For four long years now, Liverpool FC have been racing down the platform, never quite able to get on board and scramble for a seat on the train now departing for the Champions League. How easy it is to forget already that throughout the five seasons previous to that the club rode first class all the way to the top spot in UEFA's rankings, claiming 'old big ears' itself along the way and defending it with honour thereafter. So when one member of the party, let's say a world class talent entering his prime, decides he's done with huffing and puffing and wants away, you might think he'd be deserving of a sympathetic ear.
Well, he'd probably bite it. In the curious case of el Pistolero, it seems, the only sympathetic ears left are those of his daughter - happy to join him in solitary at Melwood - and the considerable lobes of Arsene Wenger, waiting in the wings with a cheque for as derisory a sum as he can hope to get away with. His overtures to the PFA appear to have fallen on deaf - just to squeeze the metaphor dry - ears.
The club have at least - or at last - taken a hard line, though it's still possible the naughty step (and a telling off from the headmaster) may yet prove to be no more than Luis' final stepping stone as he leapfrogs to the top table. Though perhaps a last ditch roll of the dice - an attempt to protect the group and isolate the contagion while simultaneously warding off bids on at least two fronts, hoping against hope that by the time his six-match debt is paid he'll be sufficiently penitent to find his way back into gullible hearts - this may yet be the beginning of the endgame, with all efforts now focused on the extraction of maximum value from our chief asset (and liability). And hopefully from Real Madrid. It's really all down to the player, and how toxic he's willing to make an already toxic state of affairs. Many might refuse to underestimate his appetite for that…
It's a Gordian knot of a transfer wrangle, dubious claim matched swiftly with righteous counterclaim. Given that the even the estimable Pepe Reina had a contrasting version of events to present on his recent departure, it's sadly difficult, even in the case of Luis Suarez, to ascertain where the truth might lie. He has his interests to promote, the club have theirs to protect, and the fan is left, hope in his heart, peering in through the window at what is essentially a contractual dispute between employee and employer.
Suarez is straight-jacketed by his reputation now and always will be, his every word and action filtered through the opaque prism of his character. As tenacious in his pursuit of what would be his fourth transfer in eight years as he's ever been when finding goal from any which angle, he's now also confounding fan and club alike just as surely as did any opponent. He's adapted his motivation for his move as it suits, doing so by turning to the very people he blames for pushing him from these shores - the media. Did I say from these shores? No, these shores will do very well - just a couple of hundred miles south and a couple of places up the table will do, thank you very much.
On balance, you're as likely at the minute to get more sense from my one year old. Should he be sporting white sleeves on his red shirt this coming season (Suarez, not my one year old God forbid), it's likely he'll be doing little more than just taking part in the Champions League in any case.
Rant over. The real problem is, Luis Suarez has a point. All madmen have their moments of clarity, after all, stumbled upon or otherwise. It puts me in mind of Roy Keane, when the sun got to him in training - South Korea, 2002. Again, undone by his reputation. No-one had the right to talk to as good an egg as Mick McCarthy like that, if indeed talking it could be called. No, these were the words of a psychopathic traitor. Keane was rightly ostracised and judged accordingly. But again, Keane was right. That a moribund and self-absorbed FAI had scuppered Ireland's (admittedly limited) ambitions through a lack of professionalism is now forgotten. Its ultra-professional captain saw red, and got all hot and ultra-unprofessional. Point lost in the red mist.
Though Suarez and entourage may stand on shifting legal sands regarding a certain clause - it's clearly open to interpretation, perhaps even lost in translation - and the truth of conversations between player and manager will remain known only to the two of them, the bald fact remains that a player of his calibre cannot be expected to dedicate his best years to what might well prove to be a game of never-ending catch-up as the club oscillate between sixth and eighth.
Would, perhaps, that we had never rid ourselves of that troublesome priest Benitez in the first place. He'd be at the dais now reassuring the gullible - whoops - faithful that Luis was 'a good lad', and he'd be right of course - at least about the Jekyll side. Or is it the Hyde? I always forget.
That it's the issue of perceived disrespect to the club, and not alleged use of racist language or all too apparent cannibalism might give us all pause for thought, however. As it stands, in the case of Mr. Luis Suarez the club seem a house divided. At its heart a crucial working relationship has broken down - perhaps not irretrievably but it may take six missed matches of sulking (and who knows, even reflection?) to mend.
Among the fans, there seems a gap - a generation gap, it would appear. Younger fans, broadly speaking, seem more flexible in outlook. Witness his shrill reception at open training and his turn about the streets with the kids. Older fans however, and I number myself among them (sigh), range from the wait-and-see, to the ambivalent or confused, to the get-him-out now. For the kids, then, its hero worship - we need to hang onto our star turn. For those longer of tooth, it’s about loyalty. Whoops, I said it. There's the L-word.
We're fans, and let's never forget that fan is short for fanatic - or should that be fantasist. Consequently, we can be a little selective in what we choose to see. Can we, or should we, really expect loyalty from players? We're married, for better or for worse, that's our lot. With players it's a full time job, (with apologies to Michael Caine). Our fantasy is their reality - football is where we come to forget our problems in the workplace, and it's all too easy to forget that football is just that to those that play it for a living. And who among us bats an eyelid when clubs tear up the contract and sell at a time of their choosing, as they have done for as long as the game has been played for money?
Ah, but there's another dimension here - the fact that the club has gone out on a limb on more than one occasion, and sometimes dressed up in a dodgy t-shirt, to defend what the world at large saw as indefensible. And the world at large counts in all this, if only because it's a market - a fact that may account for Madrid's current state of hesitancy. Global shirt sales aside, few could argue that such a high-risk strategy could leave the club's reputation entirely untarnished - and in view of that this spot of bother may be no more or less than we deserve. Time to get karmic, learn the lesson and move on? Maybe.
The L. word aside, Rodgers is closer to the mark in his call for respect. But even this may yet prove a tall order. For all his fine talk of an amicable agreement, I find myself all too able to imagine an encounter in the coming season - Suarez wriggles free from tormented marker and finds the net before sprinting towards the Liverpool hordes and sliding to his knees, badge between teeth; a badge with a big gun on it. Gunners fans will know that particular pain. I'd be on my feet, too - but surprised? The only thing that can be said of the man with any certainty right now is that anything remains possible.
What would make a start is some truth from the player. A transfer request now seems futile, now that Mr. Henry has flown in to underline his displeasure. And perhaps the only reason we've not seen one submitted thus far is the potential forfeiture of - oh sweet irony - a loyalty bonus. One simple sentence along the lines of 'I want out. I want Champions League football' would have done it. Unpleasant on the ear as it might have been, it's the only way to break up. Instead, media witch hunts and fictional or non-fictional clauses and conversations and blah blah blah, etc etc etc...
For the club's part, it's time to demonstrate that, dare I say it, 'no one is bigger than the club'. It's now a mantra - if we chant it often enough we might start believing it. Because if you've been listening carefully lately what you might have been hearing is 'no one is bigger than the club. Oh, except Luis Suarez.'