Downing wants peers tojudge Suarez on play not prejudice
No sooner had Luis Suarez completed his latest hat-trick performance against Wigan Athletic, the conversation inevitably turned towards whether he had secured several extra crosses in the ballot box for the Footballer of the Year vote.
"It should only be judged on his performance on the field," Stewart Downing said.
That such a point should need emphasising is symptomatic of the highly developed streak of sanctimony infecting the chattering circle of football. Are we no longer making a judging the Footballer of the Year based solely on who is the best footballer of the year?
Suarez's misdemeanours might be regarded so nauseating, it would not matter if in his next game he juggled the ball 60 yards before chipping the goalkeeper with a back-heeled volley.
How reassuring it is to know the Patrice Evra race abuse affair and a propensity to dive make Suarez unfit to join an honours roll inclusive of the paragons of virtue Cristiano Ronaldo and John Terry.
Downing, who headed Liverpool's first goal, called on his fellow professionals to stick to the usual measures.
"It should be judged on how he plays. Nothing else should matter," he said.
"Obviously he's had things which have happened in the past, but he's got on with his football and does his job at the end of the day. The number of goals he's scored is frightening."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is not convinced performances will be the deciding factor.
"I am not sure," he said. "Everyone understands his passion and he has got himself into trouble a couple of times. But when you come away and judge the player of the season on performance level and goals, then I can't see how you cannot look any further than him.
"I would hope other people will do that, certainly the professionals within the game. He is a genuine world-class player."
If these worries are valid, one wonders what type of players are wanted in the Premier League. Ask any manager what they want in their squad. Skill, yes, but personalities who can be a rascal are more desirable than timid boy-scouts.
Give Roy Hodgson more Wayne Rooneys, playing on the edge, and less Theo Walcotts who still looks like he goes bob-a-jobbing and disappears in the toughest venues.
Whether Suarez is selling the English game with objectionable as much as desirable publicity, he enhances the Premier League.
Suarez was captivating from first to last here. His touch was beguiling, goals a mixture of the great and the good, and his willingness to run to lung capacity makes you wonder if he needs an oxygen bottle rather than energy drink at the final whistle.
The Uruguayan is instantly working in tandem with Phillipe Coutinho, creator of the first two goals with the kind of nimble feet, vision and ability to execute a pass which could transform Liverpool from an exciting attacking unit to a mesmerising one.
It was Suarez's day. One of his many this season. If he does not win Player of the Year because Gareth Bale is considered even better, so be it. If he is ignored because we are handing out a halo rather than a trophy, they may as well as host this summer's ceremony in a church.
(© Daily Telegraph, London)