By Andrew Kennedy
On Sunday, Liverpool’s hand was finally forced as they ostracised the controversial Luis Suarez following his decision to snub Patrice Evra’s handshake, in order to salvage the club’s quickly diminishing image.
The 25-year-old had backtracked on an agreement with his paymasters to put the issue to bed, with Managing Director Ian Ayre even suggesting the former Ajax man had “misled” the Anfield outfit by refusing to draw a line under October’s race incident.
Suarez was widely condemned for his actions, and his manager Kenny Dalglish looked worn and out of his depth as he once again defended the striker – now after Liverpool’s change of stance, the Scotsman looks farcical.
Yet perhaps the biggest catalyst in the Red’s decision to finally take hold of the issue lies in the American media. With the New York Times calling on Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool’s owners, to tackle the racism storm which has embroiled the club, while the Boston Herald, the local newspaper of John W. Henry, also taking a front page lead on the Suarez debacle.
It certainly seems things go too close to home for the Liverpool hierarchy, and whilst the passage of time may heal wounds between rival clubs, it has certainly gone too far for Suarez to reverse the stigma.
That even Dalglish himself apologised for his, now seemingly ludicrous, suggestion that the striker had done nothing wrong in Manchester speaks volumes about the Anfield outfit's stance on the issue. Enough was quite clearly enough in the upper echelons of the Liverpool board room - for the Scot to deliver such a stand down only reinforces the point. This is an issue.
Greg Stobart, Goal.com UK Northern correspondent: "I get the feeling that the Liverpool owners have finally intervened here after seeing the club's image take such a battering. Suarez apologises, let's draw a line under it now. Hopefully Liverpool fans will stop defending what happened yesterday."
Rob Stewart, Goal.com UK correspondent: "If ever there was a damage limitation exercise, this is it, but the trouble is severe damage has already been done on a personal, club and football level. By the sounds of it his arm was twisted well and truly up his back. And as for the Liverpool hierarchy, the fact they deem it time to say sorry suggests they seem to think that refusing to shake someone's hand is worse than racially abusing someone. They have a warped sense of right and wrong."
Jonathan Birchall, Goal.com UK LIVE! Editor: "That Dalglish has had to stand down from his hitherto unwavering support of Suarez says it all. The Scot is near untouchable at Anfield and there was a fear that the Uruguayan was going to be provided the same level of invincibility. The apologies, reluctant as they appear to be, were the correct course of action. Manchester United have accepted the apology, here's hoping their fans respond with grace and the rivalry can return to the pitch - exactly where it belongs."
Dan Edwards, Goal.com South American correspondent: "No party in this debacle has come out of this with anything positive, but the remarks from Manchester United post-game and the subsequent rush to condemn Suarez border on a witch-hunt. Luis swerved the handshake with Evra because he disagreed with the player's conduct off the pitch and viewed such a formality as hypocritical given his feelings.
"This is not to exonerate Suarez, his apology recognises that snubbing Evra at the start was a mistake and I sincerely hope that his rival will reciprocate, acknowledge his mistakes during the match and put the matter to bed. I doubt that will happen though. Despite serving his suspension which supposedly should close the book on the earlier racism charges, Suarez has become yet another easy target for the UK press and their inability to present a balanced case is the most depressing part of this whole saga."
Matt Murray, Patron of Show Racism the Red Card: "I'm so disappointed like many people who love football in this country. Suarez shows no remorse for his actions and a lack of respect. Liverpool is a great club who have over decades built a worldwide reputation which he has seriously tarnished. He's failed to see the bigger picture and realise his responsibility as a role model. His reactions will create more divisions at a time when football and society need to pull together on this issue."
Amar Singh, Goal.com Managing Editor: "I think Liverpool had to act today as they lost a PR war yesterday as well as a football match. Coverage across the pond today has been scathing and FSG have clearly stamped their authority on this whole sorry mess for the first time by ordering these apologies.
"I don't think either club came out of yesterday smelling of roses. Evra's behaviour was pretty contemptible -three times he tried to provoke the Uruguayan and his celebration at the end was way over the top. Sir Alex's demand that Liverpool should sell Suarez was also rather over the top considering the rap sheet on some of his own players, past and present.
"But ultimately Suarez was wrong in refusing to shake hands in my opinion, if only to draw a line on the row, whilst Kenny Dalglish's continued abrasive attitude to the press will do little heal the image of the club going forward. Liverpool cannot and must not become a toxic brand and this is something the club must examine closely."
Carlo Garganese, Goal.com International Deputy Editor: "Suarez had to make an apology for PR reasons, and this was clearly forced upon him from above. But I would like to add that the one-sided, myopic, coverage in the local media has been shameful. The feeling in South America is Suarez feels he has been punished for (unacceptably) abusing Evra (and got all the flak from the media and public), while Evra hasn't been punished for an alleged insult just as bad, purely because Suarez wouldn't testify against him (as it would have broken an unwritten rule he adheres to in South America).
"Having said that, all parties have acted terribly in this saga - Suarez, Evra, Liverpool and especially Dalglish. Suarez was totally wrong to "mislead" Liverpool, though. If he had no intention to shake Evra's hand, he should have told the club beforehand, instead of making them look stupid."