The family man, the player, the genius, the maestro, the hero. The scared little boy, the street-fighter, the biter, the cannibal, the liability, the villain. Choose any of these nouns to label Liverpool’s number seven (Uruguay’s number nine) and you may think you are on the right track, however even if you choose all of them, you’re still only likely to have half an idea about what drives arguably the most naturally gifted, inventive and enigmatic footballer to come out of South America since Diego Maradona.
This article isn’t an attempt to delve into the psyche of Luis Suarez – the man is far too complex to get a real handle on, and the few articles I’ve read on the matter do a far better job than I could -after all, psychological analysis is not a forte of mine. No, tackling a more prescient matter (for Liverpool fans at least), should Liverpool stand by the man who helped fire them to within an inch of their first league title in 24 years, or take this opportunity to move their flawed virtuoso on, in an attempt to avoid the repercussions which have been brought to bear by his latest ban?
Doubtless, this is a tricky question, and at the moment – much like last year – it’s one that is dividing Liverpool fans the length and breadth of the country, the continent, the globe and the twittersphere. Some are disgusted with the nature of the offence and want him sold, others accept that these things can happen, but feel the ban is so severe that the club would be better to “cash in” and rebuild. Many feel that, no matter what, he’s let the club down once too many times and that they can no longer defend him, seeing it as a matter of player versus club.
The arguments put forward in the previous paragraph are para-phrased from the types of comments I’ve been fielding on Twitter since Suarez’s latest transgression. They are reasonable arguments, in their own way, and represent the feelings of a significant number of Liverpool fans.
Certainly, Liverpool Football Club has stood united behind Suarez before. It has, on occasion, been made to look foolish in the media for doing so, and, by it’s own admission, could’ve handled things in a more measured fashion at times. It’s also easy to see why the biting itself may cause some fans to re-evaluate their opinion on the talismanic forward – after all, it is “animalistic”. And, faced with a potential 12 game club ban, and a ban on even training with his team-mates or appearing in media for LFC, it’s a logical step to conclude that perhaps taking some money (and potentially another player) for the number seven, would be in the best interests of the club.
These arguments still leave me with more questions than answers.
Why sell now when his value is sure to have taken a nosedive? Ok, there are those out there (Guillem Balague) who say that Barcelona are still desperate to sign him, and they’re not put off by the bite or the ban. Maybe, doubtful as it may seem, but I’m willing to bet my last tenner that they’ll be looking to knock €20m off the fee they’d have been prepared to pay a fortnight ago.
Why cut off your nose to spite your face? Biting is something which we train out of our children when they are still toddlers. It’s seen as “animalistic”, “uncivilised” and “alien” in the society we have cultivated. Football however, especially the World Cup, isn’t modern civilised society as we like to think of it; no it’s more (or less) than that, more basic, more primal, it’s combat – a throwback to emperors and gladiators, a fight to the death.
The players, protagonists in the greatest show on earth, can get caught up in the enormity of what it means to the millions watching, hoping, waiting for death or glory. Crazy things can happen, Schumacher on Battiston, Leonardo’s elbow, Suarez’s bite. I don’t condone the action at all, however, I can see how it happened, given the circumstances, as Chiellini himself wrote after the event.
My point is, ugly as the incident was, isn’t it unwise to try and moralise on events of this nature, and take action which may harm the club simply from a high moral viewpoint? After all, no crime has been committed. Doesn’t the club have a responsibility to the player too? Is Liverpool the type of club to abandon one of it’s own in his time of greatest need? I’m sure the player would be keen to work on his behaviour with Brendan Rodgers and Steve Peters as he has done so successfully this past year, and I’m sure the club would reap the benefits of this work in the future. Making a decision to sell on this criterion would be somewhat knee-jerk, a reaction rather than a plan, and one that could damage the club’s progress.
The rumour that Alexis Sanchez could come the other way, should Suarez be sold to Barcelona has got many considering that a deal is there to be done. The question, however, is why one for the other? First of all, Alexis is a top player, but he’s no Suarez. Secondly, Sanchez is rumoured to be finished at Barcelona in any case, and is very likely to leave this summer. That being the case, why bargain for a player set to move anyway, using your only ace as leverage? It makes no sense. Go after Alexis by all means, but not at the expense of Suarez. We need players of Sanchez’s calibre alongside Suarez if Liverpool are going to compete in the Premier and Champions League’s next year. Swap deals such as the one touted above rarely happen when top players are involved anyway, and I find it highly unlikely that any deal for Sanchez would include Suarez and vice versa.
As far as club versus player is concerned; I see the whole concept as a misnomer. The player plays for the club, ergo for the moment, supporting one is supporting the other – that’s how it works. Should the club decide to sell, I’d be gutted, but my support for the club would not waver in any way.
In conclusion, I don’t feel that it would be in Liverpool Football Club’s best interests to sell Luis Suarez this summer. Not financially and not in a footballing context either. By all accounts, the club had no plans to sell him before the World Cup and that being the case, any attempt to offload now, would surely happen not on the best possible terms for the club. Regardless of the ban, having a fit and healthy Suarez firing on all cylinders, for 30 league games and a minimum 3 Champions League matches is, simply put, far better for the club than not having him at all, the form he showed on his return to the side last year proves that without doubt. We have the best, he may not be perfect, but they don’t come any better than him. When you have that, and you appreciate it for what it’s really worth, you don’t let it go.