After wildly different experiences of the World Cup, James Rodriguez and Luis Suarez find themselves on the opposite of another chasm-like divide – Real Madrid vs. Barcelona.
James ended the World Cup as top scorer. Suarez ended it in disgrace. But both got big moves following the tournament, the Colombian leaving Monaco for Madrid and Suarez exiting Anfield for Barca, and there are real questions about how they will each fit into their new teams’ starting XI.
What is clear is that both are fine players. James’ six World Cup goals were the most by one player since Rivaldo and Miroslav Klose netted eight in 2002, putting the 23-year-old in exalted company. Only a year ago he moved to Monaco from Porto and his price tag has reportedly almost doubled in 12 months, perhaps showing the worth of a good World Cup.
James had a reasonable year with Monaco, netting 10 goals in 38 games and claiming a further 12 assists. He joins a Madrid team that only a handful of months ago landed the Champions League with a fearsome front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale. James will likely play behind the front three but with Angel Di Maria, Isco, Toni Kroos, Luca Modric, Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso to fit in as well, Carlo Ancelotti has a balancing act on his hands.
So too does his Barca counterpart Luis Enrique. The Catalans had by their standards a poor season, finishing second in La Liga and bowing out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals. Part of the problem was accommodating Neymar and Lionel Messi, so how Suarez fits in remains to be seen. A front three has for years been the preferred option at Camp Nou but Suarez, Neymar and Messi look worryingly similar – in playing style if not personality.
Suarez’s bad side reared its head infamously against Italy, sinking his teeth into Giorgio Chiellini. A four-month ban was the result and, by a quirk of fate, the first Barca game for which he will be available is the first Clasico of the season, in late October. Suarez is appealing the suspension, taking his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and could be back sooner. Barca certainly hope so.
After all, Suarez’s year was more than the reasonable one enjoyed by James in Ligue 1. He ended 2013-14 as the Premier League’s top scorer and a Steven Gerrard slip (and shocking turnaround defeat by Crystal Palace) away from winning the title. Indeed, Suarez’s 31 goals was enough to make him Europe’s joint-highest scorer, level with James’ new Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo.
That though is the past. Madrid and Barca both want to reclaim the title from Atletico Madrid and James and Suarez – when available – will be crucial. Players of EuroFantasyLeague can get the pair in the same team, a luxury not available to Enrique and Ancelotti, along with the cream of the Premier League, Serie A, Ligue 1, the Bundesliga and the rest of the Spanish top flight.
EuroFantasyLeague.com allows those who register to compete in one of the newest and most challenging fantasy games. Players can pick from a single league or mix-and-match, creating a team from Europe’s top five leagues. By relying on valuable and extensive statistics from Opta Sports, EuroFantasyLeague.com can rate who is the better player – James or Suarez, for example – or group of players. The point system has been developed in a logical way, with emphasis on Opta’s stats.