In all likelihood, Luis Suarez has played his final match for Liverpool Football Club. The 10-game ban handed down by the Football Association ensures that, unless the Reds somehow get into Europe, the soonest he can return is sometime in October. And chances are he’ll have been moved along months before then.
You see, no matter how many coaches, teammates or supporters at the club leap to his defense, the only opinion that matters in this instance is that of the owner, and if history is any indication it’s a near certainty that John W. Henry will force Suarez’s exit as soon as an acceptable offer comes in for the Uruguayan.
To that end, Henry will remain mum on the issue until the end of the season. Coming out and saying the player has played his last for the club would only decrease the value of those offers, and in that context Brendan Rodgers’ otherwise bizarre defense of Suarez was actually helpful. It’s important the manager makes it seem as though the 26-year-old is staying, even if he isn’t.
And he almost definitely isn’t.
While having an American owner has sometimes been a source of discomfort at Liverpool, in Henry’s case it’s rather illuminating. Based in Boston, the 63-year-old is acutely aware of the brand value of his foreign asset, and with his holding company going through some financial difficulties, that awareness is surely even more sensitive.
It was brand value, and the damage Liverpool were doing to it, that resulted in Kenny Dalglish’s sacking last spring. The club icon’s defense of Suarez following the Patrice Evra race row was so disconnected and so embarrassing, that Henry could be forgiven for thinking he hadn’t actually bought a football team, but a time machine to the 1970s.
Liverpool’s PR department heaped further humiliation on the club when, following the FA’s verdict that Suarez be suspended eight matches for racial abuse, they released a statement not only defending the behaviour of their player but shifting the blame for the whole affair to Evra, whose character they astonishingly brought into question.
And if that wasn’t enough, they had the gall to parade their players in Suarez T-shirts in a shocking display of solidarity.
When Dalglish eventually expressed regret for his conduct, his words had Henry’s influence written all over them. As the BBC reported at the time, both Suarez and Dalgish were compelled to apologize after the “direct intervention of Liverpool’s US owners.”
Henry didn’t abide their conduct at the time, and he isn’t about to now. Last spring it was Dalglish who lost his job, and this time around it’ll be Suarez who departs the club in shame.
He is a repeat offender, and his behaviour in both the racism and biting incidents was profoundly wrong. That his club somehow saw fit to defend him only exacerbated an embarrassing situation, and Henry will now know how he can prevent this from happening again.
Suarez was given a second chance, but he won’t get a third.