Liverpool must stave off Suarez vultures

Posted by guest on January 23, 2013, 09:22:05 PM

If you stand on the centre circle of the Anfield pitch and look skywards, you can see them all. Grey specks of suspicion lining the roofs of the four stands, waiting. A magnificent turn on the byline cranes their bald heads further; every well-taken goal elicits a flap of the wings and sharpening of claws. Above the humdrum murmurs, a hungry squawk reverberates around the Kop.

The vultures have started to circle Luis Suarez.

This has nothing to do with Bayern Munich's reported interest, and more the reality played out before all. That nobody knew Pep Guardiola would join the Bundesliga club last Wednesday, but by Sunday his transfer targets were readily available, is an insult to the reader's intellect. That Suarez’s agent is Pere Guardiola - brother of debonair trophy-machine Pep - makes Suarez’s move to Germany no more likely than Guardiola appearing in the Anfield dugout, holding hands with Lionel Messi.

Regardless of erroneous reporting, if Bayern Munich show no interest in Suarez, they should. But to the back of the queue they go. For any team with an open chequebook and visions of world domination will not allow such an unwonted talent go unwanted. Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid will all sit. They will all wait.

Let's deal with candour, rather than conjecture: Suarez has been one of the top attacking talents in world football over the past two years - a standing that Liverpool cannot match after finishing sixth and eighth in his two seasons at the club. With the club currently in seventh, it is hope, not expectation, for better this year.

The league table doesn't lie. But it does not tell the full story, either. For the first time in a while, there is a tangible feeling of progress under Brendan Rodgers; his squad, and its supporters, continue to rest one hopeful, squinted eye upon Champions League football.

Their glances may prove folly, but at least there’s feasibility, as well. Suarez will also be relieved to finally have support up front, the signing of Daniel Sturridge the key to much, not least the fetters of overzealous defending.

It still might not prove enough. Suarez leaving Liverpool in the summer was even discussed by Steven Gerrard. In a television appearance on Sunday, he said:

"Luis seems happy and settled at the club, but whether he will leave if we don't make the top four is something only he can answer. He knows what his ambitions and dreams are.

“Hopefully we can put up a fight and finish fourth and make that decision for him but Suarez deserves to be in the Champions League, I think everyone would admit that.”

But. The longest, most agonising three-letter word in Liverpool’s lexicon. It is a rarity a player, and man, of such certitude as Gerrard uses it. But he has seen it before. The big two of La Liga took Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano; Chelsea proved too tempting for Fernando Torres. As time ticks by, the feeling persists that Gerrard will always be the last man standing.

Before hysteria takes control and the four horsemen gallop in on their high servants, a moment of calm reflection. Though true Suarez deserves Champions League football, this should act as an encouragement to Liverpool’s hierarchy, not a deterrent. If returning the glory of proper European nights to Anfield is not motivation enough to procure fourth, nor the financial incentives the Champions League brings, perhaps convincing Suarez to illuminate Merseyside a little longer will help.

Not that there is much to convince him of at the moment. His star has never been brighter, and the Uruguayan will be quick to note he is playing for a team bringing the best out of him.

Rodgers has managed to take Suarez's immeasurable, celestial talent and concentrate it; the rough edges, though they still sometimes protrude, but have been smoothed down. No longer is Suarez a blast of energy, expending it against anyone within range, like the human form of a Catherine wheel firework. Now the energy is used far more wisely, the majority of it focused on making defenders rue the moment they signed professional terms.

All the more reason for Liverpool to keep Suarez - and the supporters - happy. Even more than who Suarez is, it is what he represents. Fenway Sports Group will not want another star striker to leave for big money under their ownership. Though Torres' departure ultimately proved the correct decision, it is unfathomable the same would be said of Suarez. There is no worse PR than selling your best players; no worse issue of rebuilding while the foundations beneath are uprooted. No amount of money can replace Suarez. Regardless of his intentions, FSG should remember that.

The signing of Sturridge and concrete interest in Inter Milan’s Philippe Coutinho will also strengthen Suarez’s resolve at Anfield, though a few more players quickly approaching their best would also help. The 25-year-old will not want to spend the peak of his career mid-table in the Premier League, and although there is an unspoken acknowledgement at Liverpool that this could be so, it is not a fate preordained.

Yet with 20 goals already this season and a smile as wide as the River Mersey, it is hard to imagine Suarez anywhere else for the foreseeable future. Indeed, the challenge of restoring Liverpool to former heights is something he is relishing.

He could hardly do much better right now. Such is the level of his performance; it is simple to forget how good he is. No longer do people roll out of bed on a Saturday morning; they bound from it, knowing they are to be treated to a 90-minute exhibition from one of the world’s best. Though nothing is worth the extortionate ticket prices clubs set, this humanisation of sporting theatre comes close, playing with the constant music of reverence and revulsion behind him.

Suarez's playing style  was once likened to watching the Minotaur perform Swan Lake, floating with grace before driving with pugnacity, tenacity, skill and strength; not so. Unlike the Minotaur, Suarez would have weaved through the Labyrinth in his trademark style, slain Theseus and become King of Athens. This is not hyperbole. He’s simply that good.

No wonder the vultures lurk. It’s not the first time in his career they have watched and waited, though those ones care more about feasting on his tempestuous character instead of his supreme ability. A few even swoop at any opportunity; any moment he is fouled, or scowls towards officials with that fiery disposition, is a chance to peck. Suarez cares little and just keeps playing his football in his indomitable style.

Liverpool will hope that is exactly his response once more as the vultures with billions of pounds as feathers sit, watching and waiting.

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