Time passes. It always has and it always will.
It is one of the aspects of sport that can’t be controlled. Michael Jordan got old, Pele had to retire, Diego Maradona got too, er, large.
But the years passed for them in a different way than the passage of time being experienced by Liverpool right now.
It has been three-and-a-half years since a Champions League football match was played on Merseyside, and will be four-and-a-half by this time next year.
Everton have tried to change that over the past couple of years of course, but it has been Liverpool’s absence from the top table of European football which has been more keenly felt―not least by two of their most recognisable players.
Goalkeeper Pepe Reina was signing for the European champions when he joined the Reds for a bargain £6m in the summer of 2005. Back then he wouldn’t have thought that by 2013 he’d have spent almost half of his Liverpool career out of the Continent’s premier competition. FA Cup and League Cup winners’ medals are his only prizes at the club.
For forward Luis Suarez, his Reds career has so far been a much shorter but undoubtedly more eventful one.
In quotes given to Spanish newspaper El Pais, the Uruguayan forward publicly courted a move to Real Madrid. The striker is apparently “disturbed” by Liverpool’s failure to challenge the elite both at home and abroad (via the Daily Mail), with his frequent claims of his love and respect for the Reds not quite doing enough to convince fans that he won’t be leaving soon (via Daily Mirror).
The duo represent the front and back of Liverpool’s team. The Reds’ last line of defence and their first―and frequently last season, only―weapon in attack.
The passage of time has affected the pair in different ways.
Reina’s form did improve during the tail end of Brendan Rodgers’ first season in charge at Anfield, but it was possible to detect that his own high standards were slipping over the eventful preceding couple of years. Perhaps less than inspired by the dwindling level of Liverpool's competitiveness, It would be disrespectful to say that he has being going stale at the club, but there has certainly been a whiff of something not quite right for a while now.
Suarez’s case differs as he wasn’t around to experience the highs that Reina did.
The Uruguayan will have seen little in his two-and-a-half years at the club to convince him that the good, Champions League times will be coming back soon. But you can’t really blame him for that as no-one else will have seen that either.
His concern lies with the fact that some of the peak years of his career will be spent seeking to drag Liverpool up to where they once were. A position that players as good as Suarez were born to play on. At 26 years of age he knows that he isn’t getting any younger and that his peak years could be better spent somewhere else. We’ve all been there, Luis.
So if the pair leave, what happens then?
As a club, Liverpool won’t just fold and give up the moment that their respected goalkeeper and world-class forward walk out of the door for the final time. They’ll simply carry on regardless.
Liverpool is still there today despite the exits of Elisha Scott, Ray Clemence and Bruce Grobbelaar. Of Billy Liddell, Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish and Fernando Torres. Their absences and those of hundreds of others were keenly felt of course, but they were replaced over time.
Time passes, and it is looking like it’ll be a time for others soon.
Then when their time is up, others will take their turn.
They always have and they always will.