Suarez doing himself no favours at Anfield
So Luis Suarez has belatedly apologised to Giorgio Chiellini. He's also apologised to "the entire football family" and vowed to the "public" that it will never happen again.
Presumably Liverpool FC, Brendan Rodgers and the fans who have all steadfastly stood behind him throughout all of his various problems are included under the umbrella of "the entire football family", but forgive me if I'm more than a little annoyed at his failure to apologise directly to the club and supporters that he has once again let down with his inexplicable antics.
The bite itself was bad enough, but the decision by Suarez, his advisors and Uruguay to adopt an "all or nothing" approach and completely deny the whole thing only made a bad situation worse from a Liverpool perspective. Liverpool and their supporters are the innocent party in this whole sorry affair, so some sort of public apology from Suarez to his employers would have been nice.
The ban probably was excessive (at least the sanctions that dragged Liverpool into something that they had absolutely no control over was), but this is a situation completely of the player's own making. If he doesn't bite an opponent and then embarrassingly try to deny it, none of this happens.
It's gone way beyond the bite for me now, though.That was not a deliberate, well thought out act, it was instinctive and I'd wager that even Suarez himself cannot explain how it happened. He bit Chiellini because he lost control, and when he loses control this is what he tends to do. He has a problem and he needs help dealing with that problem.
A split second loss of control may explain (though not excuse) the bite, but what has happened since has been far more calculating and self-serving. If anything, his conduct in the days that have followed the bite has been worse than the incident itself and this belated apology is simply insulting to Liverpool. It may as well have been printed on FC Barcelona headed notepaper, as it's obvious what the motivation behind it is. Liverpool reportedly had no idea the apology was coming and clearly neither did the President of Uruguay, who could have done with a quick heads up before he went on the offensive and insulted FIFA just a few hours before Suarez confessed.
Everybody could see by his muted celebrations after the Italy game that Suarez knew he was in big trouble, yet his initial response when questioned about it was "these things happen in the penalty area". Uruguay captain Diego Lugano went one step further and actually criticised Chiellini. Why did they do this when the whole world saw what had happened?
Uruguay were facing the prospect of losing their best player for the rest of the tournament, so - - despite the damning video evidence - - their party line was that it didn't happen, there was no bite and it was all a British media-led conspiracy. If Suarez admitted biting Chiellini, he was not going to play again in this World Cup and that was the only concern Uruguay had. This course of action was either going to see him escape all punishment or have the proverbial book thrown at him. For Uruguay and Suarez it was a risk worth taking and Liverpool were just collateral damage.
Suarez could have admitted his wrongdoing, apologised profusely, promised to seek help and thrown himself at the mercy of FIFA. Instead he rolled the dice because he wanted to continue playing in the World Cup. His 'defence' was so laughably poor it could have had Titus Bramble at centre back. FIFA were not impressed.
The denials of Uruguay and Suarez contributed to the size of the ban, a ban which surprisingly also precluded him from playing for his club. Not only that, he will not even be allowed to train with his club-mates, visit the training ground or attend any games as a spectator. Bizarrely, he is also prohibited from being in the team photograph or appearing in any form of club marketing during his suspension. He is not restricted from moving clubs, however, although presumably any press conference and photo shoot would have to take place in the car park!
It's grossly unfair on Liverpool that they are being punished for an incident that occurred while their player was on duty at a FIFA tournament and out of their care. Uruguay were not punished when Suarez was banned following the incident with Branislav Ivanovic, so there is a clear case of double standards at work here. Uruguay were not impacted in any way by the "Ivanovic ban", yet Liverpool are being hammered for his indiscretion in a Uruguay shirt. FIFA have done the club no favours yet the bulk of the blame surely lies with Suarez.
Is Liverpool's resolve to keep their world class striker as strong as it was a year ago? Well, if anyone meets the rumoured buyout clause in his recently renegotiated contract it won't matter how much they want to keep him as it will be out of their hands. But what if they receive a substantial offer from abroad that falls short of any agreed clause? They may have to give it serious consideration because if Suarez misbehaves again, the suspension will be so lengthy that his value will plummet.
Some may feel it already has and Barcelona will certainly be hoping so. As things stand though the market value of Suarez has not been hit too much at all. His value was protected by the contract he signed six months ago and it will only be affected if Liverpool decide they've had enough of the drama and actively look to offload him. As long as Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is happy to retain his 31-goal "footballer of the year", any interested parties will have to pay the going rate to prise him away. The going rate being whatever "buyout clause" Suarez himself agreed to when he signed that contract extension.
Will Liverpool be happy for Suarez to remain at Anfield if no satisfactory offer comes in? If his suspension is upheld then it's not exactly an ideal way for the Reds to begin next season, but he was banned from the opening six games of last season and then didn't miss another game after that. So missing the opening 13 games is therefore not the end of the world.
Liverpool's main concern should not be the past indiscretions of Suarez, however, it should be whether he can be trusted not to do it again. The best case scenario for the Reds if they keep Suarez is that he returns from suspension with a point to prove and takes the Premier League by storm like he did last year. The worst case is he does something crazy again and gets himself banned for an even longer period. There's certainly a lot for Rodgers and the Liverpool board to consider.
The noises coming out of Anfield suggest that Liverpool want to keep hold of Suarez, but you'd expect that as even if they are ready to cash in, it would be foolish to give that impression as it immediately weakens their bargaining position. It would appear as though Barcelona is the only realistic possible landing spot for Suarez, so it all depends on how much the Catalan giants are prepared to pay or whether Liverpool would be interested in any possible Barca players as a makeweight in any deal. For example, would Rodgers be able to turn down forty million pounds plus Alexis Sanchez?
Two weeks ago I expect he'd have rejected it out of hand. Now? I think he'd bite Barca's hand off.