Would anyone have benefited if Suarez had joined Messi in Miami?


And so it looks like the band will not be getting back together, for a few months at least. Lionel Messi has been joined at Inter Miami by former Barcelona teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, and the acquisition of Luis Suarez was going to complete the set. The club wanted him, and he wanted the club.

It looked on the way to being a done deal, but on Wednesday Renato Portaluppi, coach of Brazilian club Gremio, announced that Suarez will be staying with them at least until December.

So how did we get here? After leaving Europe, Suarez spent the second half of last year back in Uruguay with Nacional, where his story began. This was viewed as a way of preparing himself for the 2022 World Cup, and also it meant that his children could see him in the club’s famous white shirt.

The original idea was that at the start of this year he would head to MLS. But the deal fell through. Gremio had already expressed an interest, and so Suarez hurriedly fixed himself up with the Porto Alegre club. Perhaps too hurriedly.

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The move to Brazil has undoubtedly been a smash success. Porto Alegre, in the south of Brazil, has a cultural affinity with Uruguay. Suarez quickly felt at home. He has been magnificent on the field, with a combination of drive, technical ability and intelligence that has made him a delight to watch. Gremio are currently second in the Brazilian league, and in the semifinals of the domestic cup — although Wednesday night’s first leg 2-0 defeat at home to Flamengo makes that one a tall order.

In any case, for a side promoted last year from the second division, things have been going extremely well. On the back of signing Suarez, Gremio have seen a significant increase in the number of club members, and on the pitch everything is on track. There was a reason for Suarez wanting a two-year deal. He would love to star in an international club competition in his native continent, something he was barely able to do as a youngster because he moved abroad so early.

When he joined Nacional last year the club were still in the Copa Sudamericana. But they were knocked out right at the start of his time in Uruguay, when he was not yet match fit and was restricted to a few minutes off the bench.

He would make up for this with Gremio. In 2023 he would help the team qualify for a continental competition, hopefully the Copa Libertadores. And then he would bow out in 2024 after a serious crack at the big silverware. And, so far at least, Gremio are bang on course. But it now seems clear that, in his early year haste to fix himself up with a club, Suarez underestimated Brazilian football. Last year in Uruguay he was playing almost all his matches in a single city, the dominant capital of Montevideo.

But Brazil is huge. Some of the journeys between games are epic. And there are so many matches, some of which take place on synthetic pitches — all factors that he would have encountered in MLS.

There are easier ways for a 36-year-old striker with knee problems to make a living. Those knee problems have become significantly worse. There are times when Suarez is not fit to play, and others when he is in obvious discomfort. He has flirted with the idea of going back to Barcelona for surgery, and, apparently, has even flirted with the idea of retiring.

And then Messi signed for Inter Miami. Perhaps this could be the solution for Suarez. He could join up with his old mate and enjoy a footballing finale in a league with a less demanding schedule. But if this was going to happen, it needed to be quick. The MLS window slams shut on Aug. 2, and Miami would probably have to do some financial machinations to be able to bring him in.

Last Thursday, Portaluppi went public, confirming all of the rumours that were swirling around his star striker. Yes, he wanted to go. Yes, Inter Miami wanted him and yes, his knee was a real problem. Portaluppi described the situation behind the scenes as “a soap opera.”

But Gremio were determined that there would be nothing cheap about losing Suarez. The player was reportedly willing to return a total of $10 million of his earnings to walk away. And if he wanted to retire, a FIFA compensation scheme for injured players would prevent him from turning out for another club for 30 months. But if he wanted to carry on, then Gremio would have to be compensated — at a cost far greater than Suarez simply returning the wages he has received.

And so, according to Portaluppi, he stays, at least until the end of the current season. And then, who knows? The toll taken on his knee might force Suarez to retire. The prospect of a Libertadores campaign might seduce him to carry on. At Miami, Messi might dovetail so well with the pace of Josef Martinez that they no longer want to spend cash on the veteran Uruguayan.

Or the band will be back together again, like the Beatles on top of the Apple building, with the fans down below singing “Don’t Let Me Down.”


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