Hidden agenda in Suarez apology?
BARCELONA, Spain -- It would have been nice to take Luis Suarez at face value.
Yes, it's the same face that houses those jaws, but there will be no puns or wisecracks about what Suarez did to Giorgio Chiellini here.
Just like acceptance is vital to self-help, retaining some degree of optimism and faith is pretty essential if you work in football journalism. So it's healthy to start by hoping that the Uruguayan means all, or at least some, of what he said about reflection and contrition.
Hope, here, must do hand-to-hand combat with belief.
Suarez's apology consists of deftly constructed words, and it's likely there may be another agenda -- one that it's hard not to believe has driven this event.
Suarez wants to join FC Barcelona. Anyone denying this by now is in denial.
There is, you might argue, a case where an institution that trades on the motto "Mes que un club" (more than a club) would be the last to buy a man with Suarez's recent transgressions weighing him down.
Without a hint of inherent criticism, I think it's fair to say that spending 80 million euros on a striker with a deeply flawed character is a serious, contradictory and confusing turn of events. Especially when you consider the club owns Lionel Messi and Neymar, hasn't reinforced its porous defence and in the very recent past proudly boasted turning out an XI wholly constructed in its own football nursery.
It's the kind of purchase that stinks of old-style presidential transfer market policy. Dodgy season? Buy a superstar, drinks all round!
Nevertheless, Barcelona have set their sights firmly on him. They are convinced that they will get him, and the Catalan media have been briefed to get the ticker-tape ready.
But I would say just about the most salutary thing that has happened since Suarez's defence became public (rather than since the bite) isn't necessarily the FIFA ban (which I think it got spot on). It's the fact that one of his sponsors abandoned him and others have the situation under review.
Having stated that some would find Barcelona's actions contradictory, I think we can argue that they haven't completely taken leave of their senses.
There isn't blanket unanimity at the Camp Nou about buying the controversial striker, and one of the points raised is that the vast network of sponsors and banks that underwrite Barcelona's spending (and debt) might be intolerant of this move.
If -- obviously a big if -- Suarez joins Barcelona, then one of the own-goal situations is that he re-offends.
But a still more major one would be if a serious financial investor in the Camp Nou regeneration, physical and sporting, were to balk at the signing and either remove or threaten to remove some of its moolah.
Thus there has been a widespread understanding around the club and the Catalan media that the first requirement for the deal to happen is that Suarez apologize.
Those advocating the deal, and the massive investment, must have a basic building block -- namely, the ability to point to what, at face value, is the player not only realizing that he did wrong (a 180-degree about-face from his outrageous FIFA defence) but also pledging that nothing like it will ever happen again.
It's just a supercharged version of what is now commonplace in major transfer deals, particularly those involving Spanish clubs.
Club A wants to buy the star striker from Club B, and the seller is unwilling. The striker wants the move -- be it for higher wages, better weather, more trophy shots or just football feng shui. Club A tells him: "OK, if you want the move, you have to come out in the media and say that you are unhappy at Club B so that the price drops and the transfer mechanisms grind into action."
Thus it usually happens.
Out of respect for Liverpool, I must say that simply because one of the cogs is moving doesn't automatically signify that the engine will fire and the Ferrari will drive off, never to be seen again.
But if I were them, I'd be beginning to look in car showrooms and buying AutoTrader.