Troubled Luis Suarez can hardly bemoan his Ballon d'Or snub
Is it a surprise the 23-man short list for the Ballon d'Or ignored Barcelona's Luis Suarez as one of the best players in the world? On one hand, he is a one-in-a-million player who scored 33 goals in 39 matches in all competitions last season. On the other, he has a problem controlling himself on a football pitch.
Specifically, he bites people. He has done so three times and has only just returned from a third ban for such an offence.
The initial reaction was one of shock when Suarez's name was missing from what is a who's who of world football, but Article 3 of the Ballon d'Or rules perfectly sums up why Suarez was missing: "The awards are bestowed according to on-field performance and overall behaviour on and off the pitch."
SUAREZ'S HISTORY OF CONTROVERSIES
June 2014 - Bites Giorgio Chiellini - 4-month ban.
April 2013 - Bites Branislav Ivanovic - 10-game ban.
Dec. 2011 - "Offensive gesture" at Fulham fans - 1-game ban.
Dec. 2011 - Found guilty of racially abusing Evra - 8-game ban.
Nov. 2010 - Bites Otman Bakkal - 7-game ban.
July 2010 - Red card in World Cup for handball vs. Ghana.
Nov. 2007 - Altercation with teammate - suspended by Ajax.
Feb. 2007 - Sent off on Uruguay debut for dissent.
The player -- once banned after being found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra while playing for Liverpool -- returned to action on Saturday after that infamous incident of biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini, this time in Brazil on the grandest stage of all, the World Cup. He looked sharp during his debut in el clasico, laying on the goal for Neymar before things turned sour for Barcelona as they were swept aside 3-1 by Real Madrid.
By Tuesday, Suarez was back in the news following his Ballon d'Or snub, and the debate centered on why a player who had 31 goals and 12 assists in just 33 games for Liverpool last season was not included among the best 23 players on FIFA's list.
The debate for his inclusion is fairly obvious. He is a forward who last week won the Golden Shoe award as the top league goal scorer in Europe last season. It is an honour he shared with Cristiano Ronaldo, who is rightly the favourite to hold on to his Ballon d'Or prize this term. Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish awarded Suarez that trophy at a ceremony in his new city Barcelona as he prepared for his first official game, after missing a large chunk of the beginning of this season thanks to that ban stemming from the World Cup.
Suarez's goal scoring and all-round play at Liverpool was incredible last term and the main reason they went so close to ending their agonising wait for a league title.
The record was even more impressive when you take into account that he missed Liverpool's first six Premier League games. That was a result of the second biting incident of his career, inflicted on Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic at the back end of the 2012-13 campaign.
Last term started with one ban ending and finished with Suarez sinking England at the World Cup with two well-taken goals -- before sinking his teeth into Chiellini. The third (yes, third, with the first coming in 2010 against PSV Eindhoven's Otman Bakkal) biting shame was the first time it had come in a match governed by FIFA, and while it meant his World Cup abruptly ended, it also saw him handed a ban from competitive international football that he is still serving.
Part of that FIFA ban initially stopped him taking part in all football activity, including training with his teammates, until it was successfully appealed before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.
Further concessions were made and Suarez has returned to play for Uruguay in friendly games, but for many it would be surprising for FIFA to then produce a list of the best players from last season and include a player who shamed the game with the world watching this past summer. Suarez has once again had the slate wiped clean and he has been able to start again at another club, thanks to his goal-scoring ability.
He now needs to prove last season was not a flash in the pan and he can match Ronaldo again in the goal-scoring charts -- this time in La Liga. If he does, he will be rightly included in next season's race to be crowned the world's best, but for now, he's best off out of it. Think of it as the final punishment for what was a barely believable crime.
Dermot lives in Spain, where he freelances for several publications, including AFP and the Press Association. Follow him on Twitter @dermotled.