There is a great sense of naivety about all this, as if Brendan Rodgers hasn’t quite grasped the concept of wrestling with the big boys in the transfer market.
The whole song and dance about being admirable in standing up to higher powers (sort of, in Arsenal’s case) will only go so far. I don’t think anyone at the club sees a great deal of sense in keeping Luis Suarez beyond this summer, football reasons or not. But the fact is Liverpool desperately don’t want to sell to a club who they deem rivals in the Premier League. That’s fine, we get it, everyone should hold that line of thinking. But this whole thing is really blowing up in Liverpool’s face following their course of action in this particular battle.
Let’s get owner John W. Henry out of the way first. I saw his tweet, at the time retweeted by hundreds of users. I wasn’t too shocked honestly. I thought it was one of those parody accounts so I just ignored it. It was only when a handful of journalists caught wind of it and started to comment that I saw it for what it was. Maybe it’s funny, maybe it has some legs to stand on; indeed what were Arsenal smoking when they threw in an extra pound on the £40 million bid? It’s a provocative move that would surely wind up anyone if taken in the wrong context. Furthermore, if Arsenal are willing to pay £30 million above their comfort level, what’s an extra £100,000 for the sake of diplomacy?
But the story here is the owner of a major club in England using the kind of language that would normally be associated with a gathering of “yutes” (thanks, Joe Pesci) who are clumsily trying to form an amusing backlash to something deemed out of hand. I don’t know, maybe that’s the way they do it in the MLB. Ozzie Guillen?
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Luis Suarez wants out. Were it not for Gareth Bale, this story would be the biggest transfer talking point of this summer, surpassing the Wayne Rooney affair. Liverpool have every right to man their posts and unleash a barrage of flaming arrows upon anyone who tries to invade (metaphorically, of course). It’s the way the transfer game is played. Daniel Levy has gotten plenty of criticism for leaving it late on many occasions, but never has the Tottenham chairman been questioned for his lack of professionalism.
Brendan Rodgers has quickly taken to being a manager at a big club. He’s dived right in and attempted to retain and reinforce the values of the club. Again, nothing wrong with that. There’s a popular insult levelled at Liverpool for them taking on a victim approach, regardless of whether it’s right or wrong to use that against them following certain incidents. But those aside, this is very much the club, and specifically Rodgers, playing the victim card. Liverpool have a wonderful winning tradition, but I don’t think the world needs the current manager to use it in the fight to keep a player who clearly couldn’t care less.
Why should Suarez apologise? Doesn’t the manager know that his star player wants out? Apologise or you’ll never play for Liverpool again. Well I’m quite sure Suarez would take the latter. He didn’t apologise to his teammates and fans following the Patrice Evra incident, at least not publicly, and he didn’t do it following his “clash” with Branislav Ivanovic. Would John Henry’s choice of words be inappropriate now? For me, yes it would, but it applies.
Suarez is Superman: he’s training in his icy fortress of solitude and won’t be paired up with the rest of the Justice League until he sees the sins of his ways. As Rodgers continued to pile on the matter, trying to force something from the player that benefits the club by mentioning previous misdemeanours, Suarez, in his icy fortress, is having a party knowing his days at Anfield are coming to an end. Rodgers’ words have played right into the player’s interview with the Guardian and Telegraph last week. It seemed as though nothing more could be done to signal the Uruguayan’s departure. Apparently not.
So who is this benefitting? I wrote last month that Liverpool would do extremely well to just move the player on and get it over with. Take up arms if you must, but Suarez won’t be at Anfield long term, and the building towards Champions League football and eventually a place among the title contenders is bigger than the player, although judging from the manager’s actions you have to question that.
It doesn’t matter that the six-match ban more or less gives Liverpool the time to run this one down to the wire, it’s the fact that the fans clearly don’t want him anymore (there’s proof: something about Ian Ayre, Ryanair, Celtic, and a handful of Liverpool supporters) but the club are steadily chipping even further away at their own reputation, the same one that took a real battering during Kenny Dalglish’s second term in charge.
I get it: for Liverpool at this time, Suarez is one of a kind. Rodgers wants him to stay because it makes his job easier. Sort of. Even with a return of £40-50 million from the sale, Liverpool may struggle to replace adequately. It’s one thing to have no European football on the cards this season; it’s a completely different story to have an increasingly diminishing pool of talent from which to choose, specifically those who can make up Suarez’s 30 goals.
But sometimes you just need to accept it. Don’t try and justify diving, cheating and biting and then take the supreme moral high ground over a player who expresses a desire to leave and play elsewhere.
Arsenal have their critics and a list as long as your arm of things they shouldn’t have done in the past. But what exactly have Arsenal done wrong here? Arsenal remained dignified in the face of the whole of Catalonia driving the knife in while the then wantaway star took the handle and added a few twists. The sale went through but that saga will be remembered for Barcelona’s underhand tactics, not Arsenal’s poor performance on the transfer front. It remained behind closed doors as best it could from the Arsenal standpoint, and they eventually moved on.
Rodgers would be wise to follow suit. Suarez is an outstanding player, but no player is worth the long-term reputation of a club.
Have Liverpool handled the Suarez saga poorly thus far?
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