On Sunday 21st April, the footballing world was exposed to a rarity. However, it was not the kind of rarity that one would regard as a fond memory or a wonderful experience. No, this was something sinister, macabre and unpleasant; and after watching it (from a truly colossal amount of angles) a somewhat bitter taste was left in many viewers’ mouths. I am speaking of course of the incident during the Liverpool v Chelsea match when Uruguayan international Luis Suarez bit Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.
One single moment has produced an incredible reaction, and rightly so, and the news emerged today that Suarez was to be banned by the FA for 10 games. Liverpool have released a statement indicating their dismay at the harshness of this punishment, and they have until Friday to submit an appeal. It would be an understatement to say that Liverpool have got some very big and very difficult decisions to make in the coming weeks and months. Suarez’s actions have once again totally compromised the club, and it will be interesting to see where Suarez is when the Premier League starts again in August.
A bit of background
Just in case you aren’t aware of who this Luis Suarez character is; allow me to enlighten you. Suarez first burst onto the public radar when he deliberately handballed to prevent Ghana scoring a potentially decisive goal against Uruguya in the 2010 World Cup. Suarez was totally unrepentant and was seen being held aloft by his teammates at the final whistle.
Upon returning to Ajax (the club Suarez played for at the time), Suarez was involved in his first bout of biting – sinking his teeth into Otman Bakkal during a match with PSV Eindhoven. The Dutch FA subsequently banned him for 7 games.
After moving to Liverpool in a big money transfer, Suarez began to somewhat rebuild his reputation. He is a classy player, and the Premier League has always appreciated classy players. However, gradually he began to develop a reputation as a diver, and then came perhaps the most controversial incident of his career so far. Following a draw against Manchester United, Patrice Evra accused Suarez of racially abusing him. The FA found him guilty and gave him a £40,000 fine and an 8 game ban. The next time the two players met, Evra proffered his hand to Suarez and was rebuffed, sparking fresh controversy.
Suarez was then guilty of another handball offence in January 2013 that led to Liverpool defeating non-league side Mansfield 2-1. Suarez appeared to deliberately handle the ball before scoring Liverpool’s second goal and celebrated the goal like any other.
So with Suarez’s rapsheet in mind, Liverpool have got a big decision to make this summer. Do they want to keep a player who has caused them so many problems? Can they afford to lose him? I’ve outlined below the possible options available to Liverpool – all have merits, but there are also significant problems attached to them. Who’d be a Liverpool board member eh?
Should they sack him?
There have been a few suggestions that Liverpool should just rid themselves of this troublesome character and that his persistently unruly behaviour constitutes a sackable offence.
While this may be true, Suarez is still a commodity, and a highly valuable one at that. Sacking Luis Suarez may seem like taking the moral high ground, but ultimately Liverpool cannot afford to do that.
Should they sell him?
Perhaps a more sensible way of ridding themselves of the Suarez problem would be for Liverpool to sell Suarez to the highest bidder. Suarez has been nominated for Premier League Player of the Year, so he is obviously held in very high regard. Liverpool may be able to sell Suarez to another club, but that in itself has problems attached to it.
Firstly, if they sell Suarez, how will they ever get back to the position of being able to challenge for the title? A few short years ago, Liverpool were challenging for the title and it was only 8 years ago that Liverpool were crowned kings of Europe. Their demise has been pretty spectacular, and selling Suarez is the sort of move that would most likely contribute towards Liverpool continuing in that downward spiral.
There is also a question of who would want Suarez? Sure, he’s a fantastic player, but he is very clearly a huge troublemaker. It seems unlikely that any other Premier League club would want the baggage that arrives with Suarez, and so the amount of clubs who could afford Suarez and would want him is likely to be relatively short.
Furthermore, If Liverpool did sell Suarez, they would obviously want to make a profit on him and in a normal circumstance would be likely to be able to make that profit. However, Liverpool bought Suarez for £22m and would most likely be looking to make at least £30m if they were to sell him. It goes without saying that not many clubs would be willing to pay upwards of £30m for a player who causes so many problems.
Should they keep him?
Given that Suarez is such a fantastic player, many have suggested that in spite of all of these issues, Liverpool should retain his services. He is a fantastic individual player and really is Liverpool’s go-to man, so the suggestion that Liverpool should do everything they can to keep hold of him certainly holds some weight.
There is also a commercial aspect to consider for Liverpool – the club do a lot of work in Asia and Africa to build up their image and Suarez as one of their only ‘world class’ players is a key part of their marketing. Letting Suarez go would mean letting go of his marketing potential, and that’s something that Liverpool would need to think very clearly about before making any moves.
Whilst there is merit to the idea of keeping Suarez, Liverpool will certainly be acutely aware of the fact that Suarez has caused them numerous problems in the short time he has been at the club, and for a club like Liverpool; a club with such a global reputation, those problems are certainly not ones they would wish to be associated with.
Liverpool have got a big decision to make, and I for one am intrigued to see what they decide to do. For all his faults, Suarez certainly entertains, and I look forward to an entertaining summer of transfer speculation regarding the enigmatic Uruguayan.