What Luis Suarez Must Do to Win Back Liverpool Fans
After two months of tortuous, repetitive, ceaseless stories of Luis Suarez clamouring for a transfer away from Liverpool this summer, the Uruguayan forward has reportedly performed an about-turn and is now prepared to stay.
While it will be seen as a victory for the club and their steadfastness in refusing to negotiate to sell their prized asset to a rival, it doesn't automatically mean that Suarez will return to being the club's star after the turmoil he has put supporters through recently.
Ed Malyon of Mirror Football reports that Suarez told Uruguayan paper El Observador that he would be staying at Anfield this season, due to "all of the people's affection (for me)."
Journalist Martin Charquero (in Spanish) also reports how the forward told him personally that he'd be staying, and that a contract renewal was suddenly a new possibility.
ATENCIÓN. Luis Suárez me confirma que no se ira de Liverpool. El apoyo de los hinchas en las últimas semanas influyeron en la decision.— Martin Charquero (@MartinCharquero) August 13, 2013
Translation via ESPNFC: "Luis Suarez confirms to me that he will not leave Liverpool. The support of the fans in recent weeks influenced his decision."
Luis Suárez ve como probable una renovación (extension) del contrato que lo une a Liverpool.— Martin Charquero (@MartinCharquero) August 13, 2013
Translation: "Suarez sees it as likely that he'll sign a renewal (extension) to the contract that binds him to Liverpool."
Suarez and the Fans
Almost from the moment he took to the pitch at Anfield in February 2011 as a Liverpool player, taking just a few minutes to score his debut goal for the club, Suarez has been a fan favourite.
A reckless approach to combat and hard work combined with arguably the best dribbling skills in the entire Premier League made him a stunning addition to the Liverpool team, and the Kop crowd adored him for it. Virtuoso performances against the likes of Manchester United and Fulham helped his case early on, while last season his 30 goals in all competitions cemented his status as the club's No. 1 player after two-and-a-half seasons at Anfield.
Summer talk of wanting a move to Real Madrid, blaming a whole host of different reasons for wanting to leave and a long-term suspension for biting have all tested fans' patience with him though.
He was heavily cheered at Anfield when coming on as a substitute for Steven Gerrard's testimonial game, but an apparent poor attitude in training led to him being asked to train on his own and two interviews given to English papers while the team travelled to Norway fueled fury in some quarters.
Finding his Place in the Team
First and foremost, the majority of supporters appear to agree with Brendan Rodgers' insistence that Suarez must apologise for his actions and interviews and start to work hard in training once more before he is reintegrated into the first team.
After that, of course he still has six games of his suspension to serve, meaning the earliest he could make his return will be in late September. Should Liverpool make a strong start to the new campaign and the chosen front line work well together, there's no guarantee that Rodgers will simply put him straight back into the starting XI—the manager has made it abundantly clear this summer that he will not be a pushover regarding team matters.
Suarez's position in the team is also less clear for this season, with Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge shining when played centrally and a host of wide threats now at the manager's disposal.
Hard work, an acceptance to challenge even more than last season for his place in the team and then good performances on the pitch will go some distance to winning back his manager and supporters.
Getting Back in the Good Books
Wherever Suarez is played in the team, Reds fans will expect three things of him: his usual ferocious appetite to win back the ball and harass opposition defences, plenty of scoring chances being created and, of course, goalscoring.
In his two-and-a-half years at the club, No. 7 has managed more than a one-in-two strike rate in all competitions—fans are expecting lots of goals even if he plays from a starting position out wide.
Suarez needs to continue his good form in front of goal and, perhaps more importantly this season, create more clear chances for his teammates.
Liverpool fans have already come to trust, both individually and as a pair, Coutinho and Sturridge to find the back of the net, so the emphasis is going to be more on supporting and supplementing these two rather than Suarez himself.
The soundbites and interviews, unless they are specifically pre-approved by the club, have got to be cut out.
All fans like hearing from their favourite players, but it's going to benefit nobody if, four months down the line, Suarez is talking about "missed opportunities" or "we'll see what happens next summer."
Above all else, it's a mix of graft and results that will earn Suarez a reprieve on the terraces to the extent that his name continues to be sung loud and proud. Liverpool badly need to retain their best players to challenge for Champions League football, and Suarez comes into that category most assuredly.
If he helps the team get close to that particular objective this season and perhaps aids a trophy chase in the cups along the way, then many of the on- and off-field issues his name has generated over the past few months will be forgiven, if not forgotten.
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