If you were following the early stages of the World Cup then you will know that Luis Suarez and his bite of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini hit the headlines around the world and resulted in Suarez receiving a 9 match international ban and a 4 month ban from all forms of football. Most people put Suarez’s actions down to him being a bit insane and losing his cool with his team facing elimination and being tired of having been pushed and pulled around by Italian defenders for 80 minutes. However, the fallout of his actions has seen him on the verge of signing for Barcelona for a staggering 75-80 million pounds.
For those of you who follow the Premier League you will know that this is a big reversal from the weeks leading up to the World Cup when Liverpool appeared adamant that they would not sell Suarez whatever the price. This got me thinking about the whole transfer idea from the Suarez point of view, and led me down a path that suggests the man who has been dubbed as insane may actually have found a way to engineer his way into what many perceive as a dream move for a footballer.
Playing for Barcelona is pretty much as big as it gets; they challenge for the Spanish league title every season, they are always in the knockouts of the Champions League, they score goals for fun, they pay enormous wages and you get to play with two players who could potentially end their careers in the discussion for the greatest of all time (Messi and Neymar). Yes, Suarez has it pretty sweet at Liverpool with the team being built around him, and was the chief figure on a team that finished second to Manchester City for the league title and qualified for the Champions League after a few years absence, but, with all due respect to Liverpool, Barcelona is a different kettle of fish.
Liverpool are unlikely to make a run deep into the knockouts of the Champions League due to them having a relatively thin squad and less financial muscle than essentially all of Europe’s elite, meaning they probably cannot fix all that in one or two years. As for the Premier League, Chelsea and Manchester United have taken stock and filled weaknesses to re-equip themselves for a run at league glory; Man City have a squad so strong they could easily have two teams compete in the Premier League and Arsenal are going to come back after last year’s glimpse of greatness firing on all cylinders to prove they can be a major force once again. All of that suggests that Suarez may have already had his greatest days in a Liverpool shirt even if he was to stick it out for another two or three years.
So, back to the point of this article.
With Liverpool desperate to hold onto Suarez, the only way out for him was to do something that made the club feel perhapes he isn’t worth the hassle he can cause. However, in the world of football, where pretty much anything goes at times, how do you ruffle so many feathers that the team who loves you comes to the table in a discussion to sell you? Here Suarez has an advantage over your standard footballer in that his history puts him in a unique position.
Suarez created uproar at the end of the 2012/2013 premier league season when he bit Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in what appeared to be a heat of the moment bit of aggression against the defender who had been his shadow constantly all game and had his hands all over him at the time. The fact Suarez went on to essentially end Chelsea’s season by scoring the equalizer in that game, even though he should have been sent off for violent conduct, was totally lost to the watching public who reacted to his bite in a way that was unprecedented for pretty much anything I’ve seen on a football pitch (however, there is the odd exception).
It quickly became public knowledge that these two instances weren’t the only times Suarez had chomped down on an opponent, as he previously did so during a fight with another player when playing with Ajax in the Dutch Eredivisie. If the initial incident hadn’t already, the extra news soon turned the majority of Liverpool fans into calling for Suarez to be released or sold. However, he wasn’t.
He sat out the 10-match ban he received and vowed to change, be a better person and to make Liverpool football club proud of him. That’s exactly what he did last season and he rightly won a number of end of season awards for one of the best single seasons had by any player in the history of the Premier League (as an aside, of course, this also raises another issue: is a bite really that much worse than a two-footed challenged or a headbutt? But I’ll leave that for someone else to answer).
Now, as he was headed towards the World Cup, Suarez had the enviable position of being one of the hottest commodities in football – this year’s Gareth Bale if you will. An injury heading into the World Cup was the only thing that derailed him, but the team worked tirelessly to get him fit and he was ready to play in the second game against England where he showed to everyone why he is considered one of the best players in the world.
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Heading into the Italy game, there was still buzz that Barcelona were after him, and rightly so. They’re a team who loves to collect talent and he’s the biggest talent (ignoring Ronaldo for now as they’re never getting him) they don’t already have in my opinion. However, still there was this issue that Liverpool weren’t going to part ways with him it appeared, and this is where my mind wanders down a path that we may never know is true or not.
With 15 minutes to go, Suarez and Uruguay were facing elimination from the World Cup with the score at 0-0 and Uruguay needing to win to progress. That’s when all hell broke loose. Suarez appeared to change the direction of his run to head straight for Chiellini and then dived at him with, as you can clearly see from a couple of television angles, teeth barred and sunk them into the Italian defender’s shoulder. At this point, histrionics followed with Suarez grabbing his teeth as though Chiellini had decided to punch him in the mouth, and Chiellini chasing after the ref trying to show him some bite marks followed by about three of Suarez’s teammates who felt he was trying to get their star man sent off.
The subsequent embarrassment of Suarez’s actions appears to be too much for Liverpool who possibly reluctantly have come to the table with Barcelona and are willing to sell the once unsellable. So, the question is: did Suarez do this one on purpose?
Of the three incidents this one stands apart because it wasn’t in the middle of some form of skirmish. Suarez actively changed direction to go at Chiellini and that to me suggests some sort of clear thinking. Therefore, did Suarez bite Chiellini in order to force his way out of Liverpool?
You have to think that he knew he would be punished but even though there were calls for him to be banned for life I think most people found the punishment fairly severe. Most people would have been satisfied with 10-15 games but instead the international ban and the football ban accounts for approximately 25 games. That likely wasn’t in Suarez’s plans but it turns out that it hasn’t actually warned Barcelona off, so really it hasn’t hurt his potentially ultimate goal at all. However, the ban did mean he would play no further part in the World Cup. Why would Suarez risk his countries attempt at glory and miss the rest of the greatest tournament of them all?
When he bit Chiellini it appeared that Uruguay were on their way home as Italy had held strong for 80 minutes and hadn’t been fazed even when they lost a player to a red card. As it happened Godin scored a minute later and Uruguay went through. Therefore, it means that Suarez probably didn’t feel he was risking anything. He probably thought they were going home anyway and that there was no way any ban would prevent him playing a part in Uruguay’s efforts for 2018 so he felt it was the only chance he had to make his bid for Barcelona.
I accept that this point of view looks at things a lot more twisted than they probably were, and as I said we will probably never truthfully know if it was done on purpose or not. But I can’t help but think that if I’ve hit the nail on the head right here, then we may one day think of Suarez’s actions the same way we think of his footballing talent – absolute genius!