The Luis Suarez dilemma: Will he stay or will he go?
After recent comments by controversial Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez, where he appears to “welcome” other clubs if they are to make offers for him and provide better opportunities at “international club football competitions”, Liverpool have had to scramble and assure their fans that the crowd favourite is going nowhere. In fact, an entire statement had to be issued by managing director Ian Ayre just to placate fans after statements from Suarez sparked a wave of unrest across the Anfield faithful.
Amid claims of Suarez preparing to pack bags and leave unless Liverpool somehow make it to a European football spot this season, Ayre has had to remind the supporters, as well as perhaps other clubs, that the Uruguayan star signed a four-year contract with the club this previous summer and has repeatedly been quoted saying he is happy at Anfield. So is all this scramble over one player in a squad of many really warranted?
One would be compelled to say yes, going by the club’s and Suarez’s performances this season. While he hit peak form in patches last season, Suarez has been in top gear for most of the current campaign, rocketing to the top of the Premier League scoring charts with 22 strikes. The value of those strikes only comes to the fore when one looks at the next highest scorer – the ever dependable Steven Gerrard – with just 8 goals against his name. Thus, in terms of pure numbers, it is quite safe to say that Suarez has been virtually carrying Liverpool all by himself this season.
In terms of performances, in spite of having a couple of issues every now and then with the officials, Suarez has again been Liverpool’s brightest prospect this season. Even critics of his personality find it difficult to argue against the liberating joy with which Suarez runs with the ball at his feet. In a more forgiving world, it would indeed be his neat little tricks, nutmegs and side-steps that would make the headlines instead of his seemingly volatile personality. Defenders of all heights, weights and sizes have struggled to keep the Anfield attacker under their watch, and are almost always glad to see the back of him when the final whistle blows. For a side which fell to mid-table mediocrity, particularly in terms of reputation, it is quite important to have someone who can strike fear into the hearts of the opposition. While they attempted to do so with Andy Carroll, one can safely say that Suarez is the one who has been more successful in doing so.
We have seen so far what Suarez has to offer to Liverpool. But what does Liverpool have on offer for Suarez? Not much, this writer feels. A set of hardcore fans who have warmed up to him like peanut butter to a sandwich, yes, but who wouldn’t love someone who scored at the rate of greater than once every two games, often dragging their side out of a mire all by himself? The admiration of fans is something Suarez will win no matter where he goes. Money, before we even consider discussing it, is not an issue, since the likes of the clubs which are expected to come in search of Suarez are the ones which have plenty of it.
Loyalty? For someone who has so little qualms about intentional handballs, diving and even racism, one would perhaps not really expect loyalty to be among the highest of virtues. History? Well, yes. Liverpool has that, and in plenty. But one doubts that a player in demand all across Europe, and at the peak of his career, will stay at a club with no foreseeable future at the top simply because it was once the top dog. Instead, an investment in slightly more consistent supporting players, such as Sturridge who was bought in the January transfer window, might be a wiser path to follow for the club.
All in all, given his expression of happiness with the club and the fact that he is having his best season with them, should see Suarez stay put for at least another season. Also, the fact that he is only 26 and is likely to be in just as much demand a year from now – if he keeps up his performances of course – is likely to play a role in his decision. After all, the intention of his statements prior to his national side’s game against Paraguay might actually have been “lost in translation.”