Tuesday 16 January 2018

Vincent Hogan: Suarez rewarding the faith

Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

It takes a momentous leap of the imagination to glimpse Luis Suarez as any kind of antidote to the diseased heart of professional football. And, given that declarations of loyalty in the game don't often amount to more than empty politesse, perhaps his word-perfect pledge this week to remain at Liverpool will ultimately slip – alongside so much else – into the broad gutter of an industry's broken promises.

But is it anything worse than human to hope that Suarez is sincere in his stated commitment to remain "for many years" at Anfield despite reputed interest from Manchester City?

The Uruguayan still has many miles to travel in search of general redemption after the execrable lows of last season, but he has at least made a start by reminding the world that beyond the rusted reputation resides a compelling footballer.

True, there are those who will never warm to the sharkish aggression, the street-fighter anger, the exaggerated dives of a man who, palpably, doesn't adhere to too many Commandments when in pursuit of a goal.

But Liverpool stood by Suarez last season to a degree that, however unwise at times, delivered a remarkable statement of unity. That stance earned them widespread condemnation and, in Kenny Dalglish's case, you must suspect became a contributor to end-of-season dismissal.

Seldom has a club so exposed itself in support of a single employee and Suarez, it would seem, understands this. For this week's comments flew beyond the cursory avowal of honouring a professional contract.

If anything, the language caught precisely the nerve of defiance that Liverpool's supporters crave after a difficult few months in which dependence on the South American has reached an almost dysfunctional level.

A position of 13th in the Premier League table would, ordinarily, trigger something close to outrage amongst the Anfield faithful, but there is the sense of something organic building at Liverpool just now.

Brendan Rodgers inherited a limited squad and was then left hopelessly compromised during the last transfer window when the American owners decided to play hard-line poker and lost.

There is speculation too about those owners now and a spread of business interests that, some suspect, may be forcing the dilution of their immediate investment in the Anfield project. Rodgers needs at least three new faces in January, preferably one belonging to a world-class finisher. He may or may not get that.


But for the first time in decades, there is an identifiable style to how Liverpool play their football and if, at times, adherence to it borders on the obstinate, Rodgers at least radiates the aura of a man who will not waver in the courage of his convictions.

He is probably compelled to invest more faith in Suarez just now than is healthy for any manager to trust in one player, but this week's evidence suggests a dressing-room unity at the club that gives both men a fighting chance.

City, already in possession of four expensive strikers, naturally deny any interest in the Uruguayan. But the more they see that wrist-kissing goal celebration this season, the more you know Sheikh Mansour will end up smitten.

Long term, it may of course amount to no more than a fleeting exercise in public relations, but professional football should covet even the gentlest cry of sanity. And this week, Luis Suarez of all men, delivered one.

Irish Independent

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