“I want to stay, in spite of everything, I’m quite happy here. On and off the field. Liverpool is one of the biggest clubs in Europe, a club with a lot of history.” So said Luis Suarez in an interview with Uruguay newspaper El Pais in March 2012. In light of his more recent comments about his future on Merseyside, this is not Suarez’s only quote from that interview that seems incongruous with current events. His claim then that “if you read what they publish on the internet and media, of course you’d think I’m having a very hard experience, but to tell the truth, I’m fine” does not really square with his present assertion that the media “didn’t treat me well … My reason for leaving is not the money. It’s my family and image. I don’t feel comfortable here any more.”
Of course, recent developments have shown the falseness of most of Suarez’s claims. It has been pointed out several times in recent days that, for someone whose expressed desire was to escape from the British media, a move to London, home of the British press and custodian of an atmosphere far more intense than you could find in the North-West, may not be the perfect solution. Whether his desire to move to Arsenal is borne of money or of the prospect of Champions League football, it is clear now that Suarez’s words, both in 2012 and in May of this year, cannot be taken at face value. For whatever reason, the Uruguayan is intent on leaving the club that stood by him so resolutely, to the detriment of their own image, through his accusation of racism and the subsequent eight-match ban. Even now, the club seems insistent on keeping their striker, with managing director Ian Ayre stating that “[i]t’s our job to convince Luis that this is the right place.”
A quick glance at the other unfolding British transfer saga of this summer would suggest, however, that Liverpool would do better to cut their losses and be done with Suarez: the situation Manchester United currently find themselves in with Wayne Rooney is an indication of what Liverpool’s position in a couple of years’ time will be if they manage to retain the Uruguayan. In 2010, Rooney’s stated reasons for wanting to leave United were that David Gill “did not give me any of the assurances I was seeking about the future squad” and that “for me its all about winning trophies”. In 2013, three trophies later, and despite the signing of Robin van Persie, Rooney again has expressed his desire to leave Old Trafford.
The irony of the situation is that Rooney’s reason for wanting out this time is that he is no longer United’s star player, and cannot guarantee starting every game in his preferred position, something partly caused by the signing of van Persie, exactly the sort of player that Rooney demanded to see back in 2010.
United, back then, managed to persuade Rooney to stay, thanks to the temptation of a £250,000 a-week contract, but the efforts they went to in order to keep the forward did not buy any loyalty from Rooney – it was merely a stop-gap measure, precisely the sort of measure that Liverpool will have achieved even if they somehow manage to hold on to Suarez this summer. They may be able to tie him down for a couple more years, but that will not mean that Suarez’s eye, and that of his agent, will not be elsewhere, willing to take the merest hint of a slight on his reputation as an invitation to angle for another move. When a player successfully holds a club to ransom, as Rooney did to United, they hold the upper hand, and it will only be a matter of time before the next “reason” for wanting to leave comes about.
Liverpool fans are concerned about what impact Suarez’s departure will have on the team, but if Liverpool, and manager Brendan Rogers, hold firm, insist that no one player is bigger than the club, and allow Suarez to leave, then it could be the making, rather than the breaking, of Rogers’ tenure at Anfield. There is no doubt that the Liverpool squad would be a weaker one without Suarez, but their performances at the end of last season, when bereft of Suarez due to another one of his indiscretions, showed that Liverpool are not simply a one-man team. Rogers has invested wisely so far this summer, and any transfer fee gained from selling Suarez could be put to good use. Rogers is trying to build a new dynasty at Liverpool, and this can far more easily be achieved by the sale of a player whose heart has left Anfield and will never return.
All those Liverpool fans who believe that, should their club hold on to Suarez this summer, his loyalty to Liverpool will be anything other than ephemeral, should remember Rooney’s words on signing his multi-million pound contract at United in October 2010, having supposedly resolved his differences with the club: “I am signing a new deal in the absolute belief that the management, coaching staff, board and owners are totally committed to making sure United maintains its proud winning history – which is the reason I joined the club in the first place.” For United fans, who have stuck with Rooney through thick and thin, those words now ring tiresomely hollow.