TO thoroughly misquote John Lennon: Last night the wife said…”How do you feel about this whole Suarez thing then?”
I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, my wife’s a Blue. A fanatical Blue. Her whole family is. She has an uncle who on meeting me for the first time – years ago in a social club – shook my hand, found out I was Red, went straight to the toilets and washed his hands. The family were mortified, I was hysterical. Funniest thing I’d ever seen.
The fact that she said his name without her usual revulsion or any derogatory comments meant this was a serious question so I answered it seriously.
In due deference to my wife, she listened seriously – not even reacting to that other name that Evertonians seem to have such an issue with.
And this is what I said:
It’s hard, it’s the hardest question that I think you can ask a Liverpudlian at the moment. How do we feel about Luis Suarez? On the one hand he’s the single greatest footballer I’ve seen in the flesh since Dalglish in his heyday. There was a period between November and March where he was, without any question at all, the single finest footballer on the planet. He was doing the unbelievable, he was casually achieving moments of glory that drew gasps. What he did to Norwich? The audacity of that shot from near enough the half way line? The ball that he put ROUND Leroy Fer – and it can’t be stated enough, ROUND, not over or past? His reaction to that? The way he showed that even he couldn’t believe what he’d just done?
And he was playing with a freedom and a joy and a level of enjoyment in his own performance that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in any footballer. That’s ANY footballer. He was loving everything that was happening to him and for him and round him.
And the team had been rebuilt in his image. His best play was the team’s best play, his best period, their best period. His glorious, beautiful, free, insanity infected everybody around him. We could try the ridiculous because we knew it worked, because Luis had shown that it worked. We could do ANYTHING. So we did.
But. And there’s several buts here. But. He went somewhat off the boil toward the end of the season. His form wasn’t as blistering. But that’s okay, most people’s form never gets to be that blistering so falling back a bit still puts you above the realms of the merely mortal. You could see the signs though, you could see some of the petulance returning. Some of the negative reactions that had been there in the previous seasons when a game hadn’t gone his way – back when he’d try the impossible because he didn’t believe in the players alongside him to achieve the possible.
Do you know what I mean? The points where he wouldn’t play a short ball to a Downing or a Carroll because there was no point, so he might as well try and beat eleven men on his own? He hadn’t gone back to that obviously, the trust was still there, but some of his reactions to events around him were beginning to look familiar.
It’s a stress thing isn’t it? There’s something wrong with the way that Luis reacts to stress and possibly the way that the the Palace 3-3 broke him, physically broke him, mentally broke him, the way he saw the dream fading, maybe that’s part of what we’ve just seen.
But we were managing him. Brendan was managing him. Dr Steve was managing him. Meltdown didn’t seem to be an option. Disappointment perhaps but not meltdown. There was no indication that ‘this’, all of ‘this’, lay in the future waiting to ambush us once again. We were doing a good job. WE were doing a good job. Liverpool were doing a good job.
And then we send him away with his country and we trust them to do the same job but maybe they didn’t, maybe they can’t, maybe being with him for three weeks doesn’t have the same impact, doesn’t create the same understudying and comprehension as five days a week for a year does. It can’t, can it?
As a sports psychologist (whose name I didn’t catch) told City Talk’s breakfast show last week, Luis Suarez went from being injured, being operated on, being in a wheelchair to being on a football field in three weeks while the whole world tells anyone who’ll listen that the fate of Uruguay, the destiny of the team, the entire country, every man, woman and child’s hopes, dreams and fears rested on the shoulders of one man.
And as that one man saw those hopes and dreams fading he did something stupid. Again.
I’m not going to analyse the bite. I can’t. Other people have written on that already with more depth and insight than I can find in my soul at the moment. I got into arguments about the bite though. I didn’t defend it, just pointed out that I was past caring. He didn’t do it while playing for us so I was happy to be as two faced as I wanted, to have as many double standards as I felt like having and any fan of any other team who said they wouldn’t feel exactly the same way was only kidding themselves.
I didn’t care.
And then I started caring. Again. He’d done it again. And he was denying it again. And there’s got to be something (else) wrong with him if he’s denying it. It’s so bloody obvious. Luis, you bit him, cough to it, take the punishment and move on. Hold on. They’re punishing us more than they’re punishing Uruguay? How does that work? Seriously, is this time to take the money and run? Should we move him on, invest the fee in a few top class players, move on. We take control of the situation, we make the decision to sell, he looks like he’s done the right thing by us. Everybody’s happy.
Then Barca stuck their oar in and suddenly the rumours are growing stronger and those journalists that you know KNOW what they’re talking about (we all know the ones we trust) are readying us for the inevitable. But that Sanchez lad looks good, fifty million and Sanchez, Sanchez feeding Sturridge, Sanchez doing…that, oh that’s impressive, good timing World Cup, showing me what I’ve got coming. Yeah, this’ll do. It’s not like for like but look at what we’re doing – Lallana done (pictures in training kit as I write, happy with that) Origi supposedly on his way, Markovic apparently in negotiation.
We’re spending. It’s done isn’t it? The Suarez deal is done. We’re spending the money. Okay, I can cope with it. Sanchez plus £50m? Go on then. Good luck Luis, it was emotional. We’ll never have another player like you and that’s part of the reason there’ll never be another season like last season. Best wishes lad.
But. Barca don’t want to make it easy do they? The damaged goods claims start appearing, the idea that City want Sanchez and so do Arsenal and United and every other bugger that might stop him being part of any deal and God help us they’re trying to push the price down. And there’s the apology. The apology that isn’t really an apology. The apology for Chiellini receiving the ‘physical result of a bite’ after a collision which is the single weirdest apology/non apology in history, supposedly prompted by Barca wanting a public apology before negotiating and fails to apologise to…….oh yeah, us.
But we don’t have to sell. Whatever the clause is, that’s what the clause is. Meet it or we don’t sell. John Henry’s not in business to treat Barca as ‘more than a club’. He’ll do what he does, not what you want him to.
So maybe we aren’t selling at all, maybe we aren’t spending the ‘Suarez money’, maybe we’re just spending money because we have money to spend and we have Champions League football and we have last season and we can point at what we do and say ‘want a part of that?’ and the bigger names are going, ‘Yeah, go’ed, I’ll have a bit of that’ and maybe next season we’ll still have Suarez and we’ll have added Markovic and Origi and Sanchez anyway and we’ll kick on and we’ll forget all this ever happened. Again. And it’ll never happen again. Until it does. And he’ll do it again and we’ll have to do this all again and oh god should we just sell and put an end to it all but look at him play football he’s bloody fantastic.
So my wife asked me how I felt and I told her. And I told her I’d thought of writing a piece here but that it would just be lots of words that said ‘I have no idea how I feel about Luis Suarez anymore.’
And then I did it.
Images: David Rawcliffe / Propaganda