At a press conference and again in a recent interview, the temperamental Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez has expressed his desire to leave Liverpool Football Club to ply his trade in another country, due to him feeling unfairly singled out by the UK press. The Suarez question is the first major transfer test for Rodgers this summer and, if the Northern Irishman and the Liverpool board have any sense, they should do their best to cash in on Suarez as soon as possible.
There is no doubt that Suarez is currently one of the best footballers in the world. No one can argue his work ethic and his drive to win – week in week out. Without a doubt, Liverpool have benefitted from his close to 40 goals since his now bargain transfer from Ajax two years ago. However, the club has paid too high a price with their image and reputation, employing a player with such serious character flaws.
Even with his despicable World Cup hand ball and previous ban for biting a player at Ajax, Liverpool rightfully took a gamble by signing the talented striker. Players make mistakes, even the great ones have faltered with a rush of blood to the head: Cantona, Rooney, Beckham, Leonardo, etc Yet they have bounced back with a sense of humility, remorse, or maturity by trying their hardest not to let their club, fans, and most importantly themselves down as easily as before. But not Suarez.
In his two and a half seasons at Anfield, Suarez has managed to get himself banned for over 20 matches, with the club publicly standing by him even as they took some deserving hits on their reputation with some ill-advised methods of defending their star striker. Can you imagine any other club sanctioning its players to wear T-shirts in support of a player (even if only accused) of assaulting his wife? How about “allegedly” racially abusing a fellow player? A desperate Liverpool did exactly that.
On top of overlooking Suarez’s habitual diving and simulation, Dalglish and Rodgers rarely substituted Suarez out of games, outside of the final 10 minutes. Nor they did impose the same tactical discipline on Suarez that was required of the rest of the squad. In trying to hold on to arguably the only other world class player it has outside of an aging Gerrard, Liverpool – in its desperation to placate Suarez – have violated a major tenet dearly held during their glory days: They have put a player above the club.
One can see why Liverpool would be tempted to do such a thing. They have had to suffer the humiliation from seeing their 90’s starlets in Michael Owen and Steve McManaman leave Anfield to “win things,” to losing star players like Javier Mascherano and Fernando Torres. And with Liverpool’s checkbooks held tightly in the hands of the club’s American owners, mitigating the departure of top players with quality – albeit mercenary replacement, the way Manchester City or Chelsea can – is hardly an option.
With the sight of Champions League football increasingly remote at Anfield, most Reds fans have instinctively known that the shelf life on Suarez’s stint at the club would be two or three years at best. Liverpool should not give up any more of its soul to put off the inevitable. The club must cash in now.
Suarez’s nihilism goes against everything Shankly, Paisley and Fagan stood for in putting the club and team first. Suarez is not an archetypal hot-head with ostensibly uncontrollable emotion. Everything the Uruguayan has been accused of has been done with the pathological, cold-hearted, calculated, cynicism of a modern footballer who knows that — as long as he can score goals and top clubs desperate for instant gratification, and are ready to write big checks — there is little reason to accept responsibility for anything, including honoring a contract.
Liverpool will find it difficult to replace Suarez’s footballing class or replicate his energy and goals in their tedious quest for former glory. However, they will be better off, partially regaining the one thing held precious during their glorious past – their honor.
Tell me what you think. Should Liverpool try to hold on to Suarez at all costs or should they try to cash in?