With incidents of simulation, biting and blatant mercenary tactics, the Uruguayan pitched his tent as a player with magnificent ability but a terribly flawed character.
Since those comments, however, Suarez appears to have taken a crash course in positive public relations.
He now attends awards ceremonies and happily chats with the journalists who have slighted him. He smiles with fans as he shows his everyman status pushing a trolley around Costco. And he even attempted to show his affable nature with an interview with a young fan—in English—on Liverpool's YouTube channel.
Toeing the line with Liverpool's all-important brand, however, does not seem to have had any effect on his perception on the field.
During Liverpool's 2-1 loss to Arsenal in the FA Cup over the weekend, Suarez was clumsily barged to the ground in the area by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It was a clear penalty and a golden opportunity for the visitors to draw level. Yet referee Howard Webb—the man who will be representing England by officiating in Brazil next summer—did not give it.
Perhaps it was because he had already awarded Suarez a penalty minutes earlier, for a much softer infringement from Lukas Podolski. Yet the most likely reason was the dramatics that accompanied the incident.
When the Ox impeded his progress, the Liverpool striker fell to the ground with his trademark pained expression, while clutching his apparently damaged thigh. If Suarez genuinely feels as much agony as his face suggests when he is touched on the field, he should consider retirement before permanent damage is done to his exceptionally fragile frame.
Luis Suarez has become the boy who cried wolf. So many times have we seen him trying to con a referee that he is now being denied obvious fouls.
After the match, manager Brendan Rodgers expressed his "bitter disappointment" concerning the penalty to The Guardian:
We're a team that is really aggressive in our attacking and we provoke a lot of challenges. Especially Luis, who is always in and around the box and asking questions of defenders. Quite a lot of the time he doesn't get what he deserves.
Rodgers also brought up a collision with Samuel Eto'o during a game with Chelsea in December, which Jose Mourinho described as an "acrobatic swimming pool jump." Further inspection suggested it should have been a penalty, but it was Howard Webb once again who did nothing, perhaps because of Suarez's unnecessary layer of theatrics.
The Uruguayan may not always get what he deserves, but this may be because he has made a career from getting more than he deserves, using his exceptional speed and dynamism to win fouls and get opponents in trouble, rather than staying strong on his feet.
If Rodgers feels "bitterly disappointed" by this penalty denial, perhaps he should harken back to the disappointment he felt one year ago when he labelled his star forward's admission of diving as "unacceptable."
Thanks to this level of scrutiny, his tendency to invite tackles and his cynically exaggerated reactions, his reputation precedes him. One could call the problem an albatross around his neck, but he would probably wince in agony if such a metaphorical bird was ever placed upon him.
Ultimately, Suarez's reputation may have cost Liverpool a quarter-final place in the FA Cup and their best shot at silverware this season. He may be his club's greatest asset on the field, but his reputation means there is always a risk of him becoming their greatest liability.
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