It’s been less than 12 hours, but Luis Suarez’s bite incident with Branislav Ivanovic seems already predestined to enter the Premier League‘s Hall of Shame. In the same week the Uruguayan was nominated for the PFA Players’ Player Of The Year, the latest of his misconducts has put the Liverpool striker in the eye of the storm – blurring his league merits in the process. But, is his behaviour reason enough for Suarez to lose, scandals apart, a well deserved award?
Just minutes after the PFA announced the shortlist of nominees for the Player Of The Year award, hundreds of polls in several media, websites and football forums were asking the fans who their favourite was to succeed Robin van Persie as the best Premier League footballer this season. The Dutchman, also nominated this year, Gareth Bale or even Michael Carrick were the most demanded names, while the Premier League top scorer and Liverpool hero took a secondary position. No doubt, his personality and manners on the pitch have an impact on people’s assessment of his footballing virtues.
The sad reality is that if we merely stick to football reasons and try to choose the winner judging exclusively ‘who has been the best Premier League player this season’, the answer should be Luis Suarez. Having a bad temper on the pitch is not something that eases the always difficult task of sticking ball in the opponent’s net, and he has done it on 23 occasions this season – and there will be no more after he receives the appropriate punishment – similary, no adding to his 10 assists.
Only van Persie matches his numbers – 21 goals, 13 assists – and will probably beat them by the end of the season, but the club circumstances should not be overlooked when conceding individual awards, and it is here where the Uruguayan takes the lead. No other player – Gareth Bale would be the closest one on this aspect – has had a bigger importance to his club. Therefore, while van Persie has been the finisher of the indisputably best team in the league, Suarez has made his way through to the top of the scorers’ table in a team that lies in 7th position in the league. A true reflection of this is the percentage of goals they have scored for their respective teams: 37.7% compared to RVP’s 28%.
Regardless of his numerous controversies, Suarez has been one of the best players, if not the best, this season, and the nomination is simply admitting it whether we like him or not. Gary Lineker claimed via Twitter after the game that the striker should be withdrawn as a Player Of The Year contender. Doing that would be ruling out every one of his 23 goals for a bad gesture that was not related to any of them – if anything, to the 23rd, as he should have been sent off. The award recognises the best player of the season, and every player should be eligible to win it. His punishment should come from the FA and from his club, but never affect the merits he has earned by scoring goals and being a vital component of his team.
Is Suarez going to win the PFA award, then? Of course not. Dives, brawls, bad gestures to fans and racial scandals seem a way to heavy burden to shrug off. Biting an opponent is the straw that breaks the camel’s back and could cost him his future at Liverpool, but the PFA honour was lost long ago and it’s perfectly understandable.
After all, Robert De Niro would have never won an Oscar if he had bitten, kicked, punched or racially abused the judges.