Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Magic and the Madness of Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez is a Jekyll and Hyde footballer if ever there was one.

Following the Uruguayan striker’s escapades at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil has been far more fascinating and entertaining than watching Roy Hodgson’s dreary England side crash and burn slightly earlier than most people expected, in the same way that watching a Ferrari suddenly crash at top speed is a much more interesting spectacle than watching a Reliant Robin slowly hit a wall that you thought it would only slightly scrape!

While the Three Lions have, in that oh so frustratingly predictable and typically English manner, exited the tournament with a pitiful whimper at the group stages, the enigmatic Suarez has been the centre of attention, firstly for his footballing brilliance but unfortunately now largely for all the wrong reasons.

The Magic

Before the tournament began, there were doubts as to whether Suarez would be fit enough to participate when he was pictured in a wheelchair after surgery on a knee injury only 24 days before Uruguay’s opening game in Brazil against Costa Rica, which they ended up unexpectedly losing 3-1 to the World Cup’s surprise package.

Although England fans, and their team’s embarrassingly poor backline, must have been worried when Suarez was named in the starting line-up against the Three Lions last Thursday, they held on to the hope that the fact that he hadn’t come off the substitutes’ bench despite Uruguay trailing to Costa Rica in their first match revealed that the Liverpool striker was not fully fit and thus would not fire on all cylinders.

How wrong they turned out to be!

Even a half fit Luis Suarez is too hot for the best English centre backs the Premier League has to offer to handle. On an evening that all but extinguished England’s World Cup dreams, Suarez showed why he is the best striker in the world right now, displaying a lethally clinical nature in front of goal so sorely missed from the England side. With two efforts on target, Suarez bagged a brace that left him weeping for joy and his English club team-mates in tears of despair.

Suarez celebrates single-handedly knocking England out of the World Cup
On top of the footballing world, Suarez declared victory over the English media, who he claimed had treated him unfairly following previous scandals, including allegations of racism against Manchester United’s Patrice Evra and an indefensible bite of Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.

Now, though, the hacks in the English press are having the last laugh. And, as they say, he who laughs last, laughs longest.

The Madness

With Uruguay’s must-win final group game against Italy remaining goalless going into the closing stages, Suarez ridiculously and unbelievably pushed his head towards Giorgio Chiellini and the Italy defender proceeded to protest vociferously, pulling down his shirt to reveal bite marks on his shoulder. Missing the incident, referee Marco Rodriguez failed to punish Suarez, who shamefully pretended to have been elbowed by the innocent Chiellini, ironically grasping his assumedly sore teeth!

Suarez couldn't resist a nibble of Chiellini
Despite Diego Godin’s dramatic late winner, which put Uruguay through to the last 16 and sent the Azzurri home, Suarez uncharacteristically did not join in his team-mates’ celebrations, instead trudging off the pitch dejectedly. It was the walk of shame of a troubled figure dreading being engulfed in yet another scandal, not the walk of a world class striker pleased to be through to the next round of football’s greatest competition.

The Future

What next, then, for Suarez? And how should Liverpool respond to the 27-year old’s latest ludicrous stunt?

For starters, Suarez’s World Cup seems destined to be over only a matter of days after it began. FIFA will rightly throw the book at the rogue forward, reflecting the fact that the footballing world is growing tired of his unacceptable antics. I expect him to receive a lengthy ban that will rule him out of at least the rest of the tournament.

Worryingly, the incident is so serious that FIFA might even make use of their right to ban Suarez from all footballing activity, including club fixtures, leaving Liverpool at a disadvantage at the start of the new campaign in a repeat of the opening to last season, when Suarez was still suspended for six matches following bite-gate 2.0.

Meanwhile, his transfer value will inevitably go down simply due to the laws of supply and demand. The demand for Suarez from the likes of Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona will decrease because he is a PR nightmare and his inherent tendency to do idiotic things may well mean he has to sit out big matches through suspension. Simultaneously, the ‘supply’ of Suarez’s services will increase, in the sense that Liverpool may well be more willing to sell the loose cannon that is Luis Suarez. These factors in conjunction act to significantly reduce the transfer fee that the Reds’ number seven could command.

Should Liverpool sell Suarez now after his latest misdemeanour? Before bite-gate 3.0 Barcelona were rumoured to be willing to offer £55 million plus hotshot Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez in exchange for Suarez. Although at the time I would have insisted that Suarez shouldn’t be sold under any circumstances, if they offered that now, Liverpool should bite the Catalans’ hand off- pun intended!

Sanchez was rumoured to be offered to the Reds as part of a cash-plus-player deal for Suarez
At the same time, however, it would be foolhardy to rush to offload the best striker in the world if any bid fails to reflect his supreme footballing ability. After all, Liverpool have stuck with him through previous scandals and Suarez has come out as a better player on the other side.

The declarations of his maturation and the reformation of his character were clearly pre-mature, but he still kept banging in the goals left, right and centre, scoring a stunning 31 times in 2013/2014. Any huge offers should be considered, but Suarez must not be allowed to leave on the cheap, particularly considering the fact that he recently signed a new long-term contract at the club.

One thing is for certain, calls from some in the media for Suarez to be sacked should not be given the time of day, since it would make no footballing or commercial sense to sack the number seven and free him up to sign for a rival for absolutely nothing. Liverpool simply cannot afford to moralise about the conduct of their star performers to that extent.

At the end of the day, Luis Suarez will remain a flawed genius whatever club he plays for and I would much prefer the club to continue to help him overcome his many flaws in order to reap the benefits his genius brings.

He may be a flawed genius, but he’s our flawed genius and, for the moment, it’s best if it stays that way.