By Jay Jaffa
Luis Suarez was never likely to leave Liverpool under the cover of darkness given his history, and the latest ill-advised (evidence suggests he is not advised at all) remarks in a press conference ahead of Uruguay’s fixture with France suggest he will depart kicking and screaming regardless of the Anfield club’s stance.
Some will understand why the player would want to leave and, taken in isolation, some of his comments are fair. England is no longer a welcome environment, even for a player of his undoubted quality, and if indeed he feels his family life is threatened by a scrupulous press, then fair enough.
Except, by saying: “I haven’t been judged as a player but based on other things” is a selfish, one-eyed take on a tense, often controversial and villainous relationship with English football. The inference is that the English press have somehow painted him as the bad guy, as if it were dreamt up. Blaming the press is not only wrong, it is childish and shows a remarkable level of denial.
|ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY
Suarez's highs and lows
|Scores on debut in front of the Kop v Stoke
||Racially abuses Patrice Evra
|Feb 26 2012
||Wins the Carling Cup|
||Scores hat-trick v Norwich
||Goal of the season contender v Newcastle
|Mar 2 2013
||Becomes only the third Liverpool player to score 20+ goals in a PL season
||Bites Branislav Ivanovic & handed 10-game ban
All that and more has drawn criticism from opponents, ex-pros, managers, pundits and even infamous political dictators - you know things are bad when Robert Mugabe is wading in, chastising you for biting an opponent (“highly unprofessional” were the 89-year-old’s words, if you’re wondering).
Former Red Dietmar Hamann dared Suarez to stay, commenting on Twitter: “if he got [sic] half a conscience he'll stay here,” before adding: “Suarez gave great service but missed 20 games,dragged the image of the club through the mud and now blames media for his exit #topguy.”
The British media, incidentally, are not afforded a single press cutting on Suarez's three year old official website - read into that what you will.
His comments on Wednesday and Thursday were measured, inflammatory and foolish - particularly in light of Liverpool's ongoing and loyal support of a player who has, as Hamann put it, dragged the club's name through the mud. It seems obvious, and a touch disrespectful, but had a lesser player, such as Stewart Downing, been the perpetrator for the past two-and-a-half years, he would not be anywhere close to Brendan Rodgers' squad.
Instead, through his actions and his words, Suarez has made a very strong case for being the most despised player to ever set foot on British shores. To Liverpool’s credit (and shame) they have backed the 26-year-old in the face of overwhelming scrutiny and abuse. He has been given more chances than anyone could rightfully expect. This time though, the club look like they are simply protecting the value of their most saleable asset, rather than planning a future with a rehabilitated Suarez.
He is not for sale, but we have not had word from his representatives. In other words, once the transfer request is made, we'll start talking.
There is no doubt Liverpool will hold out for an enormous fee for the Uruguayan. Reports overnight suggested nothing less than £50 million would prise him from the club - a figure that even the angelic Suarez from a parallel dimension would struggle to command. There is, however, no buyout clause - as Goal exclusively revealed earlier this week - meaning the ball is in Liverpool’s court and they will view this as a chance to regain some semblance of respect from a regrettable chapter.
Suarez has delivered some of the great moments in his time in the Premier League; his wizardly dribbles - it was once said that he could nutmeg a mermaid - to his audacious attempts at goal - who will forget the touch of genius that saw him wriggle free of Fabricio Coloccini and dance past Tim Krul at Anfield in early November?
But it is too late now. There can be no going back. The romantic may wish to see one of the game’s true superstars remain in England but he has all but burnt his bridges with his recent comments, not forgetting the 10-game ban he is serving for the Ivanovic incident.
Ironically, Suarez’s ban actually allowed Rodgers’ side to spread their wings in the final four games of the season and a fluid, unselfish attacking threat blossomed as Daniel Sturridge, who appears to finally be reaching his full potential, and Phillipe Coutinho linked wonderfully. A 6-0 demolition of Newcastle at St James’ Park and a 3-1 win at Fulham hinted at the growing confidence in Rodgers’ system.
Liverpool invested a lot of energy and trust in Suarez throughout difficult spells that could initially be written off as ‘cultural differences’, but that excuse quickly wore thin. The club would be wise to cut their losses. His quality will ensure they will be paid handsomely, and all but the most loyal Reds fans will look forward to restoring the club’s image - something that has taken hit after hit ever since Tom Hicks and George Gillett acquired control.
Helping bad characters is admirable, to an extent. But blindly trusting bad characters to right their wrongs can be damaging. Liverpool will be better served trusting Rodgers, a man who understands the ethos of the club, from where they came to where they are now, but most importantly where they want to go.
They say the first step towards recovery is admittance - Liverpool know they have a problem, now they must solve it and sell Suarez.
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