Just as we were turning our focus back onto the World Cup, with two knockout stage matches being settled by penalty shootouts, Luis Suarez got his name back onto the sport pages of the English newspapers with his apology.
The striker released a statement on his personal website, apparently with the Uruguayan FA or Liverpool unaware of this act, saying he was sorry for biting Giorgio Chiellini. Some cynical football fans are convinced that he’s been told to make a public apology to help his move to either Barcelona or Real Madrid, but what should we make of the fact that since the incident, the emphasis on Liverpool has mainly been that they are the victims of this?
The club are not only left embarrassed and disgraced from Suarez’s actions, they are also left in the difficult position of working out what to do with the troubled forward. Do they sell him, or do they hold onto a man who has been far and away their best player since his arrival at Anfield? Are they really just the innocent sufferers from the incident, or are they to blame for the striker’s third animalistic attack on another player?
In the 14 months that have passed since Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic was bitten by Suarez, the club have been working hard to create a ‘New Luis’ image around Anfield. Rodgers has repeatedly stood by the Uruguayan, praising him for how he acts at the club, and the respect he shows to all members of staff around Melwood, as well as his attitude during training (something he won’t be able to do for the next four months.) The fans have been quickly encouraged to forgive Suarez for demanding to leave the club for Arsenal over the summer, with the whole talk of a switch to the Gunners now swept under the carpet and forgotten about.
In order to keep Suarez happy, the club have publicly built him up to be their number 1 player. Their star. While Rodgers will always say it’s a team effort and about the 11 players on the pitch, the marketing department have done their bit to build Suarez’s ego. Visit Anfield, and just a short distance from the famous Bill Shankly statue is a giant image of Suarez and Gerrard advertising the new Liverpool kit, overlooking the great manager. But while he’s level with the skipper in the ad, he’s even bigger when it comes to the pitch.
Kopites will know that when Peter McDowell announces the players’ names, the Uruguayan is the last man to be revealed to the crowd, and is given extra emphasis by both McDowell and the supporters. It doesn’t matter that their skipper has been at the club through thick and thin since making his debut back in 1998. It doesn’t matter that Gerrard has rescued them from the brink on countless occasions. Luis Suarez is still given a better reception. McDowell echoes and elongates his name, and the Kop responds as if they had just seen a goal, singing and chanting his name until Roberto Martinez can hear across Stanley Park.
But treating Suarez like a hero has just built up the Uruguayan’s ego. And the club heave reaped the benefits of that for the season, as he scored 31 goals to help the club push for the league title. It seemed that as the size of Suarez’s head increased, so did his ability. He left for Brazil being tipped as a potential Golden Boot winner. And when injury threatened his tournament altogether, the whole of Uruguay panicked, boosting Suarez’s self-confidence more as he was aware just how much his country were relying on him. Sitting on the bench as his country was beaten by Costa Rica, Suarez was ready to show the world he was fit and healthy against England, whose FA had banned him for a total of 17 matches during his short time in their country.
Roy Hodgson didn’t help much either, claiming Suarez needed to prove himself on the World Cup to be known as a great, he challenged the striker to hurt England. And the 27-year-old did just that. The hero that defeated the English, his two World Cup goals made him a god. Uruguay lose to the minnows without him, but then beat the enemy when he plays. It was going to be Suarez’s tournament.
But the ‘incredible’, ‘unstoppable’ Suarez couldn’t make an impact against Italy during their must win match to reach the knockout stage. With his summer just a handful of minutes away from ending, the 27-year-old lashed out in frustration. Debate between yourselves whether he regressed to a childlike state or something more sinister, what we do know is that King Luis couldn’t accept failure.
Liverpool built up this hero status, this ego, this incredible figure that is Luis Suarez. Rodgers valued him at £100million, which would be more than what Gareth Bale cost just 12 months ago. And despite having Sports Psychiatrist Dr. Steve Peters at the club working with the players one day a week, the Reds failed to correct the Uruguayan’s terrible habit that we must now call it.
Suarez learnt that with Liverpool he would always be forgiven for his misdemeanours. Be it racial abuse or biting an opponent, he would forever be welcomed back by Kopites. Many fans did call for Suarez to be sold after the Ivanovic bite. Plenty of supporters said it was an outrage and that he shouldn’t wear the club badge again. But where are they now? There are no banners calling for Suarez to be sold, nor complaints that he starts each match. The striker was forgiven, as he was for abusing Evra, (who has been booed by some Liverpool fans during matches against Manchester United). When the king was punished, he was welcomed back with open arms, as fans anticipated a flurry of goals. Instead of having to work hard to make it up to the Kop, learn that it wasn’t acceptable and slowly build his way back to being a welcomed squad member, Suarez returned a hero, and never properly learnt about how damaging his actions are.