At which point do you draw the line? At which point do Liverpool question whether they actually need Luis Suarez? Not the footballer who wins games out of nothing, but the individual who continues to throw a spanner in the works, either through the forcing of misguided public embarrassment or throwing away a chunk of his footballing calendar. This time around following the bite on Giorgio Chiellini, Suarez will miss 13 games for Liverpool.
Maybe there is some inconsistency here. Why should Suarez’s punishment from an incident which took place on international duty spill over into his club football? It’s pretty much unheard of. In fact, at no point does a suspension dished out in domestic league play spill over into UEFA competition, or vice versa.
Maybe we shouldn’t be looking at that side of this story, though. There should be absolute condemnation for a player who has previous – and not in the way one of the game’s rougher defenders likes to let an opposition forward know he’s there with an early challenge. Is there any way it can be argued that Suarez isn’t a liability, either for his club or country?
Forget the ability of a player who took home the Player of the Year award last season with the majority vote, or the player who many expect to challenge Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for the right to be called best in the world. That should all go out the window.
Since 2010, Suarez has been banned for 48 games (per The Guardian). All retrospective punishments. These aren’t mistimed challenges that can be explained away with ease. We’re not in the realm of defending someone by suggesting he ‘isn’t that type of player.’ Suarez very much is that type of player. He’s bitten three different opposition players since 2010. He’s racially abused Patrice Evra. At the end, there’s always someone else to blame, someone else to apportion some of the subsequent burden.
Liverpool need to assess whether this player is worth it. They’ve stood by and defended him in the past. Nothing changed. The t-shirt embarrassment of Kenny Dalglish’s second term in charge as club manager didn’t persuade Suarez to alter his ways. He couldn’t be convinced that his actions were damaging the reputation of his club, as well as himself. 19 months later he took a chunk out of Branislav Ivanovic.
The club had an excellent chance of winning the Premier League title last season. The intention, obviously, was to use that positive step as momentum for the upcoming campaign. How much irreparable damage will be done over the course of nine Premier League games Suarez will miss, or the first three Champions League ties?
Had it been another situation where injury was the principle factor, we’d be asking the same questions: how much damage will Suarez’s four-month injury layoff affect Liverpool? It’s the same as asking how Barcelona would fare without Messi or Real Madrid without Ronaldo.
But this is self-inflicted. If Liverpool do decide to hold firm as they did last summer and retain Suarez into next season, who’s to say this current suspension will be the only one of this upcoming season? The player is a loose cannon. You simply don’t know what you’re going to get from him away from the brilliance of just playing football.
I’ve maintained for the past 12 months that Liverpool won’t necessarily be worse off without Suarez. Replacing the player’s production, either through one individual or a small band, isn’t an impossible task. Naturally, no club will want to part with a player of such high quality. But that isn’t the primary talking point. It’s whether the club can keep a hold of a player who continues to show such recklessness on the pitch.