Saturday 16 December 2017

Suarez can restore Kop feel-good factor

Mark Ogden

To suggest that Luis Suarez is just the character to get his teeth into the challenge of wearing Liverpool's No 7 shirt would perhaps inadvertently evoke painful memories of the ban handed down to the Uruguayan for biting an opponent this season.

Castigated during the World Cup last summer by many for the goal-line handball which denied Ghana a place in the semi-finals, Suarez increased his notoriety last November by earning his seven-game suspension for biting the shoulder of PSV Eindhoven's Otman Bakkal during an Eredivisie match while playing for Ajax.

Seven has clearly not proven so lucky for Liverpool's new £22.8m forward and, with the shirt number that has become iconic at Anfield through the feats of Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish having been tarnished by recent incumbents such as Harry Kewell and Robbie Keane, Suarez might have chosen one that carries less of a historic burden.

But the 24-year-old's reaction to the biting incident, which earned him the 'Cannibal of Ajax' nickname, highlighted the mental toughness and combative streak which is likely to accelerate his acclimatisation to English football. Suarez merely shrugged off the controversy and insisted he had no regrets.

He is tough, single-minded and, according to Dalglish, a player who can restore the feel-good factor to Anfield, with his arrival coinciding with the departure of Fernando Torres to Chelsea.

"Luis Suarez is a fantastic signing," Dalglish said. "He could have gone to other clubs but he wanted to come here. I think that's important. It's encouraging that there are still players out there who want to play for the club and have a feeling for the club.

"That should be a great signal for everybody to drive forward and make their own history. He'll be a fantastic player and we're all looking forward to seeing him play. He's fantastic in the dressing-room, that's why he was captain of Ajax.

"We have known about him for three years. When I came back here, it was early on that we were looking at him, so when we were talking about players it was pushing at an open door regarding Suarez."

The Uruguayan, who insists he has signed for "the most famous club in England", will, international clearance pending, make his Liverpool debut against Stoke at Anfield tonight.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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