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Suarez lives to bite another day

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iol spt apr23 Luis S

Reuters

So he stays. Of course he stays. Are you mad? Did you seriously think Liverpool were going to expel Luis Suarez on principle?

So he stays. Of course he stays. Are you mad? Did you seriously think Liverpool were going to expel Luis Suarez on principle? This is football. This is 2013. Every club has a room of specialists on site for such a crisis. Not biting necessarily, but outrage. Race issues, moral lapses, extreme misogyny. They manage, they handle, they diffuse.

‘I think the most important thing is that we acted swiftly yesterday,’ said managing director Ian Ayre, clumsily shining light on damage limitation magic.

And so Suarez apologises. His manager apologises. The club apologises. He is fined £200,000 and donates the money to a charity that finds favour with the fans. The Hillsborough Family Support Group, naturally. And his rehabilitation begins.

Liverpool could have pre-empted the action of the FA by imposing a suspension, as Suarez’s former club Ajax did in similar circumstances, but they stopped short. To lose the player, rather than relieve him of personal wealth, would be the point at which principle begins to impact on results: and nobody at Liverpool is keen on that.

Liverpool punished Suarez right up to the point at which their selfish interests might be affected. Now, after he was charged yesterday, they will wait for the FA to do its job, and will ride this one out until the news agenda changes.

What they certainly won’t be doing is taking a moral stand to its logical conclusion by putting the greatest asset they possess up for sale or, heaven forbid, cancelling his contract.

Ayre made that perfectly clear. If Liverpool are too pragmatic to banish Suarez for one match, they are not about to torch upwards of £30m by casting him out forever.

Whether they should is another issue. Put it like this: were Liverpool to conclude there is a wider determinant at stake and place Suarez on the market, they would be the first club to place the greater good ahead of a narrow business strategy.

Manchester United stuck with Eric Cantona, Arsenal with Tony Adams, Chelsea with John Terry, Manchester City with Carlos Tevez and Tottenham Hotspur with Jermain Defoe.

Indeed, until Suarez had Branislav Ivanovic for lunch, it had been almost entirely forgotten that on October 22, 2006, Defoe bit Javier Mascherano, then with West Ham — and got off close to scot free.

Mascherano first fouled Defoe, who responded by sinking his teeth into the upper part of his left arm.

Martin Jol, Defoe’s manager, played down the incident, laughing it off as a ‘nibble’. Defoe issued an apology, but called his behaviour ‘mischievous’, rather than borderline psychotic. And referee Steve Bennett issued Defoe with a yellow card: meaning the jellies in the FA’s compliance department could consider the matter dealt with, and brush it away as if the appropriate punishment for biting another human being is the same as for time-wasting at a goal-kick. In the real world, people get nine months.

Perhaps this is why Liverpool balked at suspending Suarez. They knew there was precedent and that the previous punishment for the same act was pathetically lenient.

They might fancy arguing it with the jellies, in those circumstances. They might fancy claiming that player and club apologised immediately, that a substantial fine has been levelled and that, previously, Defoe received only a yellow card.

They might think they could legal this one down to the equivalent of a sending off, rather than the seven games Suarez received for biting Otman Bakkal of PSV Eindhoven. If the FA replicate that ban, considering Suarez will have the usual two weeks to answer any charge, the player could end up absent for more of next season than this.

Even if Liverpool pushed for a hearing next week, Suarez would still miss four matches in 2013-14, and just three from the conclusion to this moribund campaign.

If Liverpool delay the process and keep him back for the derby with Everton on May 5, serving five of seven games next season would take him out until almost October. Liverpool played their sixth domestic game of this season on September 26, in the Capital One Cup.

Yesterday’s events were a far cry from the PR carnage that followed the incident with Patrice Evra, but the bottom line is that, for all his contrition, Suarez’s apology does not bear much scrutiny. The time to apologise was instantly, or at the end of the match when the red mist had subsided, not several hours later once, it can be presumed, a club official had been dispatched to explain the diabolical fall-out.

It is as if Suarez needed telling that biting an opponent was frowned upon; just as he needed reminding that it is wrong to call a black opponent by the colour of his skin; or to fall to the ground in the area when no contact has been made.

Suarez may not be familiar with the American comedy Seinfeld, but he finds a kindred spirit in the character George Costanza.

Here is a conversation from a series three episode, entitled The Red Dot. George has been summoned to see his superior, Mr Lippman...

LIPPMAN: I’m going to get right to the point. It has come to my attention that you and the cleaning woman have engaged in sexual intercourse on the desk in your office. Is that correct?

GEORGE: Who said that?

LIPPMAN: She did.

GEORGE (thinks quickly): Was that wrong? Should I have not done that? I tell you I gotta plead ignorance on this thing, because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing was frowned upon, you know, ’cause I’ve worked in a lot of offices and I tell you people do that all the time.

LIPPMAN: You’re fired.

And that seems to be Suarez’s default position. Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? Why didn’t anyone tell me? If only I’d known. Liverpool say Brendan Rodgers, in particular, will work with Suarez on this side of his character, but how much needs to be explained? That it’s wrong to bite people? This is pretty entry-level stuff.

Rodgers is going to have to start with the Ten Commandments and work from there if Suarez needs to be told biting is forbidden. It wasn’t even as if this was his first offence. He has previous. What is Rodgers supposed to do: buy a muzzle?

Yet Liverpool will put up with it. And here’s why. There is no alternative. If Suarez is sold, who comes in? Nobody in his class. Liverpool are the seventh-placed Premier League club right now. Chances are they will not be playing European football next season, not even Europa League, and will finish behind city rivals Everton.

That this club has one of the best players in the world right now is a minor miracle. If Suarez leaves he cannot be replaced like for like.

Players with his talent do not go to Liverpool. Not anymore. Even he is waking up to that. He signed in a funk from Ajax, after the first biting scandal, and at a time when many thought Liverpool’s absence from the Champions League was a temporary blip.

Trouble continues to follow Suarez around, but we now know this is no blip at Anfield. Without Suarez, they would be stumbling through the wilderness, and he knows it.

Legends such as Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard are retiring or just tiring, and Suarez has carried this campaign on his shoulders.

His pass for Daniel Sturridge’s first goal against Chelsea, his movement for the second, were evidence of a quite brilliant football mind.

His peers are found within the elite: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robin van Persie.

And that calibre of footballer is no longer attainable on Liverpool’s budget. So if the club could attract the £30m that would be reasonable — considering his baggage — or the £50m they believe Suarez should fetch, it would make little difference. Spend £50m, plus Suarez, and they might have a team to contend the title, spend £50m and lose Suarez and any investment would be negated.

It is the old equation: aggravation divided by worth to the team. Jose Enrique would have been history before he had time to lick his lips. Suarez will live to bite another day. – Daily Mail


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