
Goals – 0
Tackles – 7
Interceptions – 2
Touches – 56
Passes – 37
Pass accuracy – 78.4%
Aerials won – 1
Fouled – 1
GOT RIGHT – SETTING THE TONE
Vidal was Barca’s best player in the first leg and he mirrored that showing in the first half, the catalyst for the visitors being able to match the home side’s heart, tenacity and passion.
Liverpool started sharply but Barca – buoyed by the fact that one goal would likely kill the Reds off – also poured forward and threatened on numerous occasions.
Vidal snapped into tackles and energised those around him, one gorgeously pinged pass was so glorious, we had to check the replay to confirm it wasn’t Messi. Not a player who usually offers much going forward, an impish back-heel on the edge of the box also led to a Messi chance.
GOT WRONG – INDUSTRY BUT NO INCISION
If Barca were hoping their lion could lead Liverpool to the slaughter like lambs, they were sadly mistaken. As good as the Chilean was in the opening 45 minutes and as incisive as Barca were against a charging Liverpool, they were both equally as timid in the second 45.
He lost Wijnaldum who proceeded to reduce the deficit to a goal – even though there was an element of luck in how the ball arrived to him – and he looked all at sea as the relentless hosts pressed and poked holes in an increasingly creaking Blaugrana XI.
As much as his energy and drive had fuelled his side in the opening half, his lack of creativity and guile in the second half was clearly evident, with Liverpool running on adrenaline and Barcelona on empty.
Vidal’s warrior spirit was needed on a night when Barcelona, seemingly on the brink, only needed one goal to kill the tie off, and initially, at least, his tenacity was a key feature as others followed his lead.
Barca required one goal – they could have had four – but a lack of killer instinct in front of Alisson let Liverpool back in it. And, as much as his bark had let Liverpool know they needed to be wary of Barcelona’s bite in the first half, a spineless second 45 saw big dogs Barca and Vidal exit with their tails firmly between their legs.