Luis Suarez didn't feature for Liverpool toward the end of the Premier League season, and he won't feature for them at the beginning of the next one either after landing a 10-match suspension for biting Branislav Ivanovic.
Judging by recent quotes attributed to the forward, Suarez wants that to be his last significant act as a Liverpool player—that, and scoring an injury-time equalising goal in the same match.
Since joining the Reds in 2011 and scoring on his debut soon after, Suarez has been a standout performer in a subpar Liverpool team, a real fan favourite who has been given all the backing a player could want by his own supporters while he was vilified week in, week out by the opposing fans.
Suarez gave his all, scored goals, worked hard for the team and gave the paying viewers something exciting to watch each match; the fans sang songs for him, made sure he felt appreciated and backed him up at every turn against the media, the social sphere, and any others who didn't understand the passion the Uruguayan felt.
It was a symbiotic relationship, and it worked well.
But the bite on Ivanovic caused yet another backlash from fans and media toward Suarez, and there was no real defence of him this time. You can't just bite a player, and even if someone else somewhere has gotten away with it before, there's no reason to suggest Suarez should on this occasion.
He didn't, and the end result is a total of 20 matches of suspension for the forward in his two-and-a-half years on Merseyside.
And to think, he hasn't even been sent off yet.
Can Liverpool afford to be without their best forward for 20 games? Not really. But did the fans forgive him, continue to back him, sigh with exasperation and hope for better behaviour next year? By and large, yes.
Fans want Suarez at Anfield, because he's the best Liverpool have.
But now, Suarez has spoken out. He's spoken out in a manner that not only implies he is unhappy with the media treatment, but apparently in a forthright manner that he would rather be playing somewhere else.
And for all his qualities, the message from Liverpool fans at that moment becomes a very different one: Go on then, lad. Go play somewhere else.
Liverpool is not a second-choice club.
The team doesn't need to put up with petulance and misbehaviour if the staff member in question is only half-assed about representing the shirt anyway. And for all Suarez's comments about loving the fans, he's showing an extraordinary amount of disrespect to them by suggesting he'd be better off playing for a different club.
Namely, Real Madrid.
The Telegraph reported on May 31 how Suarez had mentioned in a press conference that he wanted to leave. It was benign stuff, by and large, but present nonetheless.
My reason for leaving is my family and my image, I don't feel comfortable here any more. It is a difficult moment for me, my coach and my colleagues know that they [the British media] didn't treat me well.
Then came further details from the Guardian:
It's a good moment for a change of environment because of all I've been through in England, where I haven't been judged as a player but based on other things. I had a hard time, very hard, in the things that have been said are lies. It's nothing against Liverpool, on the contrary, I feel very comfortable at the club, but I have a daughter and I do not want [her] to hear bad things about her father. I do not know when I'm going and I do not know if I'm staying. If I stay it is because it is a great club but also in turn I know that it is difficult because of the harassment I get from the press.
And then, as the press conferences kept coming and Suarez kept biting, the apparent real confirmation of his intentions seeped through. As per Metro:
As soon as I arrived in England I didn’t like the press. They have never judged me on how I play football, they judged me on my attitude. They said I dived, moaned, postured, they said I was racist, everything. They have never spoken well of me. Of course I would like to play with [Cristiano] Ronaldo, he is a great player. You never know, but it is complicated. At the moment he is in Madrid and I am in Liverpool and I do not know what is going to happen.
Real Madrid is a wonderful destination for any footballer, but there is a right and a wrong way to go about angling for such a move.
Whenever Suarez has complained about the media, the fans have stood by him and backed him to the hilt.
The Patrice Evra saga, the handball FA Cup goal, the shirts worn by teammates, the occasional dives, the finger-sign at Fulham, the Uruguay hand-ball against Ghana, and yes, even to an extent the Ivanovic bite. Not in that it is fine to do, but in that it's understandable how these things happen to Suarez from time to time.
And yet, in a twist of bitter irony, using the press is exactly how Luis Suarez chooses to tell Liverpool fans he no longer wants to play for them.
He'll move on, and so will Liverpool.
But Suarez could have left with the thank-yous and the well-wishes of pretty much every Reds fan this summer had he simply said he wanted to play Champions League football. Liverpool are miles away from it, and it will take a huge effort to get there within a year.
Instead, this not-exactly-subtle come-and-get-me to Real Madrid, managerless and in constant flux and being used as a pawn in election battles, is preferable to telling Liverpool supporters the real truth.
I'm a good player, and I need more.
It would have been fine. Disappointing, but understandable.
And this? This is nonsense. This is quickly degrading into, with some fans, hurry up and be finished with the Confederations Cup, and let Brendan Rodgers use the money from you elsewhere.
Once upon a time, Suarez was drawing comparisons with Kenny Dalglish the player for his ability to outwit defenders, score goals and wear the No. 7 shirt. Any more press conferences and quotes like this, and he's only going to be compared to the departures of players like Fernando Torres, strikers who gave so much, took even more, and ultimately tried to deceive those who had supported them so long.