Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Liverpool Fan's Thoughts on the Departure of Luis Suarez

photo by Hamed Sabervia PhotoRee

Scott sends off Luis Suarez with an appropriate mixture of emotions, at least for a scouser:

So it's finally official: Luis Suarez is going to Barcelona, ending 2.5 years of on-field brilliance and mystifying moments of lunacy. Concluding how to feel about this transfer requires a serious mental inventory, such was our emotional investment. On the one hand, there is no doubt that Suarez is one of the main factors in Liverpool's return to Premier League relevance. It would be hard to find a fiercer competitor and, if all his teammates' comments are to be believed, a more committed team player (when not wanting away, of course). He is a player who raises the level of both play and expectations of everyone around him. And he should rightly be considered, as a snapshot in time, among the absolute best in the game right now, to be mentioned in the same breath as Messi and Ronaldo.

Then there is the significant monetary investment in the troublesome Uruguayan. Setting aside the 35 million-ish paid to Ajax, there is the PR sunk cost of dealing with Evra Part 1 (the comment), Evra Part 2 (the handshake that wasn't) and then the Ivanovic Bite. That we now have to distinguish which bite, never mind the Eredivisie counterpart, speaks volumes about the further spinning of the PR machine that would be required. Not to mention the sheer emotional and psychological toll expended (and yet to be expended) by players, coaches and fans alike during each of his past and future bans.

To Liverpool's great credit, there was no circling of the wagons this time around. Fool me once, fool me twice, fool me thrice... (it defies cliche).  I know I was. First there was seeing the uniquely talented forward around his family and hearing his teammates wax on about his attitude and work ethic. Then, most importantly, we observed concrete, significant progress of his rehabilitation in the English Premiere League - nary a moment of lunacy all year, calmer demeanor on the field even during trying times and, to the immense pleasure of any American proselytizing for the sport in the US, a reduction of diving to near zero level.

By all accounts the narrative was fulfilling its own prophesy - that of the underprivileged, angry youth who escaped his humble beginnings to be with his beloved and play his beloved sport in ever-higher arenas. Significant lapses of decorum marred his way and, sure, it took the polemic prodigy a few more raps on the wrist to finally learn his lesson. But a settled year at the Liverpool club who patiently stood by their admittedly flawed star, a new long-term contract and statements by all about the mutual contentment of the evolving situation and prospects for the future - surely, this Merseyside cautionary tale would find its Hollywood ending.

Unfortunately, it was the wrong type of Hollywood that emerged - one of addiction and relapse. Forgive me the rough edges of this analogy, but there were glaring similarities to Suarez' World Cup cameo. After a year of clean living in the hard knocks but mostly stay-on-your-feet world of English soccer, Luis was surrounded by the environment of catty, diving soccer that international soccer can be. Away from the Liverpudlian support group, the Uruguayan simply relapsed into his old ways, shattering all the rehabilitation he had achieved in his record season with that bite and hardening the hearts of those who really thought he had gotten past it all.

A profound disappointment and collective shaking of bowed heads swept the Kopite nation. Perhaps it was a single, brief relapse on the road to sustained recovery. And for Luis and his family, we all pray that it is so.  But it was finally too much - there was no more energy to start over...again.

Last year, when Suarez and Arsenal were batting their eyes at each other, we only asked for another year to get us to the Champions League. Then he did just that and our sights were set on even more success next year, egged on by that new contract, ink just now drying. Fast forward to the bite and a fandom's pain mirroring that of an Italian defender, a flickering barrage of past transgressions, apologies and forgiveness that finally settles on the scene of what we wanted a year ago - return to BPL relevance (check), Champions league spot (check), 35 million more than what was on offer a year ago (bonus).

No, it is time for Suarez to move on. We both got what we wanted, what we both needed - Liverpool, the aforementioned success check list and he, the stepping stone leading to a position on one of the most distinguished teams in world soccer, in a Spanish speaking nation, and near the family that he coveted and finally joined.

It was a brief, tumultuous ride, and not one that will be soon forgotten but, ultimately, one that can now close with all parties coming out ahead, which would not have been the case if the separation had happened a year ago.

Thank you, goodbye, and good luck with your recovery, Luis.

This is farlieonfootie for July 19.

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