Following Luis Suarez's unprecedented four-month ban from "all football activity," much debate has centred on what Liverpool should do next—with the key question seemingly whether they should seek to sell or keep the mercurial Uruguayan.
There are, of course, two very differing views, but such a complicated issue cannot have a black-and-white answer. People may proclaim about morals, loyalty, right and wrong, but those are long gone from football. Gordon Strachan, speaking as a pundit on ITV on Thursday (quotes via The Telegraph) said:
We give Uruguay stick about defending [Suarez], but every manager defends his player.
People talk about morals – we don’t have any morals in football. Let’s get that right.
Over the years I have played there has been wife-batterers, drink-driving incidents, infidelity, Eric Cantona jumping into the crowd and kung-fu-ing someone in the chest. The clubs stand by them.
He's not wrong.
Meanwhile, FIFA appear to have somehow come out of this with praise for their swift action; it's a shame they aren't so quick to investigate their own issues. Lest we forget that the incident took place at a World Cup—a tournament that has seen workmen die in the construction and an estimated $11 billion spent on construction in a country lacking basic infrastructure. So it's a bit rich to discuss morals.
Irony, Hypocrisy and Short Memories
Aside from the bizarre fact that the English media have been far more concerned with what happened than the Italians—when the victim was an Italy player—there has been moral outrage from opposition supporters, tennis players, TV personalities... everybody has had their say.
Ironically, the Italians themselves have been more concerned with their own failure to qualify from the group stages of the World Cup.
I've even seen somebody compare Suarez to Mike Tyson and claim that Suarez's ban wasn't long enough comparably. Tyson was banned from boxing for a year, for completely biting off a rather substantial piece of ear. Suarez has received a third of the same ban for a nibble that didn't draw blood.
Judgement and perspective have been thrown out the window for moral outrage and proclamation of what's right and wrong.
Forget a player intentionally, in a pre-meditated move, breaking an opponent's leg and ending their career; forget a player "kung fu kicking" a supporter; forget a player being banned from football for a drug-related offence for nine months; forget a footballer being convicted of rape and still being allowed back by their club; forget a footballer causing death by dangerous driving and still being a professional. The list is endless.
Yes, Suarez has done wrong—three times—and it's indefensible, but the lack of perspective just goes to show the sensationalist, media-driven world that we now live in.
Seemingly, Liverpool are going to explore their options as to whether they can take legal action.
They're the ones who have been given the harshest deal. The club released Suarez to FIFA for an international tournament, and now FIFA are effectively returning him with a four-month ban. Thanks very much.
Liverpool did everything right in the wake of the Branislav Ivanovic incident 14 months ago, releasing a statement within hours condemning what happened, fining the player and giving him the help he needed.
This latest incident did not happen while he was working for Liverpool, yet Liverpool are the ones who must now (possibly) pay his wages for four months while he isn't able to do his job. It makes no sense. But then FIFA, UEFA and The FA's disciplinary procedures rarely do.
In its simplest terms, Liverpool should keep Suarez because despite his problems he is one of the top three footballers on this planet. We all know the stats on his 31 league goals last campaign, his incredible work ethic and phenomenal talents on the pitch.
If another club is willing to sign him then surely Liverpool should be willing to keep him? If he's good enough for Barcelona, he's certainly good enough for Liverpool!
Let Suarez Leave
Then there is the counter-argument, the one that largely surrounds the aforementioned morals, those morals that people may wish exist but don't exist in football.
The Daily Mail's Dominic King writes that "Rodgers doesn't need it [the distraction of Suarez] any more" and that "Suarez keeps letting Rodgers down."
Can he be trusted, King asks? Good question. And Rodgers hasn't shirked big decisions in the past. This would probably be the biggest. Letting a player of Suarez's ability leave wouldn't be a decision made lightly.
Perhaps, Liverpool would be better off allowing Suarez to leave—and perhaps Suarez will use the latest reactions as a reason for wanting to—and reinvesting the money in the squad. The problem being there is that transfers aren't easy to get right, we know that Suarez is a genius, we don't know that signing replacements will work out.
Amid the anger and frustration at the situation, and as has been noted by many commenters, Suarez has nobody but himself to blame—but Uruguay themselves should be taking a huge amount of blame alongside their player. Their reaction to the incident has been poor, a stark contrast to Liverpool's 14 months ago.
As noted by ESPN's Gabriele Marcotti, perhaps if they'd have dealt with it better, the ban would have been less.
The defence of Suarez is, perhaps, admirable—but in this instance it's completely misguided. The evidence is clear, yet the Uruguayans have claimed it never happened. The reaction of his teammates, fans and the Uruguayan FA is not helpful to Suarez, effectively endorsing bad behaviour.
Whichever way this complicated situation ultimately ends, Liverpool will be fine. They have a superb manager and owner that will ensure that should Suarez be sold, he won't be leaving for below his value—and that value isn't really effected by this incident, he could just as easily have an injury keeping him out for three months of the season.
If Liverpool and Suarez decide that a move is in the best interests of both parties, then so be it. I personally wouldn't be overly concerned should Alexis Sanchez, perhaps Pedro, and a good amount of cash arrive at Anfield in return.
It would be gutting to see one of the world's best players leave, but it wouldn't be the end of Liverpool FC.