The image of Suarez yesterday was of a man loved by his countrymen and his team-mates, a man who worked hard to perform at this game, a man emotionally overtaken by the moment, but also of a man who was under deep stress, both physical and mental.
Racist. Cheat. Diver. ‘Biter’. And anything else you’d like to insult the man with. A lot has been said about Luis Suarez, a lot has been reported, and a lot of hate has been thrown around. While Liverpool & Uruguay look at him as a World class player, the rest of the world sees him as a villain, most notably the British press in England and the Football Association of the country.
It all started with the infamous incident involving Patrice Evra, and ended with the Liverpool – Chelsea game at Anfield. Many other incidents took places in between those two major events, and the general custom involved a punishment for Luis. He was found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra, which still remains debateable. He was also found guilty in the Ivanovic incident, and rightly so. A lengthy ban & fine followed both incidents, with Suarez and Liverpool’s image tainted in the media. That image has failed to leave him, and will probably hang on throughout his career, or atleast his spell in England.
Suarez did get his revenge, in the only way he knew possible. Despite being banned for the first 5 games of the season (and 5 of the previous), he finished as the top scorer of the Premier League, second highest in the assists table behind his captain, took Liverpool from 7th to 2nd & so nearly to that coveted Premier League crown, and more importantly he was identified as the best player in the Premier League by his fellow professionals. The FA & media that had vilified him in the past, were forced into accolades & praise.
But Luis Suarez wasn’t done yet, as the draw for the World Cup was made, the Liverpool man was pitted against England in the group stage. A chance for Suarez to make a mark again, and a chance for the media to vilify him once more in the lead-up. A knee surgery kept him out of the first game, but his recovery was in full flow as the chances of his return to face England increased. Some media outlets tried to play down his influence, others champions him, while some decided to bring back age old stories of his past (and continue to do so).
It was a game, England (the team lacking any expectations) were expected to win. Once again the English media had overseen the effect a player like Luis Suarez can have on a side, and indeed a World Cup. England did the running, Suarez did the scoring. One beautiful ball from Cavani headed in, another unfortunate one from Gerrard smashed in. Of all the people that could have knocked England out of a World Cup, it had to be Luis Suarez. They aren’t out yet, but blame your naive selves to think they won’t anyway.
But the question remains, at what cost was vengeance earned for Luis Suarez. The game clearly displayed how unfit Luis Suarez was, with the change in his tactical positioning. He wasn’t his usual self, no dropping deep, no movement, just a man told to stay up-top, rest his muscles, don’t aggravate your injury, but score. And score he did. A nation cheered, another sulked, Luis Suarez emerged on top once more. But yes, the question remains, at what cost?
We’ve seen in the past how players have attempted to achieve their recovery ahead of schedule, succeeding in doing so, turning a match on it’s head, but costing their long-term fitness. Luis Suarez yesterday certainly wasn’t ready, and had the match not meant as much as it did, Tabarez would have been tempted to leave him on the bench.
The World Cup ends mid-July, Suarez will have a week maybe two off until August, and it’s back to club football. The stress & pressure is too much for even a man of Suarez’ physicality. The cost of playing Suarez yesterday could have repercussions for his national team and whatever games they have left in Brazil, but on a different scale, Liverpool will be left to bear the brunt of his insistence on turning out for his country.
The age old club or country debate will rage on, but if there’s a man that can handle both, perform on both stages, and not have any qualms about doing so, it’s Luis Suarez. Though he’s still human, a mortal being who can/will succumb to the stress he’s taken over the years, eventually. From the 2011 Copa America, to the Olympics, the Confedetations Cup and now the World Cup, Suarez hasn’t had a summer break for sometime, unfortunately for the player and his club, this may just catch up with him. Will he complain? Probably not. But Suarez, likely at the cost of his long-term fitness, has got his revenge, the final nail in the coffin. He stormed the Premier League taking the FA & media head on at the club stage, he now has his success over them at the international scene as well.
This article was written by Sami Faizullah. Editor-in-chief of outsideoftheboot.com