THE Barcelona pair of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez have both been celebrating 15 year milestones.
It was on May 1st 2005 that Messi scored his first goal for the club. Put through by Ronaldinho, he came up with a beautifully subtle lob over the Albacete keeper to open his account.
And just two days later, still on the other side of the Atlantic, Suarez made his debut for Nacional of Uruguay, coming off the bench for the last 15 minutes of a cup tie away to Junior of Colombia.
For almost six years now they have been team-mates, with Suarez reaching Barcelona after a mixture of goals and controversy in Holland and England. They have worked extremely well together.
Messi is appreciative of the way that Suarez opens up space for him by forcing the opposing defence to drop deeper.
Messi is 33 next month, and still seems to be around his peak. But it seems fair to assume that Suarez, who passed 33 in January, is on the downward slope.
He has started to pick up more injuries, and his goal tally has declined every season since 2016/7.
He remains a fine player, but it does not speak well of the Barcelona administration that the club have not already brought in another top class centre forward, to take some of the strain off the Uruguayan and eventually replace him.
A NOU TARGET
No surprise, then, that Barcelona have shown plenty of interest in Lautaro Martinez, Inter Milan’s Argentine striker.
Some have doubted whether Barcelona can afford it, but it appears a deal may be close.
What seems beyond question is that Martinez is one of the most exciting young strikers around at the moment, and would seem destined for a wonderful career.
He has already established himself in the Argentina side, forcing his way into the starting line up during last year’s Copa America.
At the age of 22, he already has 17 games and 9 goals for his country – by way of comparison, it might be worth pointing out that the long international career of Carlos Tevez only brought him 13 goals.
STRONG WORK ETHIC
On his way to the senior side, Martinez made his name with Argentina’s Under-20s – where, despite being sent off against England in the 2017 Under-20 World Cup, he left a positive impression.
The side were coached by Fernando Batista, who told the Spanish press that he was delighted both by the work ethic of his striker and by his combination of talents.
“What caught my attention about Lautaro,” recalls Batista, “was his desire to stay on and work some more after training.
"He would tell me that he was going to work on his finishing. His nose for goals is striking.
"He anticipates what’s going to happen. He’s strong physically and mentally, and he doesn’t need much backlift to shoot with power.”
JUST LIKE 'BATIGOL'
The comparison that comes to mind is with one of Argentina’s all-time goal machines. “Lautaro is on a path similar to that of Gabriel Batistuta,” thinks his old coach.
“In one on one situations, in his speed, his ability in the air, in his physical power they are very similar.
"Lautaro has a lot of what Bati had, plus more technique. He’s better on the ball.”
This is high praise indeed. And if the move goes, through, then perhaps in 2035 Barcelona will have reason to celebrate the 15th anniversary of signing Lautaro Martinez.
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