Is the Luis Suarez case simply the first of many?

Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez being driven out of England? It was always going to come to this. Suarez has a reason, a tool to justify why he can and should be allowed to leave the Premier League this summer. It’s not because he’s a controversial figure on the pitch; if that were the case Real Madrid and Liverpool for that matter wouldn’t have targeted him. Instead, it’s because we in football can’t help but to completely and utterly annihilate – or attempt to – the image of a player. It’s the typical pantomime villain act being taken on to a harsh and fiery new level.

It’s not to say Suarez isn’t deserving of some of the backlash he’s received – he absolutely is. The racism, the biting, the cheating, have no place in the game. Why shouldn’t the media and rival supporters call him out on what he’s done wrong? The issue is that it’s an ever-present. It gives players like this an incentive and more than enough justification to ask for a transfer away. It’s not that football or sports can’t have villains – how far into the entertainment realm has football gone? But the problem here is that England is inadvertently driving away its best players simply because it’s a bit of fun to hate them.

And it’s not just the Suarezs of the football world. We seemingly love to obsess and hate those with inflated transfer fees, as if there’s nothing more satisfying in football than watching a big-money signing fail. The jealously isn’t as masked on some as they’d like to think.

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Fernando Torres arrived in England as one of Europe’s most exciting players. Prior to his move to Liverpool he was linked with Manchester United, Arsenal and Real Madrid, and certainly those weren’t the extent of offers he’s had over the years. While at Liverpool, he became one of the world’s most devastating strikers, playing the forward role with the lethal ferocity of leading legends of the game but also with the grace and flow of his compatriots.

Then it all went downhill. Are we supposed to believe that Torres’ struggles and poor form at Chelsea are exclusively due to the club and its own internal problems? No, Torres has become a shadow of his former self because we as a football community are absolutely lapping it up. £50 million is a phenomenal sum of money to pay for anyone, but the spectacle here is seeing Chelsea and Roman Abramovich learn their lesson (or not) rather than encourage one of the Premier League’s best to recover his form. Isn’t that what you want, to see one of the best footballers in England in his pomp? No, that would be boring, wouldn’t it?

And then there’s the story with Neymar. As football fans, shouldn’t we be intrigued by what he can do at Barcelona? Here is a footballer from a distant footballing land who has been built up to be a player good enough to rival Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. That’s the spectacle, for names like that to drive up the ticket sales in anticipation to see what they can do. There should be an interest at how he can transfer his talents from Brazil to Europe, where many have both failed and succeeded. Instead, there are many claiming it to be a waste of money by Barcelona. “What has he done in his career to warrant that fee?” Well isn’t that part of the interest? Maybe he has done enough, but all we’re doing is arriving at a conclusion based on a couple of matches against England at international level.

Why in a sport that we champion as the best in the world, far surpassing all that business on show in North America, do we drive and hope to see such failure in names who should be contemporary greats? You’re a football fan, you love the game. Well do you? Isn’t it all just a failure to suppress jealousy and accept that there is good football away from your own arena or pleasure (or hell, depending on who you support)? What if Neymar were signing for Blackburn instead of Barcelona? Would there still be this obsession to see him fail? Of course not, at least not from Blackburn supporters. Some parts of the English media would also probably talk him up as a better footballer than Messi or Ronaldo, despite, you know, him “having done nothing in his career.”

It’s the way the game is now, built on sensationalism and hysteria, placing the actual on-pitch action as a secondary. Sure, Suarez is wrong for what he’s done, but it’s far more damaging to the product in England to continue to beat the drum against the Uruguayan even after the matter has been settled. Of course €57 million is an insane amount of money to pay for a footballer, even for clubs like Barcelona. But forget the money and find some level of satisfaction or even enjoyment that a player billed as one of the world’s best is now within touching distance as of next season.

Is there an obsession with targeting certain players in football?

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