Suarez Signs New Liverpool Deal: I Still Hope He ***** Off To Madrid
Happy birthday, Luis Suarez. To celebrate we're revisiting Reds fan Nick Pettigrew's divisive feature. What a present, eh?
The best striker in the Premier league? Yes. A tenacious, committed player that leaves nothing on the pitch? Unquestionably. Potentially the first player to command a nine figure sum in sterling if he were sold? Maybe. Somebody a Liverpool fan would want to keep at all costs, right?
Speaking as a Liverpool fan, if we could sell him in three weeks’ time I’d drive him to the airport myself.
I remember when he arrived, already with baggage – the shoulder-biting incident whilst playing for Ajax, had marked him out as no stranger to nark and his antics on the Uruguay goal line in the World Cup earlier that year, suggested he could be the successor to Stephane Henchoz for the questionable use of hands normally reserved for Marlon King in a nightclub.
But you trust your club’s judgment, even when they’re breaking their transfer fee record for a guy who seemed to be a cross between a drunk octopus and Hannibal Lecter. And besides, we’ve all done stupid stuff when we were younger. I once pissed on a girlfriend’s bedside table in a drunken stupor, mistaking her straw (important to mention it was straw, I feel) hat for a toilet.
That’s not as stupid as breaking the transfer record shortly afterwards by paying £35m for Andy Carroll, but still pretty stupid.
So, the diving pretty soon became apparent. Again, I’d defend it, saying he was a clever rather than a conniving player, shielding the ball and shifting it between feet to force players into fouls. Often his movement was so hard to track that defenders had the choice of either bringing him down or handing him a telegram sending their best wishes to the goalkeeper.
And yes, he was a wind-up merchant, but I liked that. It put him in the category of Players You Love In Your Team But Hate In Somebody Else’s. You can list others yourself – Roy Keane, Craig Bellamy, Arjen Robben spring to mind – players that have opposition fans tearing down the stairs to scream abuse over the hoardings, only to gingerly walk back to their seats after their keeper gets lobbed from 30 yards.
Then came the Evra incident.
Like any decent fan, I was horrified by the allegations but was willing to wait for the investigators to do their thing. It’s at this point that I, and many other Liverpool supporters, have a parting of the ways.
The investigation was biased. Suarez has a mixed-race family. The evidence was bullshit. Evra has form for making this kind of stuff up. And so the justifications, half-truths and blatant misunderstandings came from fellow supporters.
I read the full report, something not enough Suarez supporters seemed willing to do. Part of my other job, when I’m not writing stuff on the internet, is investigating reports of harassment and the FA’s report suggests a thorough and consistent job.
The balance of probability was satisfied, enough in civil courts and enough in these circumstances. Whether Luis Suarez is a racist or not (I don’t actually believe he is), he said some pretty nasty stuff to Evra, and that stuff was based on the fact he is black.
Before the verdict, I made a point of saying that if he were found guilty, I wanted Suarez out of my club and I would never cheer again if he scored. If I’m being honest, I didn’t think the allegations would be proven, but they were.
So, over two years later, he’s developed from a promising but inconsistent forward to the most skilful Liverpool player of the Premier League era. I genuinely believe there’s nobody in this league that can come close to him right now.
And despite that, I continue to watch him in silence and I’m praying Real Madrid come knocking with £100m in their back pocket (and Xabi Alonso in tow, but that’s another story).
Why? Because of what he turned my club into – the apologists in the embarrassing supportive t-shirts. The handshake debacle that proved he had learned nothing, nothing at all about the harm he’d caused the club. “You know what you are” from every set of fans that visit. Watching a hero like Dalglish smear dogshit over his own reputation by defending him.
And just when you think that maybe, just maybe he’s changed, he tries to eat Ivanovic, which apart from anything else should only be attempted during an episode of Man vs Food.
Yet the Kop still rings to his name and he’s a shoo-in to win player of the season amongst fans in May. Dissenting voices are notable by their absence. Why? Goals. Success. Champion’s League football. That thing we’ve not won in decades and I won’t jinx by naming.
Fans seem to have short memories, or don’t care, about the kind of person Suarez is. Maybe it’s part of the siege mentality, us against the world, of a club like ours. Understandable given our history but utterly misplaced in this instance. This isn’t ‘anti-Liverpool bias in the media’, this is understandable dislike of a pretty unlikeable player. And if nobody accuses me of ‘not being a real fan’ below the line, I’ll be amazed.
I get that people can change, can show remorse and can be forgiven for previous mistakes. But the first step is owning up to having made a mistake. We’re still waiting, Luis (and no, this non-apology issued virtually at gunpoint doesn’t count)
I do believe Liverpool could survive the loss of Suarez. Sturridge was pretty much goal-a-game in Suarez’s self-imposed absence at the start of the season. Coutinho continues to blossom into a player of rare talent and ingenuity and across the pitch we’re looking healthier than we have done in a very, very long time.
But in all likelihood Suarez will stay, at least until the end of the season. And any trophy we win along the way with Suarez in the side is going to feel like winning the lottery with money you mugged from a pensioner.
You’re a footballing genius, Suarez. Now please, for the love of god, go.
Follow Nick on Twitter, @Nick_Pettigrew