at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is not averse to taking on his players in public when he feels the time is right.
Just recently, for example, he suggested that winger Stewart Downing may not have the heart for a career at Anfield.
Rodgers may have a point. It is his job to make unemotional judgments on players, no matter who they are.
How odd, then, that the roguish Luis Suarez continues to escape criticism. For if there is one player at Liverpool who would appear to need a nudge in the right direction from Rodgers then it is the Uruguayan.
After Suarez’s dreadful double dive against Stoke City at Anfield on Sunday, Rodgers said he was tired of answering questions about his player.
The problem, however, is not in the questions but in the subject. Suarez does dive and, as well as costing him his reputation, it is costing his team.
Referees no longer feel they can trust him. They suspect his actions are rarely genuine. Hence the 25-year-old was denied a clear penalty at Norwich nine days ago and another when he was shoved by Robert Huth on Sunday.
Suarez on the ground? He must be play-acting. That’s the thought process of many officials currently and it is hard to blame them.
He seems incapable of changing his modus operandi on his own so it is now incumbent on his manager to help him.
Yesterday evening Rodgers used the Liverpool website to launch not so much a defence of Suarez but an attack on his treatment by the media.
Rodgers’s loyalty is admirable in one sense and will certainly be appreciated by Suarez.
Maybe that’s the long game.
Unfortunately, his words rather missed the point.
It is true that Huth’s fifth-minute stamp on Suarez did not receive the same coverage as the South American’s later theatrics. But that’s largely because Huth does not have a track record of violence.
Suarez, on the other hand, does have history when it comes to acting.
If Rodgers wishes Suarez to be treated sympathetically then he must encourage him to earn it. This is called management.
Suarez is not the only culprit. Play-acting continues to curse modern football. Players such as Manchester United’s Ashley Young have contributed. On Sunday, Tottenham’s Gareth Bale joined the club.
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo spoke out after seeing Eden Hazard fall to ground too often. ‘In England you need to stay on your feet,’ said Di Matteo. ‘I wouldn’t want the officials to have a prejudice.’
Wise words from the Chelsea boss but for Suarez the tide may already be too strong to turn and what is problematic for Rodgers is that he badly needs the Uruguayan this season.
Liverpool’s squad is desperately thin and it was clear against Stoke just how much Rodgers’s team rely on Suarez and Steven Gerrard for impetus.
Suarez is a wholehearted and committed footballer. So hard did he chase a lost cause in the final minute on Sunday that he almost ended up over the hoardings and in the front row of the Kop.
All that tends to be forgotten, though, when the highlight reels show him constantly falling to earth. It’s embarrassing and when he isn’t trying to protect his player, Rodgers (below) will know this.
Suarez — an experienced international — should be a leader for the likes of Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom and 18-year-old Spaniard Suso to follow.
Instead, he is the player the rest of the Liverpool team often end up making excuses for. Forget Stewart Downing, Anfield harbours greater problems. – Daily Mail