Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers must resolve Luis Suárez saga swiftly
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers must follow Sir Alex Ferguson's example and swiftly resolve the Luis Suárez saga with authority
Whilst the latest twist in the Luis Suárez saga leaves a sour taste in the mouth for Liverpool fans, Brendan Rodgers can’t let the South American soap opera affect his roadmap for success.
Suárez finally broke his silence at a news conference in the forward’s native Uruguay and expressed his desire to leave the club where he no longer “feels comfortable” amid reports of an imminent bid from Real Madrid.
Liverpool have reacted swiftly by releasing a carefully-worded statement, insisting that Suárez has not directly communicated his desire to quit and reaffirming their stance that the South American is not for sale in what could be an attempt to disperse the circling vultures or ramp up his transfer value.
The Uruguay international was the darling of the red half of Merseyside for the majority of the season as his 23 Premier League goals helped steer Rodgers’ side away from danger after a less-than-convincing start to the Northern Irishman’s reign.
The former Swansea man managed to find just the right balance in his squad as the defence, marshalled by the now retired Jamie Carragher, kept seven clean sheets in the final 12 Premier League games and a new-look attack netted 25 goals.
After initial suspicions about Rodgers’ ability in the transfer market, his January signings Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge struck up an instant understanding with Suárez and Liverpool demolished teams with ease.
Of course, Rodgers still has fine-tuning to do. The Reds lost just one top-flight game in 12 outings at the end of the season but despite their impressive record, were held to frustrating goalless draws by Everton, Reading and West Ham.
But Liverpool were heading in the right direction and sense of optimism was filtering back into Anfield following a bleak period for the five-time European champions, particularly with their own Lionel Messi-like genius leading the line.
However, Suárez’s 10-game ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in April triggered a fresh wave of speculation surrounding his future.
The Reds, unlike previous seasons, swiftly condemned Suárez’s actions and imposed a hefty fine. It was a tricky game of politics as the club took a tough stance but also understood the need not to alienate their prize asset.
But ultimately, it appears Suárez does feel isolated and can no long withstand “the bullying from the press”, perhaps a convenient excuse, with interest from La Liga giants Real Madrid.
It comes as a bitter blow to Liverpool after standing by their controversial South American when he was accused and eventually found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra in October 2011.
Liverpool and Rodgers have already moved swiftly in the summer transfer window to secure the signing of Kolo Toure as a replacement for Carragher, with Celta Vigo striker Iago Aspas and Barcelona B winger Luis Alberto both said to be on their way into Anfield.
The 18-time English champions must now act with similar urgency – and authority – to the latest turn in the meandering Suárez saga because it threatens to dominate their summer and affect Rodgers’ plans for a top-four assault next season.
The 40-year-old famously took a leaf out of Sir Alex Ferguson’s motivational repertoire at the start of the season, and now the Northern Irishman must emulate the Red Devils boss when it comes to handling his unique Uruguayan forward.
Nobody was immune from the Ferguson axe – bad apple or not – (just ask David Beckham and Roy Keane) and if Suárez persists in his current stance, Rodgers should show the South American the exit door and reinvest the money in building a squad capable of challenging England’s elite.
After all, Liverpool’s world appeared to crumble when Fernando Torres completed a British record £50m move to Chelsea in January transfer window with the club in a much worse position. But the Merseyside outfit have bounced back.
It is also worth remembering that without Suárez’s goals, Liverpool would still have finished seventh in the Premier League.
For too long now, Suárez has been deemed bigger than the club and it’s time for the Merseyside outfit to wrestle back the power and control their own destiny.