Well isn’t this a first? While rivals Manchester United continue to drown themselves in their sorrow, team Liverpool seem to be flourishing and leisurely getting on with things. No controversies and no string of poor results have set off the alarm bells. All this can be attributed to the performance and behaviour of talisman Luis Suarez. It doesn’t surprise me that there hasn’t been a sound. Not a squeak. Not a bite even – afraid I had to chuck it in. There has instead been magic. There has been pure unadulterated footballing magic on the pitch. Nothing has overshadowed the terrific form he has been in. ‘I’m a changed man’ said Suarez as he won Barclays Player of the Month award for December. Rodgers and co have taken control and done a splendid job of seemingly educating Suarez, for such a statement to have escaped his lips.
A strategy has been employed by the Liverpool hierarchy ever since Suarez approached the Guardian and spoke of his woes of wanting to move on. It’s been very simple. It’s a give and take business relationship. Liverpool clean up Suarez’s image and he fulfills his footballing duties. Both parties have benefited. Liverpool have surpassed all expectations to become contenders for a Champions League spot next season. Suarez has a reformed image shed of controversies. As he himself admitted later this week, he was ‘wrong in the past’ and had ‘created an image’ that was not correct. Only Liverpool would have been able to give Suarez’s image the much-needed scrubbing up it required. Suarez had to stay on at the club that had to endure a minor tarnishing for supporting him throughout his lapses.
Much of Suarez’s journey to a cooler and calmer footballer has been down to the PR people who have transformed his reputation in such a way that this season, his football has done the talking. Having only played 15 league matches following the completion of a 10 match ban for biting Chelsea player Ivanovic, Suarez has scored 20 goals already. His partnership with Daniel Sturridge has been so devastatingly good that it’s given birth to the title ‘SAS’ to refer to the pair.
Back pages of papers have been littered with Suarez’s name every time he has put on a scintillating display. There have been stories of donations to charities in Uruguay and a first time video with Kop Kids reporter Finn, showed just a normal guy with a passion for football. I have to admit, it was an endearing watch.
Suarez has changed. He had to bring a change to his behaviour on the pitch and curb his need to cheat. I’m not saying that I’ve forgotten how difficult a player he has been to support as a fan during his less classy moments. What I do appreciate is this evident maturity. Somewhere, the birth of his son has perhaps helped him be calm and grounded. As a fan of the game, I admire him as a footballer. He is a genius. As long as he continues to stay out of trouble, maintain his current image and play like he has been, he won’t fall in my eyes.
Rodgers mentioned in a press conference this week, that the experience of working with Suarez would stay with him for a lifetime.
So I say in a similar fashion, that watching Suarez with all his ups and downs, will stay with me for a lifetime.
I’m a fan. Understandably fickle at times 😉