The World Cup was always likely to bring controversy but few could have predicted that an old scourge on the game would appear once again. This was destined to be Luis Suarez’ time to shine, the tournament in which one of the greatest players in the world would grab the headlines for his goal scoring exploits. Instead, the dust is still settling on his disgraceful act on Tuesday night. The widespread condemnation which followed his previous misdemeanour with Branislav Ivanovic has escalated to something much more vitriolic on this occasion. Many fans and pundits want the proverbial book thrown at the Uruguayan, with some demands even being made to ban him from football for good. Tough decisions now lie at the hands of both FIFA and Liverpool F.C, as to what the best course of action is to deal with the enigmatic forward.
The sad truth for Suarez is that regardless of what had gone on before, his status as, first and foremost a supremely talented footballer, was going to endure as his legacy. His latest indiscretion changes all of that. The career of Luis Suarez will forever more have an asterisk beside every magical moment he produced. Every match winning performance will count for nothing due to his unerring penchant to take football to the dark side. No matter what he achieves from now on, no matter what heights he reaches in terms of performance, the plaudits will be less forthcoming.
Suarez, as a person, seems mentally strong enough to ignore all the negativity. If anything, he will use it as a motivational tool. Where some would crumble in such circumstances, it will come as no surprise if the former Ajax man remains one of the world’s most dangerous attackers for years to come.
But just where he will be plying his trade is another question. Liverpool are unlikely to take too kindly to these latest developments. It was rumoured that the clubs hierarchy was holding emergency talks in the immediate aftermath of the Uruguay Italy game to discuss the future of their star man. Having welcomed him back into the fold with open arms following his transfer U-turn last summer, John Henry, Brendan Rodgers and the club staff will see it as a breach of trust that he would now draw such potentially damaging publicity on them. It’s unlikely that Suarez will be allowed any second chances to change his ways this time around.
It is even being reported that the club would hold the right to sue Suarez for breach of contract should he be handed a lengthy ban. No matter how strained the tensions between both parties become, surely this outcome is beyond the realms of possibility.
The Liverpool faithful have always been loyal to their heroes in the past and the social media reaction to Suarez’ bite did little to suggest they will turn on their number seven. But, retaining that famous number on his back may irk some. His predecessors in the iconic shirt typify all that is great about Liverpool F.C. Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish reserve eternal legendary status at Anfield and earned it by playing for the fans and as the fans would want, not in the manner Suarez portrayed on Tuesday night.
When all is said and done and the final judgement is delivered on what action Suarez will face, it is unlikely he will remain at Liverpool. The most likely option is that he will end up at Barcelona. Even before the biting incident, it had been reported that he was angling for a switch to the Nou Camp. The conspiracy theorists among us will make the point that the controversy places the pressure on Liverpool to sell Suarez, preventing a situation similar to that which occurred last summer, when the Uruguayan did his best to force a transfer. Leaving the club with a positive relationship between him and the fans would be in Suarez’ best interests, as he is all too aware. Real Madrid is also an option, but either way Suarez’ days in England look numbered.
Of course, until FIFA announce their decision it is all just conjecture. Were Suarez to be banned for the full two years that FIFA withhold the power to do, it is difficult to see him returning to football. But surely, the governing body would be loath to permanently remove one of the game’s greatest assets. If they do, it will cause reverberations worldwide. Whatever the ruling, you can’t help but get the feeling that the Luis Suarez story is just beginning.
Brian Ryle, Pundit Arena.