In recent days, the actions of one man in Brazil have overshadowed the playing exploits of hundreds more in what has arguably been the finest FIFA World Cup this century. Luis Suarez, revered last week for his clinical destruction of England, was gracing the back pages of newspapers around the world in a manner no one thought possible again.
Deja Vu? No, it had happened again. Giorgio Chiellini had joined the unenviable club of being a player to fall victim to Luis Suarez’s ample front teeth. From the moment it happened, the football universe went into overdrive, in shock of how this kind of incident had occurred again to a man who seemed so reformed during his quite brilliant season at Liverpool.
Whilst the action cannot be condoned, and the punishment could be somewhat debated, the real conundrum lies in what Liverpool FC do with their mercurial but sometimes mad man. The last days have seen comment and opinion divide the footballing fraternity, with views ranging from how this shame can be no longer tolerated to it being almost a blessing in disguise to ward off potential suitors. To understand this particular view, football must be viewed from the only plane that should matter – the pitch.
It is without question that the two superstars of modern day football are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – there order of which is another debate. On the tailcoats of these two, follows a group of men who are still exceptional footballers and the fulcrum of their respective teams. Some include Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris St. Germain. Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery of Bayern Munich. Marco Reus of Borussia Dortmund. Eden Hazard of Chelsea. And Luis Suarez of Liverpool.
Indeed, it has been argued that Suarez is now an island, detached from this talented group, and bridging the gap between them and Ronaldo and Messi. His stunning form last season is further testament – as were the countless personal accolades yielded because of it. Quite simply he was brilliant. So should such brilliance be disregarded easily? Can a team like Liverpool, not overly blessed with world class talent afford to relinquish the services of El Pistolero? Simply put, no.
Footballers have always been a flawed bunch. Maradona is still considered one of the finest the game has produced, despite being dogged in controversy most of his career. Zinedane Zidane, another footballer of a generation whose moment of madness occurred on an even bigger stage than that of Suarez – in the World Cup Final. Others include Roy Keane, Eric Cantona and Paolo Rossi. Yet ask most football fans their opinions of these stars and the majority will recall fond memories with bleary eyed bliss.
The furore surrounding Luis Suarez currently is a worldwide media frenzy, covering back pages from Merseyside to Montevideo. That is until the next scandal to shake the sport occurs. How FIFA must be secretly delighted Qatar isn’t the negative football issue occupying the minds of journalists for a change. The point being, whilst these instances of madness by Suarez should not, and will be not forgotten, their intensity will diminish with time if he continues to play the beautiful game so beautifully.
Therefore, given the fickle nature of football, why should Liverpool Football Club discard with the jewel in their crown? They reached heights under the excellent Brendan Rogers that have not been experienced around Anfield since 1990. To lose Suarez this season would be to pull the thread that unravels the tapestry of last year’s efforts.
Yet shouldn’t Liverpool take the moral high ground and dispose with this player who has brought elements of shame to this great club you ask? Perhaps. However, if Suarez was made available at reasonable price to their Premier League rivals, would they too maintain a moral stance? It would be astounding to see it occur. And highly unlikely, such is the genius that Suarez can bring to any football team, and the prizes these clubs would reap with him in the ranks. The collateral generated on the back of Premier League or Champions League victories would be just reward for taking a chance of such a talent. At least behind closed boardroom doors.
The actions of Luis Suarez against Italy were inexcusable. As they were against PSV’s Ottman Bakkal and Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic. Of that there is no argument. Despite the repeat offender nature of the incidents, it is difficult to imagine him ever doing so again such is the worldwide condemnation and indeed punishment from last Tuesdays actions. Indeed, according to Jamie Carragher the devastation of Suarez’s wife after the Chelsea episode was such that one can only imagine the personal implications of his most recent grievance. He may not only lose out in football terms.
On the premise that he should not re-offend, the value of Luis Suarez to any potential suitors on the football field remains immeasurable. His talent, nurtured and guided as it was so brilliantly by Rodgers last year, will no doubt yield some of footballs most prized trophies in the coming years.
As a figure he is a player you will simply despise for his moments of madness, but cannot help to admire for his moments of genius. That genius is worth the madness. The end justifies the Luis.
Shane Brennan, Pundit Arena.