Liverpool love affair with Uruguay forward fizzles out in ...
May. 09, 2019
Never make a promise you cannot keep: it’s an adage drummed into us from childhood in order to prevent disappointment.
Perhaps Luis Suarez should have considered it when took to the stand in Anfield’s media auditorium on Monday evening, ahead of first competitive return to the stadium where he used to frequently provide box office entertainment.
Probed constantly by the Spanish media, Suarez was asked how he would behave following a performance full of fireworks in the Champions League semi-final first leg. He answered with humility and vowed that he would behave as he did when he went back to Groningen with Ajax.
The line of questioning was understandable but there was really no need for Suarez to try and secure some favourable PR. There was no need, either, for him to try to pretend that he was something different to what he actually is.
Liverpool fans loved Suarez from the moment he announced himself with a goal on his debut against Stoke City in February 2011 to the moment he played his last game for the club against Newcastle in May 2014; the loved him warts and all.
Not one set of opposition fans liked him. They hated his snarling and his sniping and the way he would get into fights with their players; he would wind them up, put them off, playing with devilment that he garnered on the streets of Salto in Uruguay.
Now the Kop were experiencing the other side of the coin. Suarez had enraged many Liverpudlians in the Nou Camp for the way he argued with Andrew Robertson and barged into James Milner and the frenzied way he celebrated the first goal of this quite remarkable tie.
The feelings had clearly festered. In his Liverpool Echo column, former striker John Aldridge accused Suarez of ‘behaving like a rat’ last Wednesday and that unnecessary terminology ensured that the 32-year-old was going to get a hit reception.
This is why it made no sense for him to make that promise. When emotions run high and the stakes are at a premium, Suarez will do anything he can to win – anything. If it means standing on someone’s toes or badgering a referee, he’ll do it and won’t care who he upsets.
You saw it in the moments after Divock Origi had got Liverpool a foothold back in the game. Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Barcelona’s goalkeeper, cracked a ball forward to chase and Suarez set off in pursuit with Virgil van Dijk. The pair jostled and Suarez ended up on the floor. His reaction? To scamper after Cuneyt Cakir, the Turkish referee, and impore him to book van Dijk. It was duly noted in the stands. The boos started every time he touched the ball and the next collision led to the ineffective.
“F*** off Suarez!’ came the cry in the 28th minute. It followed again in the 33rd minute and again just before the half-time whistle after he stamped on Robertson; every time he got possession, the screams were the bit more intense, every time he made a mistake, the cheers were a little louder.
The incident with Robertson was particularly significant. It led to the Scotland left-back hobbling out of the game and that switch, ultimately changed things for Liverpool, as James Milner went to left back Gini Wijnaldum came on the second half turned into an onslaught.
But in the end, it was all pantomime. Suarez never did anything for Barcelona here or in the Nou Camp that he wouldn’t have done for Liverpool. What we can say for sure now, though, is the love affair that was once so intense has now fizzled out.