Monday 9 December 2019

Reds will miss Luis Suarez - but Suarez will miss Liverpool just as much

Luis Suarez is currently banned from football for four months
Luis Suarez is currently banned from football for four months

Chris Bascombe

With embittered predictability, there will be an argument Liverpool are better off without Luis Suarez as he finally departs the Premier League for Barcelona.

This is the default response of those who react to being dumped or, worse, it is the preferred position of those who need to preserve their carefully nurtured Presbyterian streak by suggesting sporting icons should live by higher ideals.

The sooner we stop expecting sportsmen and women to pursue a halo as much as medals, the sooner we can stop boring ourselves with annual debates about 'gamesmanship'.

Supporters pay enough to watch football without having to be subjected to lectures about whether the entertainment value is being compromised by the dubious 'character' of the most compelling performers.

Give me the theatre of the 22 most cynical b*stard players in the world trying to outclass and out-rogue each other than a meeting of choirboys chasing the fair play trophy.

Although Liverpool will not miss Suarez's penchant for crossing the boundaries between a 'win by all means' mentality and his idea of good taste (a tenderised shoulder of Italian Chiellini), Anfield and English football will be poorer without him and La Liga enriched by the third-best player in the world.

Liverpool will obviously suffer from the loss of the 31 goals and numerous assists that enabled them to challenge for the title.

He is the most naturally talented player I have seen in a Liverpool shirt, although his place in the hall of fame will be permanently fixed behind the likes of Kenny Dalglish and Steven Gerrard because he leaves with only a League Cup medal to his name.

It is this, rather like when Fernando Torres left with a trophy haul less decorated than that of Djimi Traore and Josemi, that ensures, while Suarez will be missed, the laments need not last amid that compulsory embracing of 'perspective'.

Brendan Rodgers will curse the loss of one of the greatest modern footballing talents, but relish the opportunity to build a team based on collective brilliance rather than Suarez's eclectic mix of the mind-blowing, inspirational and, more than occasionally, unpleasant.

Liverpool were more reliant on Suarez than Rodgers cared to admit last season, although it was to the manager's credit that the Uruguayan's effectiveness elevated his status to ensure Barcelona wanted him.

Rodgers designed a team to get the best out of Suarez and the fact his goal rate - especially his goal to chance ratio - increased since 2012 was no coincidence.

Suarez was indulged to the point where Rodgers was prepared to consistently re-chalk the tactics board for his benefit. For all his (misguided) sense of persecution in English football, Suarez will swiftly realise how pampered he was at Liverpool.

It is part of the culture to embrace rascals on Merseyside. Being described as 'clean cut' is an insult. If Suarez had defecated on the Anfield turf, someone somewhere would have prepared a 1,500-word essay on how he was misunderstood - no doubt arguing how he was practising a quaint, ancient South American tradition of fertilisation.

They worship their superstars as fervently in Barcelona too, of course, but Suarez will have to join the back of a longer queue of contemporaries when making his Nou Camp bow.

Having rewritten several striking records at Anfield last season, Suarez will have to break with another tradition. If he goes 18 months without noises being made about how he wishes he can come back, he'll have succeeded where Ian Rush, Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler and Torres failed.

In all cases, no sooner had they gone they were pining for a return, their striking rate never matching that on Merseyside where - even in average Liverpool sides - the second-half blitz on The Kop goal makes (most) strikers seem a yard quicker and sharper.

Suarez won't find a team built around him at Barcelona.

Nor will he encounter a home crowd or manager tolerant of those movements where the nutmegs don't come off, he concedes possession frequently and the audacious 25 yard chip goes 30 yards over.

The Kop applauded and encouraged such individuality because they expected Suarez to produce his compulsory genius a few minutes later. In the last few years he always did.

At the Nou Camp, they might start waving the white handkerchiefs if Suarez commits the ultimate sin of giving the ball away when a six-yard pass to Lionel Messi is the alternative option.

Suarez will no longer emerge from the players tunnel with the crowd singing his name incessantly for 20 minutes, nor begin every match with complete confidence he will only ever be substituted if he is injured or is being granted a standing ovation in injury time.

Given he complained last season for being photographed while shopping in the Trafford centre, Suarez may even miss the relative seclusion of living on Merseyside where the only 'paparazzi' as such consists of the same freelance bloke standing on a box outside Melwood with his long lens. Might be a bit different in Spain…

So yes, Liverpool should admit it. Loud and proud. They will really miss Luis Suarez. But give it time, and there is every chance Suarez won't half miss Liverpool.

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