Suarez saga just does not add up
WHEN Liverpool signed Luis Suarez in 2011, they would have been only too aware they were signing one of the more colourful characters of European club football.
His phenomenal goal record at Ajax, coupled with a string of superb performances for Uruguay at the 2010 World Cup, had already seen him earmarked as one of the hottest young properties on the planet.
Yet his career had not been without controversy. He had served a seven match Eredivisie league ban for biting an opponent, and his World Cup heroics were tainted by a deliberate handball in the quarter final against Ghana. His alleged claim afterwards to have made “the save of the tournament” saw him vilified in many quarters.
Since then, it’s fair to say few Premiership footballers have attracted as much controversy and commotion over two and a half years as the 26-year-old Uruguayan.
But even by his standards, his latest behaviour, and apparent intention to leave Anfield, just does not add up.
After speaking of his desire to join Real Madrid, citing media treatment and victimisation as forces driving him out of England, he has now expressed a wish to enter negotiations with Arsenal. To put it mildly, he has contradicted himself.
Cynics suggest his impending talks with Arsenal will be nothing more than a publicity stunt to stir Madrid into action. If so, then this transfer saga mirrors his time in England. We are left in no doubt about the ability and desire of Suarez the player, but sadly, yet again, we are left questioning the ethics of Suarez the man.
There is truth in his claims he is over scrutinised in the media. It reached the point last season where every foul, every handball, and every tumble brought howls of derision from television pundits and opposition supporters.
Indeed, after his controversial FA Cup goal against Mansfield, in which he scored after clearly controlling the ball with his hand, some ridiculously suggested he should have informed the match officials of their mistake and had the goal disallowed.
But on the contrary, there have been times when Suarez has appeared so intent on portraying himself as a victim that he has seemingly forgotten why he was in trouble in the first place.
The infamous race row between himself and Patrice Evra, after which Suarez questionably blamed a ‘language barrier’ for his frequent use of racial terms towards the Frenchman, ended in ridicule when he refused to shake Evra’s hand pre the Manchester United v Liverpool game in February 2012.
Suarez supporters argued these were the actions of a man aggrieved at unjust treatment. In reality, these were the actions of a man who needed to grow up.
When in April 2013 he bit the arm of Chelsea player Branislav Ivanovic, his swift apology at least seemed to ensure there would be no repeat of the delusional defiance that followed the Evra affair. Yet sure enough, within 48 hours he was publicly questioning the FA’s assertion that the offence should carry more than a three match ban. Again, in his eyes, he became the victim and not the offender.
Yet throughout all the controversy, one factor has remained constant – his club have stuck by him. To the detriment of their own image, Liverpool have repeatedly sided with their prize asset. Kenny Dalglish was pillared for backing his man throughout the Evra affair, during which him and his players wore t-shirts of support for Suarez. Eventually Dalglish, put in an impossible situation, had little option but to retract his public stance.
In the aftermath of the Ivanovic incident, even the usually dignified Brendan Rodgers entirely missed the point when he said the subsequent 10 match ban was “against the player and not the man.” But his words reiterated that the club would not cast Suarez away and that, despite his widespread condemnation, he was part of a family that would both help and stick by him. And rightfully so.
There is of course, no doubting his ability. His form last season was, at times, mesmeric, and few can deny he is a player worthy of the Champions League and the global exposure it brings.
But in short, he owes Liverpool football club. He owes the players, he owes the management, and he owes the fans whose support of him has been unwavering. But sadly, football now exists in an era where such loyalty counts for little.
Of course, football is a fickle business. And should Suarez be denied his move, and continue his scintillating form in a Liverpool shirt next season, be rest assured the same fans supposedly sending him abuse right now will cheer his name.
But regardless, the saga has been another grim reminder of the mindset of the modern day professional. There will always be exceptions, and respective supporters will point to the likes of Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Ryan Giggs and John Terry as ample proof that ‘one club men’ do exist.
However, in truth, if greater riches and incentives lie elsewhere, then for the majority, repaying loyalty becomes an irrelevant concept.
And in the case of Suarez, romantic talk of the Liverpool ‘family’ and ‘history’ appears futile. Here is a man who has made it clear that, the moment an enticing offer comes up, he would be happy to turn his back on the club.
And here is a man, despite the famous words of his club’s song, who seems destined to walk alone.