In some Manchester United circles, it might be blasphemous to say one of their players shares the same characteristics as a Liverpool player. Especially when the Liverpool player is the “evil” Luis Suárez. On the other hand, Liverpool supporters might consider it sacrilege to have one of their players compared to the “vile” Roy Keane. But these two villains share many of the same qualities, good and bad.
Both Suárez and Keane grew up in tough environments where winning a football match was done by any means necessary.
Luis Suárez grew up in South America (Salto, Uruguay) where street football and poverty almost go hand in hand. South American footballers are brought up with an attacking, “win at all costs” mentality. South America could be considered the birthplace of great footballers by boasting a list of players such as: Pelé, Maradona, Ronaldo, Messi, Romário, Alfredo di Stéfano, and Rivaldo.
At the age of 14, Luis Suárez was offered the opportunity to train with Nacional de Montevideo’s youth team. When he was 15, he headbutted a referee and received his first suspension. He was later disciplined by his head coach for excessively drinking and partying. But after three years he made his first team debut in the Copa Libertadores. He eventually led his team to a league title before being snatched up by the Dutch club, Groningen. He played a single season at Groningen before being bought by the Dutch giants, AFC Ajax.
Roy Keane was born in a working class suburb in Cork, Ireland. Aside from his football training, Keane took up boxing for a number of years. Keane was immersed in his local drinking culture and was never one to turn down a fight. His combativeness was also evident in his early footballing career. Despite the fact that he was considered “too small” to be a footballer by many scouts, Keane worked part-time jobs and continued to train. Many of his team-mates were offered trials abroad with English teams, but he was not. He was turned down for trial after trial before eventually signing for the semi-professional club, Cobh Ramblers. Keane played a single season for Cobh before being signed by Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest.
Keane and Suárez have had their share of on the field problems. Some might consider these issues as signs of each player’s insanity. While others may feel it shows their blind passion or a desire to win “by any means necessary”.
Suárez’s recent issues have been well-publicized. While at Ajax and Liverpool he has had lengthy suspensions for biting an opponent. He was also banned from competition for racially abusing Patrice Evra of Manchester United. He later refused to acknowledge Evra during a pre-match handshake at Old Trafford. During the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals in South Africa, he received a straight red-card against Ghana for a blatant handball, which prevented a winning goal in the final seconds of the match. In the past he has also been suspended from a squad (Ajax) for a dressing room altercation with one of his teammates.
Roy Keane was frequently suspended from play due to angry outbursts and reckless challenges. He holds the record for the most red cards in the history of English football, thirteen. His most notable on-the-field incident has to have involved Manchester City’s Alf-Inge Håland. During a previous encounter, Keane had gone down during a match with an ACL injury. He perceived that Håland had stood over him and accused Keane of faking the injury. Keane ended up being out of action for a lengthy amount of time. When he finally returned to action and faced Håland again, Keane was sent off for a blatant knee-high foul on Håland. Keane was sent off and suspended. His suspension was later increased when he confessed in his book that the foul was premeditated. “I’d waited long enough. I f**king hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c*nt. And don’t ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries.” Keane went on to say, “What goes around comes around. He got his just rewards. He f**ked me over and my attitude is an eye for an eye.” Håland’s leg never fully recovered and the player later implied that the tackle effectively ended his career.
Keane also maintained a personal rivalry with then Arsenal captain, Patrick Vieira. The most notable incident took place in 2005 at Highbury and was captured on Sky Sports. Vieira had confronted United defender Gary Neville (off camera) in the tunnel before the game over his fouling of José Antonio Reyes in the previous match between the two sides. This prompted Keane to verbally confront the Arsenal captain while being restrained by teammates and match officials. One of the most captivating features of the footage is Keane’s steely eyes focused on Vieira.
Despite the madness, Keane and Suarez are truly gifted footballers, borderline geniuses. They are players who, despite their long suspensions and potential for blow-ups, are loved by their teammates and home supporters. They are players who have seen their clubs rally around them.
After Suárez’s suspension for racially abusing Evra, his teammates faced criticism from the public and the FA when they wore T-shirts supporting Suárez. Liverpool managers, Kenny Dalglish and Brendan Rodgers, have continued to back the player despite his antics. And although Suárez spent the summer of 2013 voicing his desire to leave Liverpool, the manager and Liverpool supporters have showered him with admiration.
Keane was United’s captain from 1997-2001 and led the team to the 1999 Champions League final despite facing suspension for the finale due to an accumulation of yellow-cards. With United trailing 2-0 in Turin, Keane played above and beyond and player of the pitch while rallying United to a 3-2 win against Juventus. Despite all of his suspensions and outbursts, Keane is widely recognized as the most influential player during Manchester United’s recent glory years.
Neutral fans may never understand the loyalty from clubs to these players. All they can see are the negatives. But United and Liverpool fans understand each player’s value.
Keane was a leader, competitor and big game player.
Suárez is an engine of the field. He constantly puts pressure on opposing defenders with his attacking runs, while also playing unselfishly and trying to win by any means.
Of course, Suárez does not have the trophy haul that Keane had. But Suárez is still in the early stages of his career. Liverpool have also (as of yet) failed to surround him with world class players, like Keane was at United. But the similarities between the two are there.