Luis Suarez has been the best No9 in the world ever since he joined Barcelona.
But that reign is at an end.
The Uruguayan continued his disappointing form at the weekend against Malaga with two horror misses that were tap-ins by his sky-high standards.
Suarez has the admirable trait of leaking emotion from every pore when he plays and so his body language has failed to mask the fact his attitude and confidence has been dented by his run of sub-par performances.
Even his vital late equaliser away to Atletico Madrid has not been able to paper over the cracks in his 2016/17 campaign.
Now his place in the starting line-up is under threat from Paco Alcacer who will have the chance to stake his claim in the Copa del Rey this week.
This problem is easy to downplay for Ernesto Valverde thanks to the five-point cushion his side have at the top of La Liga.
But Barca know better than most that to succeed in a title race you must be ruthless.
Lionel Messi is a superhuman talent beyond comprehension but even he will need the rest of the forward line to be on song if Barcelona are to right the wrongs from last season and regain the league crown.
Neymar’s departure meant the famous MSN trio was severed by a third before the season started.
A serious injury to replacement Ousmane Dembele and the emergence of the diet version of Suarez has put enormous pressure on Messi to lead the title charge.
Messi is capable of carrying his team-mates to victory but why take the risk?
A club of Barcelona’s stature should act fast and hard by signing a high-profile forward in January.
The classic ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ argument could apply to Suarez’s current situation but the ex-Liverpool forward turns 31 in January and his style, much like Wayne Rooney’s, has always struck me as one that wears down the implementer quicker than most.
I’m not writing him off at all but titles are won in the here and now — form is everything.
A post-30 Suarez would still be a tremendous asset for Barcelona to have in their squad but if they want to make the most of their strong first quarter of the season then they must replace him with a prime goalscorer.
Could they get Sergio Aguero? Robert Lewandowski? Who knows.
Last transfer window PSG spent big and robbed them of a world-class forward — time for Barcelona to do the same to somebody else.
If Barca settle with what they have and fail to strive for improvement then they risk being chased down by Real Madrid (or an impressive Valencia outfit) in the second half of the season.
Elite clubs must adopt an elite mentality.
Do not mistake the idea of dropping Suarez with disloyalty to a player who has been a wonderful servant to the club over the last three seasons.
A player as competitive and ferociously determined as Suarez should understand the nature of top-level football.
This is business, not personal.
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