How Luis Suarez Can Change His Reputation and Become a Legend at Liverpool
Liverpool forward Luis Suarez is never out of the headlines, and most recently, of course, his name was all over the media because of a biting incident with Branislav Ivanovic that saw him suspended for 10 matches.
The Uruguayan attacker was already being linked with a move abroad over the summer, with the Reds having failed in their quest for European football via a positive league placing in the Premier League, and this latest incident increased speculation that he might have had enough of life in England.
There is a train of thought that believes Suarez has been punished for his reputation rather than merely for the latest offence. So what can the Reds' No. 7 do to alter that reputation and make himself a name to rank alongside Steven Gerrard, Kenny Dalglish and other all-time Liverpool greats?
Turn Down the Lure of European Football for One More Year
First of all, of course, there will be the wiles and riches of the likes of Bayern Munich to turn down this coming summer.
By all accounts, Liverpool have no interest in selling their star attacker, though a £50 million bid from Germany or Spain might well sway that resolve somewhat. It would then be up to Luis himself to opt to walk away from a potential move to play Champions League football, join a team fighting for major honours and continue to help Liverpool improve and grow over the next season.
It sounds a bit mad put that way, but the very greatest of any club over time must face adversity and come through the other side successful and smiling.
Suarez couldn't be blamed by any stretch of the imagination if he departed Merseyside this summer, but to be considered anything close to a legend, he'll have to hang around for some time more yet.
Keep Up the Improvement with Regards to 'Simulation'
At least some part of Luis Suarez's reputation comes from his penchant for going to ground too easily, a phase which dogged him in his early months at Liverpool.
This season, he has made significant improvements in that regard, not looking for the easy option or blatantly diving as he had done previously—though he hasn't been without incident entirely and had to be disciplined by manager Brendan Rodgers earlier in the season.
In the main, however, it has been a steady and noticeable improvement from Suarez, and the longer that goes on, the more it will be recognised by those who pay attention to such things. Of course, there will always be the fact that the reputation lags behind the reality, and one incident will be enough to do in months of hard work. All he can do is to keep himself honest in that regard.
Head Down, Nose Clean
What can you say about biting incidents? Not much, really, except, "Don't do it."
Suarez will learn from the episode, presumably, and must realise the extent of damage that he does to the club as much as himself. He likely doesn't care about the abuse he gets, or will get, from the stands—but surely he must be bothered about missing 10 games at a throw because of suspension.
Luis can't be given an official list of things you must not do on a football pitch. He simply has to retain an element of self control—even in the most heated of circumstances—and channel the aggression and will to win that he displays in every game in positive directions.
Score the Goals to Fire the Reds to the Top 4
...sticking the ball in the back of the net.
He did so 30 times this season in all competitions, a magnificent record for a forward derided as a poor finisher only a year ago. If he stays at Liverpool next season, the Reds need him fit, available, in form and scoring and creating goals from September to May.
However, it won't be down to just him. With recent additions Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge providing further final third options for the manager, it can be hoped that three or four quality additions in summer can make all the difference and provide Suarez with more top-quality teammates to play alongside.
The Reds will need to be very, very close to the top four by this time next season to prove that Suarez made the right decision in staying, and there will still be teams interested in taking him if they're not looking at a Champions League spot.
But with a better than 1-in-2 strike rate in his first 96 games for the club, Suarez could go a long way towards cementing his status as a top all-time player for Liverpool by adding another 30 goals next season and firing the Reds back into the Champions League.