By David Lynch
That Joe Allen, Stewart Downing, Jose Enrique and Brendan Rodgers (as ever) were tripping over themselves to praise Luis Suarez this week said a lot about the striker’s worth to Liverpool.
Of course, it hardly needed accentuating following last weekend’s 4-0 win over Wigan at the DW Stadium, one which came largely thanks to the Uruguayan’s third Premier League hat trick. But the unnecessary nature of these platitudes betrayed the emotion which underpins all assessments of the prolific frontman from within the club - namely, fear.
The summer transfer window looms large on the horizon, and the Premier League’s top goal scorer currently plies his trade for an inconsistent team who sit in seventh place and will have no trophy to show for this season’s efforts.
|JUST CAN'T GET ENOUGH
|SUAREZ'S SEASON SO FAR
Mercifully, the Merseyside club do at least boast a stronger bargaining position than Arsenal, given that Suarez signed a new long-term deal just last summer. There is a less-referenced perk of that contractual situation as well in that Liverpool could demand the 26-year-old moves to a foreign club rather than opt for a damaging transfer to a domestic rival should he wish to leave.
Regardless, that is protection from a hypothetical situation which Liverpool hope does not arise.
As Goal.com exclusively revealed on Wednesday, another of the Premier League’s leading lights, Gareth Bale, is willing to reject a move away from Tottenham this summer should the north London club qualify for the Champions League this season. But Liverpool know they are asking so much more of Suarez - they have no such realistic targets to meet this term in order to convince him to stay.
Instead, Brendan Rodgers must simply request loyalty from his striker, a concept which is particularly slippery in the context of football. In the eyes of supporters, loyalty is a quality demanded only from players whose value is obvious, whilst those who fall beneath the expected standard are urged to leave quietly and, occasionally, accept pay cuts on the way out.
Prolific strikers who left Liverpool
Games: 323, Goals: 100
Games: 104, Goals: 63
|Ian Rush (first stint)
Games: 331, Goals: 207
Games: 297, Goals: 158
Games: 142, Goals: 81
That said, Suarez may be one of the very few footballers who perhaps does owe something to his current club and its fans, and it is for the same reason that the Salto-born forward is undoubtedly set to miss out on the PFA Player of the Year award no matter what his achievements.
During last season’s regrettable racism row involving Patrice Evra, Liverpool stood by their man to the detriment of the club’s reputation. It was a series of events which undeniably contributed to Kenny Dalglish’s eventual sacking whilst Suarez, whose ability to consistently score goals in England was then (perhaps incredibly) under question, came out unscathed.
There are, of course, more positive reasons beyond Suarez’s perceived debt to his employers which dictate he should at least consider giving the club one more season. For example, his blossoming relationship with Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge has been a joy to behold since January and, much like Bale at Tottenham, Suarez has a coach in Rodgers who has tweaked his team's tactical set-up to coax inspirational performances out of his talisman.
The effectiveness of the club’s last two signings also provides hope ahead of an important summer window; if Liverpool get it right and retain their most talented player, next season could be their opportunity to return to the big time.
However, making the necessary tweaks whilst also attempting to replace a player like Suarez would surely be a bridge too far.
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