Luis Suarez is not the Premier League’s most popular footballer.
His career in English football has been dogged by controversy. In 2011, Suarez was banned for eight matches after racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. Last season, he surpassed even that lengthy suspension by picking up a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.
It’s not only Chelsea and United fans who have distaste for Suarez. Last season, he was jeered at every single Premier League ground.
The high-profile controversies are only part of the reason for his unpopularity. Suarez’s game is littered with gamesmanship and sly manoeuvres. He will use any advantage he can in order to secure victory for his team and is one of the Premier League’s most prolific exponents of simulation. His professional handball against Ghana in the 2010 World Cup also still rankles with many supporters.
Liverpool were spared accusations of being a "one-man team" last season, but there’s no doubt that Suarez is crucial to their aspirations of returning to the top four. The duo of Daniel Sturridge and Iago Aspas are talented, but not in Suarez’s league.
If Suarez were to join either of the London giants, the gap between the current top four and the rest would simply widen. A strong Premier League requires the likes of Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham to be knocking on the door of Champions League qualification.
The financial boon and elevation of status provided by the Champions League are enormous. By consistently monopolising access to Europe’s elite competition, the top four are in danger of breaking away from the rest.
The days of a side being able to come up from the second tier and compete at the top end of the Premier League are long-gone. Now you must get in to the top four just to stand a chance of attracting the type of talent to compete for major honours. Even for a side with unprecedented financial power, like Manchester City, reaching the Champions League had to be the initial goal.
Without Suarez, Liverpool don’t have a hope. Despite all his flaws, he was still voted by his peers as the second-best player in England last season.
Suarez has the ability to drag Liverpool back to the perch from which they’ve fallen. If Suarez leaves Anfield, the Premier League will instantly become a less competitive place.