Sunday 20 October 2019

Suarez gains admirer after provoking winning response from Reds


LUIS SUAREZ must have hoped he had ended another traumatic week on a high with the winner against Queens Park Rangers. Then matters took a turn for the worse.

For the second time in 48 hours, he and his club found an unlikely ally in their fight against football's authorities. QPR manager Neil Warnock is as popular at Anfield as a Manchester United season ticket (Warnock still blames Liverpool for his demise at Sheffield United four years ago) so his eulogising of Suarez as a "potentially £70m player" and defence of his right to show the middle finger at abusive fans triggers complex emotions.

Given his murky history with disciplinary boards, for many on the Kop, having Warnock endorse their opinion causes serious unease.

Perhaps Warnock sees some of his own divisive personality in the Uruguayan, or maybe as a prolific assembler of players who provoke as much bitterness as they do applause from rival supporters, the QPR manager was underlining his tendency to use his clubs as a care home for the greatly detested.

After suffering defeat because of the South American's 47th-minute header, Warnock said he would love to manage Suarez.

There are plenty in the QPR side who, like Suarez, spend their weekends trying to prove that their football skills should be noted more than their misdemeanours. The difference is that rather than being a serial offender, Suarez gives the impression trouble keeps pursuing and catching him.

He is a definer of games, a player who creates enduring memories out of humdrum fixtures, just as he did here. Watching him twist, turn and cause the kind of havoc that should have secured him a hat-trick, he performed like a personality to be cherished rather than ostracised.

Paradoxically, as the misconduct charges pile up, Suarez cuts the figure of a bemused passer-by, confused as to why each appearance in front of rival fans prompts a baying mob to start chucking rotten vegetables at him, until he becomes the one under attack for throwing a few back.

Every provocative incident in which he has been involved, both positive and negative, is rooted in the kind of passion supporters see as compulsory from those in their own shirt but despise seeing in others.

Raising a finger to opposing supporters taunting you because you have lost is childish; Suarez handled the ball in the World Cup to enable his side to reach the semi-finals; and even when he inexcusably bit an opponent playing for Ajax, it was in retaliation to being stamped upon rather than because he could not wait for the post-match toasties.

Of course, we have to see how the charge of racist language in the Manchester United match will unfold.

"The stick he gets, it is about time the FA and Premier League did something about it," said Warnock.

"He has got everything and gives 100pc every game. He never lets the defender settle. Whatever they paid for him it was worth every penny.

"His finishing wasn't so good, but he still won the match. If he scored every chance, he would be worth £70m wouldn't he?

"He was head and shoulders the best player on the pitch."

Conclusions on whether Suarez is misunderstood or crafty are determined by club loyalty.

What is not subjective, as everyone inside Anfield confirmed on Saturday, is his class as a footballer. As the taunts continued from the away end -- the QPR fans' (and Joey Barton's) sledging about the striker's physical appearance was creepy rather than scandalous -- Suarez simply continued to launch another Liverpool attack.

But for 37-year-old QPR goalkeeper Radek Cerny, Liverpool would have been out of sight at half-time. Suarez and Maxi Rodriguez were marvellous in their build-ups, but their conversion rate is weaker than that of the euro. By the 90th minute, Liverpool were anxiously smashing clearances upfield for Suarez to chase, having carelessly failed to extend their advantage.

Kenny Dalglish was typically non-committal when asked if his side's wastefulness would prompt a striker signing next month. Liverpool's lack of a natural finisher means an adventurous style of football under Dalglish is not being consistently rewarded.

"Performance wise, we don't have any problem whatsoever," said Dalglish. "Goals? Yeah, we'd love more, and we'll get more."

At the moment, everything at Anfield is focused on Suarez. If the FA decides to impose an unwanted rest on him, Dalglish will desperately need another striker to shape the narrative. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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