On deadline day of the January transfer window, 2011, Liverpool Football Club signed one of the most exciting strikers in Europe. Known for his goal return in the Eridivisie, Luis Suarez had made the switch to Merseyside to don the famous red shirt. Liverpool’s image was beginning to return after several months at the bottom of England. The saying “out with the old and in with the new” was one heavily used around Mersey side as Liverpool lined up a new era; offloading Fernando Torres to Chelsea and bringing in Suarez and Andy Carroll. While the Uruguayan is widely known for his ability and goal-scoring prowess, he also possesses a “dark-side”.
Suarez was regarded as a villain in the World Cup when, after blocking Stephen Appiah’s shot off the line, he used his hands to save Dominic Adiyiah’s goal-bound header with his hands. Suarez was red-carded and Asamoah Gyan missed the ensuing penalty, leaving Suarez a villain amongst heroes in the World Cup. Uruguay went on to win the penalty shoot-out and advance to the semi-finals, a match which Suarez missed due to his red-card.
At the time of his transfer to Liverpool, Suarez was under a two-match ban by Ajax for biting Otman Bakkal on the shoulder during a 0-0 draw. The KNVB then added a seven-match ban onto his two-matches, and Suarez was dubbed the “Cannibal of Ajax.”
Fast-forward to October of 2011 and Suarez is the doll of the Kop, but Liverpool’s No. 7 would again make the headlines. After being accused of racial abuse on Patrice Evra, the FA found him guilty and handed Suarez an eight-match ban. The Uruguyan’s first start for the Reds came at Old Trafford, where he refused to shake Evra’s hand during the pre-match ceremonies. After a week’s worth of preparation and anticipation, Liverpool Football Club had been let down.
Ian Ayre, Liverpool’s Managing Director, told liverpoolfc.tv, “We are extremely disappointed Luis Suarez did not shake hands with Patrice Evra before yesterday’s game. The player had told us beforehand that he would, but then chose not to do so. He has not only let himself down, but also Kenny Dalglish, his teammates and the Club.”
Luis Suarez issued an apology via Liverpool’s website, saying “I should have shaken Patrice Evra’s hand before the game and I want to apologise for my actions. I would like to put this whole issue behind me and concentrate on playing football.”
Though his apology along with Kenny Dalglish’s and Ayre’s statement, the image of Liverpool Football Club may be intact. However, Luis Suarez’ has remained tarnished as ever, and it will take something special to repair it. Sir Alex Ferguson has suggested he never play for Liverpool again, but that is not the way the club and Suarez will fix the situation. Suarez has been a brilliant acquisition since his arrival on Merseyside, and the Reds would not let something like that slip away. Suarez will need to be at his brilliant best, however, if the Reds are to lift the Carling Cup at Wembley on February 26th and continue their FA Cup run against Brighton this weekend.
The Reds Champions League aspirations have begun to take a serious hit after only picking up five points out of a possible 18. With matches against Arsenal and Chelsea yet to come at Anfield, it is still possible, but the Reds Achille’s heel this campaign has been matches against opposition on the lower half of the table. Suarez can be the striker to lead Liverpool back to European glory. Liverpool’s minimal goal set by owner John W. Henry was to make the Champions League, and though it has become more and more unlikely, it is still possible. Though Suarez cannot do it alone, he must be the one to spark the turnaround for Liverpool, his image depends on it.