Luis Suarez on way home as Liverpool wait to see if Barcelona or Real will activate release clause
Luis Suárez was sent home in disgrace from the World Cup on Thursday night after being hit with a record ban that threatened to spell the end of his Liverpool career.
Serial biter Suárez was condemned to spend four months as a pariah by Fifa, which banned him from “all footballing activity” until the end of October and nine competitive Uruguay matches, starting with Saturday's last-16 clash with Colombia.
Fifa’s disciplinary committee showed no mercy after viewing multiple angles of Suárez’s shocking attack on Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in his country’s final Group D game on Tuesday, his third biting offence in four years.
The 27-year-old’s four-month suspension will encompass 13 Liverpool matches, including their first three Champions League fixtures, more than the 10 games he missed for biting Branislav Ivanovic last year.
He will be prevented from setting foot in any stadium in the world or any training ground used by his club or country and will be forced to maintain his fitness alone.
The heaviest punishment ever handed out to a player at a World Cup - which included a £66,000 fine - also forced Uruguay to evict him from their team hotel in Brazil and he was on Thursday night travelling back to Montevideo to contemplate his fate.
The Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) quickly announced its intention to appeal the “excessive” punishment but Suárez returning home was tantamount to an admission that his World Cup was over.
The same could be said for his Liverpool career, with the club promising a “thorough” investigation into an episode that has seen Suárez bring shame on them once more.
Having stood by him through his previous racism and biting bans, they must now decide whether his latest crime outweighs the talent and goals that saw him named the Premier League’s undisputed player of the year this season.
Addressing the scandal has become the No 1 priority at Anfield, with all other business put on hold, including the protracted signing of Adam Lallana from Southampton.
Liverpool will take legal advice over the Fifa verdict and are unlikely to adopt a formal position on his ban before the weekend but any decision over Suárez’s future could be taken out of their hands if Barcelona or Real Madrid meet a release clause for the player, understood to be somewhere between £65 million and £80 million.
Even before this week’s extraordinary storm, Suárez had looked bent on forcing a move from England and Uruguayan sources indicated on Thursday night that he would seek to use what the Uruguayan FA and media have branded an English, Italian and Brazilian conspiracy against him to argue that he cannot be expected to play on in England.
His repeat offending has sparked calls from mental-health professionals for him to undergo psychological treatment but Fifa confirmed its sanction did not include a requirement for him to seek help.
The chairman of its disciplinary committee, Claudio Sulser, said only: “Such behaviour cannot be tolerated on any football pitch and, in particular, not at the Fifa World Cup, when the eyes of millions of people are on the stars on the field.
“The disciplinary committee took into account all the factors of the case, and the degree of Mr Suárez’s guilt in accordance with the relevant provisions of the code.”
Uruguay were given three days to lodge an appeal but Fifa regulations allow the ban to remain in force during that process, preventing Suárez from playing in Uruguay’s game against Colombia tomorrow.
AUF president Wilmar Valdez, who pleaded his case to the disciplinary committee, said: “It is an excessive decision and there was not enough evidence and I have seen more aggressive incidents recently.
“It is a severe punishment. I don’t know exactly which arguments they used but it is a tough punishment for Suárez.
“It feels like Uruguay has been thrown out of the World Cup. We all know what Suárez means to Uruguay and to football around the world - not having Suárez would be a loss to any team.”
Valdez insisted they was no possibility of Uruguay boycotting the World Cup in protest, adding: “We have good players who can come in.”
The Uruguayan government also hit out at Suárez’s sanction yesterday, with sports minister Liliam Kechichian posting on Twitter “this disproportionate sanction hurts us” and promising to meet president Jose Mujica to discuss the matter.
Suárez could lose more than just his ability to play following his ban.
Boot supplier adidas, who warned the player about his conduct after he bit Branislav Ivanovic last year, said it would do so again and would “discuss all aspects of our future partnership directly with Suárez and his team following the World Cup.” Online bookmaker 888poker, for whom Suárez is also an ambassador, announced on Wednesday it was considering dropping the player.
Suárez’s paternal grandmother admitted on Thursday that his parents’ divorce may be behind the striker’s “explosive outbursts”.
“I don’t know what’s going on with my ‘Negrito’,” Piriz said - using an affectionate nickname that is, ironically, the same word that landed Suárez his racism ban. I don’t know why he has these explosive outbursts. He can’t control them, even though he has everything he needs to be happy. Maybe it’s his parents’ divorce, the hardships they went through.”
Piriz, who still lives in a modest home in Salto despite her grandson’s celebrity, said Suárez inherited his personality from his father, a soldier who was himself a local footballer.
“We never thought Luisito was going to be the most famous of the bunch with that personality of his,” she said.
Pablo Martinez, a sports psychologist from Uruguay’s University of the Republic, said: “He has been treated by a psychologist for anger management and I thought he had it under control.”