Thursday 22 February 2018

Circus Suarez wants to escape will simply follow him

Liverpool's failure to progress has forced their star man's hand.

Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez

Dion Fanning

Robin Van Persie decided to join Manchester United when the "little boy inside" made his feelings known. Luis Suarez's relationship with his inner child seems to be a little more complex.

The psychological compulsions that prompted Suarez to bite Branislav Ivanovic in April are more interesting than the screaming headlines of condemnation that followed this essentially comic act.

When Suarez was banned for 10 games, in part because of the outrage, it seemed inevitable he would leave Liverpool. When Liverpool's season petered out long before into the pursuit of abstract performance objectives – goals scored, clean sheets – the decision might well have been made.

Brendan Rodgers is entitled to claim there is evidence of progress but, at the age of 26, Suarez is equally entitled to say he would like some clearer signs.

This would have been the straightforward way out of Liverpool but, like Ike and Tina, Suarez never does things nice and easy. It would have been simple for one of the world's most coveted players to announce that he wanted to leave a club which finished closer to the relegation zone than the top of the table last season. It would seem obvious that a club that has finished sixth, eighth and seventh during Suarez's time could no longer offer much to somebody wanted by Real Madrid. Suarez could simply have produced the stories linking Liverpool to Reading and Ireland's Alex Pearce as clinching evidence and most people would have shrugged and said, "You're right, it's time to move on".

By blaming factors outside Liverpool's control, Suarez might have wanted to protect the club. He might have concluded that having been defended, sometimes blindly, by Liverpool's supporters, they would have willingly agreed with his claim that he was hounded by the media, especially as there is some truth in it. He may also have hoped Liverpool would be more co-operative in any move if it was the media's failures rather than the club's which were blamed.

The media response to some of his actions has, at times, been preposterous. But if Liverpool were in the Champions League next season, Suarez would probably have found a way not to read the papers and overcome his sense of persecution – real and imagined – from the establishment.

The truth may be that there are no compelling reasons for Suarez to stay in Liverpool and put up with whatever it is he has to put up with.

If Suarez's strategy was to ensure a swift and comfortable exit, it may have failed. The club are said to have been surprised by his comments and are settling in for some long negotiations during which they will demand £50m for a player they can say, with some justification, is a more dangerous player than Fernando Torres when he went for that price in January 2011.

Unlike Torres, Suarez can seem mad, bad and dangerous to know – or at least to man-mark at set-pieces. His transfer fee has been affected by his reputation but he remains a player who would improve most sides in the world.

There is reportedly a clause in Suarez's contract which says that Liverpool must listen to offers of more than £40m. This is a vague concept which seems designed to encourage an auction, something Real Madrid will hope to avoid.

Suarez has helped them by coming over all bashful when talking about the club. Rafa Benitez's Napoli, who could well be looking for a forward if Edison Cavani leaves, were interested but they believe Suarez is heading to Madrid which is something of a shame. Suarez would have been a fine heir to Maradona and his approach to football would have been looked upon favourably in Naples.

Suarez was loved in Liverpool too but football fans remain loyal while a player remains at the club and is useful. There were valid points to be made in Suarez's defence, even during the Patrice Evra case, but they were made with such vehemence not because Liverpool supporters'

innate sense of justice was offended but because it was affecting them.

They will be comforted by the statistic that shows that Liverpool have a far better win percentage without Suarez than with him.

Even with his many suspensions, this sample may be too small and flawed. Suarez missed five league games this season and Liverpool won four of those games. With the exception of the West Ham victory in December, these were end-of-season games against Newcastle, Fulham and QPR and could be said to be representative of very little. Liverpool will believe they can survive without Suarez, pointing out that Arsenal finished with three more points this season than they did last when they were supposedly a one-man side dependent on Robin van Persie.

Yet Liverpool need more than a three-point improvement if they are to make the top four which is their only target for next season. Without Suarez, they may again fall back on the abstract and there is a danger that they will become a side which is always rebuilding in anticipation of a glorious future.

Suarez's future will continue to be fascinating, even for the quirk that he will once again join a club while serving a suspension for biting an opponent. He will continue to be drawn to trouble, that won't change because he is leaving the English media behind.

Most of the problems Suarez suggests he is fleeing will end up accompanying him. They are part of him, not a part of Liverpool or England. These troublesome aspects of his personality will simply have to be accommodated on a bigger stage.

Irish Independent

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