Wednesday 25 April 2018

Incredible sulk has become Superman

Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez

Eamonn Sweeney

My daughters thought Luis Suarez chomping down on Branislav Ivanovic's arm was the comedy highlight of the year. We wound and rewound the incident on Sky Player and their delighted laughter at the lunacy of it all never diminished. The eldest even drew me a picture of a large toothed figure saying, "Do your work or I'll bite you says Luis Suarez," and hung it over my desk.

Suarez's time in England had come to assume a somewhat cartoonish air even before he assuaged his hunger by snacking on the nearest Serb. I could see why the kids thought of him as a kind of overly aggressive Moshi Monster. And when he proclaimed his wish to leave Liverpool and a tedious chorus of old pros invoked the sanctified spirit of Bill Shankly and decried the striker's lack of loyalty, Suarez couldn't have seemed more of a Panto villain if he'd donned a wide-brimmed black hat and twirled the ends of his handlebar moustache.

Yet, as I write this, news has just come in that the Uruguayan striker has signed up to stay at Liverpool for another four-and-a-half years. The reported £200,000-a-week wage will make him the highest paid player in the club's history. And the funny thing is that even his most vocal former critics will hardly complain that Suarez isn't worth the money. Because right now Luis Suarez has pulled off the biggest image change since Beauty kissed Beast and turned him back into the handsome prince of yore.

There's seldom been a Premier League season with such a fascinating first half. The oscillations of form and reversals of fortune have given us a campaign where you really don't know what's going to happen at the weekend. But the one constant has been the form of Luis Suarez. Ever since coming back from his suspension for that act of attempted cannibalism, the little man from Salto has been good enough to evoke memories of the Anfield glory days of Keegan and Dalglish.

Suarez tops the Premier League scoring charts with 19 goals with Sergio Aguero on 13 and Daniel Sturridge on nine his nearest rivals. This is an impressive total, beaten by only three players over the whole of last season, but what makes it unprecedented in the top flight is that his suspension means Suarez has only played 12 games. Despite this he's scored more goals than half of the Premier League's teams. And what makes his season so spectacular is that most of the goals have been memorable ones. It's the kind of thing Messi and Ronaldo have been doing in La Liga but no one has quite achieved in the Premier League.

Coming just a few months after the player seemed utterly sick of both the League and Liverpool, the turnaround says a great deal for his character. Plenty of want-away footballers have pined and sulked until their club has had no option but to offload them in the next transfer window. That Suarez hasn't done so, and has almost singlehandedly made Liverpool into utterly unexpected title challengers, also vindicates the stance of Brendan Rodgers in insisting that he stay at Anfield.

Of course Suarez being Suarez there's always the chance he'll soon do something which causes his new-found tabloid friends to fall out of love with him. But right now he's the best thing about the Premier League by a mile.

I'm still winding and rewinding Luis Suarez's exploits for the kids. Only this time I'm telling them to look at this because it's beautiful. It's what football's all about.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport