Perhaps had Liverpool striker Luis Suarez slept with his sister-in-law, urinated on a homeless man, cheated on his pregnant wife with a prostitute or intentionally set out to end a fellow players career, the incessant din of the moralising media blowhards would have been less migraine-inducing. But then again maybe it wouldn’t because as the Uruguayan himself recently observed, the name Suarez sells.
Whilst undoubtedly an insanely stupid act, Suarez’ bite on Branislav Ivanovic doesn’t begin to compare with the aforementioned misdemeanours of certain figures in the English game and, if anything, merely hovers somewhere between certifiable and hilarious. Among the more hysterical over-reactions have been calls for Liverpool to tear up Suarez’ contract and thereby relieve the club of its one remaining asset of significant value. It’s an idiotic suggestion if for no other reason than the precedent of sacking misbehaving players would lead to most match day line-ups consisting of an assortment of physios and tea ladies.
Other voices have demanded Liverpool at least sell their star player. Although initially unpalatable to Liverpool fans, perhaps this isn’t the worst idea in the world, even if these commentators arrived at their opinion via a High Horse.
On the face of it, it seems defeatist bordering on suicidal for a club that seems to grow more and more comfortable with mid table life with each passing season to sell their one world class player. But a more cool-headed appraisal of the situation at the very least makes for a valid argument.
Prior to the Ivanovic incident Suarez’s Liverpool future was already in question with the player recently admitting to be open to a move to a Champions League club. Were the Uruguayan to remain at Anfield, next season would most likely be his last, unless the club were to finish in the top four. Despite what optimistic fans may say, there’s little chance of that happening. For starters, the Reds would require Suarez to have a similarly sensational season to his current one and that’s probably asking too much – particularly when, after serving a lengthy ban for Sunday’s indiscretion, he will have considerably less games in which to shine.
Not that a dip in the form of Suarez would be the only obstacle to a top four finish. Brendan Rodgers is a rookie manager still learning his trade but unfortunately doesn’t appear to be learning quickly enough, making the same errors week after week with any discernible improvement from the Dalglish reign visible only through deluded eyes.
Rodgers is presiding over a defence that resembles a group of panicked blind men dancing around a live grenade every time a cross comes into the area, a discordant midfield that looks like various individuals who’ve each turned up to the wrong school reunion and an attacking strategy that seems to rely solely on Suarez producing an outrageous piece of skill in every game. It’s difficult to see how the growing chasm between the Anfield side and their top four quarry is going to be closed any time soon. Add to this the modest budget Rodgers will have to lure players of sufficient quality to the seventh best team in England and the smart money would have been on Suarez leaving in the summer of 2014 at the latest, regardless of last weekend’s events.
So, is it worth keeping the player for the extra twelve months? Rodgers would argue yes, confident as he would no doubt be in his own abilities to break into the elite, despite what the evidence suggests. The fans too would no doubt balk at the suggestion of selling the one player through whom they can still make a vicarious link to the game’s aristocracy. However, the arguments for selling appear to be more numerous and compelling.
As mentioned, it’s unlikely Suarez will be as potent next season as this. He will also be a year closer to the maturity of his contract and these two reasons make it hard to see his value being retained, much less increasing. There is also the possibility of Liverpool holding onto an unhappy player. Conspiracy theorists have noted that one of a transfer-seeking Suarez’ final acts in Holland was to bite an opponent. Perhaps Sunday’s Ivanovic bite was more premeditated than first appears. Again, were Suarez to spend next season sulking it would seriously damage his value.
So what sort of effect would Suarez’ departure have on the team? As universally acknowledged the Uruguayan is a world class talent but he is also an individualist with a propensity to try to do it all on his own. Whether borne of a lack of faith in inferior team mates or stratospheric levels of self-belief, Suarez often seems blissfully unaware of the presence of others in a red shirt, preferring instead to find his own way to goal. More often than not this has worked this season, but there are times when the entire attack breaks down as a result of Suarez’ over-indulgence, trying to nutmeg a third defender when it would be easier to play a team mate through on goal. Such has been the poverty of alternative ideas in Liverpool’s attack this season, it’s a criticism that rarely gets aired but that’s not to say it’s without merit.
You could argue that Suarez’ unpredictability is both his strength and the team’s weakness. It would be interesting to see what affect his departure would have on the likes of Raheem Sterling, freed as the youngster would be from the additional burden of trying to second guess his strike partner’s next likely move. Perhaps Suarez’ exit would also enable Rodgers to plan for the future in a more holistic manner. At present there’s a feel to the side of Suarez plus ten others. Although he would never admit as much, Rodgers threats his star striker differently from the other players, his refusal to ever countenance substituting the forward bearing witness to that. Freed from the necessity to micromanage his stellar performer, Rodgers might perhaps feel more like the manager of a team and not a linear hierarchy.
Then again, perhaps the sale would have a disastrous effect on the team, but that, in itself, would not necessarily be a bad thing. There remains the suspicion that Suarez’ form has papered over some glaring cracks in Rodgers’ coaching abilities, and if so, the sooner these are exposed the better it’ll be for the long term future of the club.
None of which is to say losing Suarez would be a positive but losing him for £50m might. With owners FSG reluctant to sanction a spending spree of any consequence, the additional funds in the transfer kitty could go a long way to making the first team competitive again. The question then would be whether the man who spent £25m on Joe Allen and Fabio Borini could be trusted to wisely spend the newfound wealth……
Whatever the club decide to do, the option of selling Suarez should be given careful consideration - just not for the reason the moralising media blowhards believe.