Luis Suarez. How could it go so wrong so quickly?
Rewind a month and he had the respect of his peers and the admiration – not begrudging, but bowing – of his past detractors. In his trophy room on Merseyside sat the European Golden Boot, the PFA Player of the Year and the Football Writers’ Player of the Year.
He was a celebrated triumph for the culture at Liverpool, the forgiving nature of Premier League fans and those who cover the game’s biggest competition.
Fast forward to today and all that hard work, all that achievement has been thrown away. Luis Suarez is now a World Cup villain. His reputation straddling the deepest of disappointment and the height of worldwide derision.
So what happened? Well, it’s stating the bleedin’ obvious, but the Uruguayan FA, that’s what happened.
The hints were there after Suarez’s wonderful two-goal performance against England. It even had Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, one of his biggest critics, describing him as “amazing, just amazing”. But Suarez’s reaction was to turn on the English media, the very same people who had helped rebuild his reputation after he took a chunk out of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic‘s arm.
Then against Italy it happened.
And what followed was everything that those at Liverpool had worked so hard against. No personal accountability. No personal responsibility. And zero contrition. It’s difficult to rate what was more pathetic. The act of one man biting another – or those in positions of power trying to defend one man biting another: from the Uruguayan president, to their FA president, to the captain, Diego Lugano, and their coach Washington Tabarez.
Tabarez, in the aftermath, resigned from his position on FIFA’s strategic committee. Not out of shame, but in protest against Suarez being suspended.
Well, cry me a river.
The only people who deserve sympathy in this sorry, childish affair are those at Liverpool. And, no we’re not talking about some big, grey, unrelatable organisation. We’re talking about individuals who have worked damn hard over the past year to improve one man’s character and quality of life:
Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool captain, who has become a big brother and mentor to Suarez, the pair strengthening their relationship in the aftermath of the Ivanovic incident. Brendan Rodgers, the manager, who could easily have washed his hands of Suarez 12 months ago. But this is a leader who, from his days working with youth teams, doesn’t see players as commodities. So in came Dr Steven Peters to work with Suarez, on call, always available to the striker.
And this support network was working. Indeed, today’s revelations that Suarez has allegedly bitten EIGHT players in the past makes the work at Liverpool all the more remarkable – and the behavior of Uruguayan officials even more pathetic.
The great irony is Suarez’s ban would not have been so severe if he had shown contrition when stating his case to FIFA. That Suarez, egged on by the sycophants inside the Uruguayan FA, offered no hint of regret was enough for FIFA to hand down their four-month suspension.
But forget the wailing Uruguayan FA. It’s Liverpool which have been hurt most and Rodgers, Gerrard et al, who have been betrayed by the Suarez hangers-on.
In defending their ruling, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke urged Suarez to seek help: “He should go through treatment. It is definitely wrong.”
The question now for LFC is whether it’s all worth it? Luis Suarez is worth it. The work they’ve done is worth it. But is it worth all the stress and concern when Suarez leaves the Melwood environment to rejoin his national team?
Liverpool‘s reputation is too great to involve it with such irresponsibility