Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
There was a moment when that cross came over in Natal and you saw Luis Suarez and Giorgio Chiellini tangle when it wasn’t quite clear what had occurred.
A headbutt? A simple coming together in the penalty area? The commentator even suggested that Chiellini could be in trouble for elbowing Suarez in the face, perhaps the reason behind the forward falling to the ground and holding his mouth.
Then it all became clearer though, and Twitter blew up, and 14-month-old memes were searched for on computers around the world, and images of Otman Bakkal and Branislav Ivanovic were conjured up, and newspaper front pages were cleared. Here we go again.
If found guilty, Suarez deserves a lengthy ban.
Presumably that ban will just be for Uruguay games, given that when he last committed such an act, Suarez was banned for 10 Liverpool fixtures but played for his country in the Confederations Cup in between, scoring three goals in four outings.
That shouldn’t change the fact that, when he returns to Liverpool ahead of what promises to be a pivotal season for his club, the Reds need to take responsibility and look to root out the cause of such staggeringly destructive behaviour.
There will be those who claim that they shouldn’t need to do that of course, and should immediately look to sell him to the highest, probably La Liga-based bidder, but what happens then? Real Madrid or Barcelona get themselves a world-class player and get congratulated for it, as the sins of Suarez’s past are expunged simply because he’s not wearing a red shirt any more.
But are they sins if you don’t even know you’re doing them?
The notion that Suarez goes out onto a football pitch looking to plant his teeth on people is probably one you’ll read about a lot in the coming days, but to believe that is to miss the point entirely. There have even been suggestions—as there was following the Chelsea incident—that he’s done it to earn a move. That’s laughable.
Look at the Ivanovic incident again, and other than the fact that Steven Gerrard is playing in a cross from the right-hand side it is remarkably similar to this one. Suarez’s act is a reaction, a reflex, an attempt to put the opponent off.
Somewhere in that flawed genius-like mind there is a belief that this behaviour is okay. A nibble on the shoulder. A distracted defender. Some space in the penalty area. The vital goal. National hero again. If Diego Godin's goal had come earlier in the match and Uruguay were 1-0 up, then it doesn't happen.
It’s almost certainly an unconscious act, as if you were to ask the Suarez who exists away from the football pitch if it was acceptable he’d surely say no. But that doesn’t change the fact that he should be punished and punished severely for it.
The very need to slip into this unconscious state tells you all you need to know about Suarez the footballer.
Very few players in the modern game “feel” a match like he does. You could not know the score of a Uruguay or Liverpool game and then find it out just by looking at his expression.
When things aren’t going his way, he’ll do everything in his power to try and turn the tables. It starts with an exaggerated fall to win a free-kick and ends with incidents such as we saw with Chiellini. And Ivanovic. And Bakkal.
It is all an extension of the same mindset, so then what do Liverpool do to try and stamp it out? After all, the snarling, win-at-all costs, ready-to-take-on-the-world Suarez was so key to their impressive displays last season. Like his team, he’s often brilliant to watch.
Clearly his manager is key, and Brendan Rodgers handled the Uruguayan superbly throughout 2013/14—which became the only full season Suarez has had at Liverpool to date without causing a major diplomatic incident. Perhaps they should put a sign up celebrating.
In fact, that isn’t too far-fetching an idea.
Getting Suarez to lighten up a little could go a long way. Yes Luis, winning is vitally important, but you don’t need to go to the very edge of human decency to try and achieve it.
Rodgers will speak to him, and will perhaps employ psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters to man-mark him, but ultimately he and Liverpool can never be sure that his behaviour will go away. It all depends on how long they want to put up with it, or rather the threat of it for.
Because within that strange mind is the ability to play football as well as pretty much anyone else on the planet, and as we all know that is what ultimately matters in the modern game.
How Liverpool act now could have a huge bearing on both Suarez’s career and his life, and he needs help.
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