On April 21 2013 Luis Suarez gave an interview to The Sunday Times newspaper, when asked about his potential for winning the PFA Player of the Year award he said: ‘I think this year I’ve got more chance in the press vote than I have with the players. Why? On the one hand the press can criticise you but on the other they give out praise and from what they tell me – because I honestly don’t read the press here – I hear they’ve spoken about me pretty well. I’ve been criticised, but only on issues I knew myself I had to do something about. They’ve judged much more on what I’ve done on the field, which is positive in itself.’
Later that day Suarez played for Liverpool as they drew 2-2 with Chelsea, he scored a dramatic (but utterly futile) equaliser shortly after trying to bite Branislav Ivanovic and having deliberately handled the ball in his own box to give away a penalty. He was subsequently handed an extraordinary 10 game ban for the bite and condemned by everybody from Prime Minister David Cameron to Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe.
Yet within the past week, whilst on international duty with Uruguay, Suarez stunned Liverpool by saying he wanted to leave, blaming the press: “It’s a good moment for a change of environment because of all I’ve been through in England, where I haven’t been judged as a player but based on other things. I had a hard time, very hard, and the things that have been said are lies. It’s nothing against Liverpool, on the contrary, I feel very comfortable at the club.”
There is no denying Suarez has been sensational for Liverpool. Anybody who downplays his ability is extremely blinded by his flaws (and there are many) or does not know what a good footballer is. The problem for Liverpool is that this is now another slap in the face, another time Suarez has gone rogue and humiliated the club. To blame the press for hounding him out is a terribly poor excuse and surely even the most hardened Liverpool fan will be able to see through the lies. Players come and go from football clubs, it’s part and parcel of the game. Sometimes players want to leave a club who are reluctant to sell them, because they know they will lose a real, high quality player.
The Premier League has lost more stars over the last 10 years than it cares to admit, Ronaldo accused Manchester United of treating him like a slave at one point, Fabregas spent several summers trying to engineer a move from Arsenal, Thierry Henry signed a 5 year contract at Arsenal and said he would retire there, only to leave for Barcelona six months in and there are many more.
The point is that those players were honest in their motives, they wanted to move to a new league and experience a new challenge and in the end the selling clubs had to ensure they were not embarrassed. The players left on either good or great terms, of course that is not always the case but in the majority of transfers, deep down fans and clubs know the player wants to move because they feel it is a step up in their career and it is both painful and acceptable.
Suarez’s claim that it is the media forcing him to leave makes it look like Liverpool are idiots and not able to face facts – since finishing 2nd in 2009 Liverpool have not finished within the top 5, let alone the top 4. A player of Suarez’s ability should be challenging for league titles and playing in the Champions League, but by waiting until he was on the other side of the world and then making up a cheap excuse, Suarez has shown once again that he is an awful sportsman.
It is time for Liverpool to cash in on Suarez and start rebuilding not only the team but their image.