The time was right for Liverpool to let Luis Suarez go
Luis Suárez was starting to undermine the outstanding work of Brendan Rodgers and the Liverpool squad, writes Kieran Beckles
Luis Suarez has left Liverpool in a far better state than he found the struggling Reds when he joined one of Britain’s most-decorated clubs in 2011.
The 27-year-old is set to join Barcelona on a five-year deal to finally end months of speculation after the Catalan side struck a £75m deal with the Premier League runners-up for the PFA player of the year.
For most Liverpool supporters, Suarez’s departure will be disappointing and frustrating but bearable – the Uruguay international was starting to undermine the progress made by Brendan Rodgers.
It is easy to forget that he arrived as something of an unknown quantity; Suarez scored plenty of goals for Ajax but many Eredivisie strikers have failed to make a smooth transition to the Premier League.
For every Robin van Persie and Ruud van Nistelrooy, there has been a Mateja Kežman or an Afonso Alves.
Suarez hit the ground running following his £22.75m switch in January 2011, and amid a reign punctuated by poor signings, Kenny Dalglish deserves credit for arguably Liverpool’s greatest signing of the Premier League era.
He scored 15 goals in his first 44 Premier League games before finally hitting top form under Rodgers in the 2012-13 campaign, producing a return of 23 goals in 33 top-flight outings.
It was with the help of Suarez that Rodgers was able to keep his critics at bay as the Northern Irishman laid the foundations for his Red revolution, which didn’t kick into gear until January 2013.
Whilst Suarez bought Rodgers vital time at the start of the relatively inexperienced manager’s reign, he inadvertently handed the ex-Swansea boss the chance to show that he had the temperament to manage a top club and top players.
Of course, Suarez’s misdemeanours must be mentioned. He picked up an eight-game ban for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra. The saga was ill-advisedly handled by Liverpool. Strike One.
Strike two came in April 2013. Despite his best season in a Liverpool shirt to date, Suarez undermined his progress when he bite defender Branislav Ivanovic during a 2-2 draw. The Reds stood by their man – again – as he was banned for 10 games.
Missing out on a top-four finish, Arsenal looked to capitalise on the lack of Champions League football and the biting scandal with a £40m + £1 bid designed to activate a purported clause in the striker’s contract.
Liverpool had a different interpretation of the clause and Rodgers put his superb man-management skills to use, initially forcing Suarez to train alone before successfully integrating the striker back into his squad.
It proved that the 41-year-old had the courage and backbone to deal with a transfer saga as large as the Suarez one was and find a remedy to the problem. Any doubts about Rodgers’s suitability to the role evaporated.
Suarez put the Ivanovic controversy behind him and went on to score 31 goals in 33 Premier League appearances, picking up the PFA player of the year and deservedly earning comparisons to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Driving Liverpool to a second-place finish after narrowly missing out on the Premier League title, Rodgers is able to attract top players to the club with the promise of silverware and Champions League football on offer.
So when he did relapse and bite Giorgio Chiellini during Uruguay’s 1-0 victory over Italy, an Anfield exit always appeared on the cards. Unlike previously, the Reds were muted in their response. Strike three.
Suarez was starting to undermine the outstanding work of Rodgers and the Liverpool squad over the past 18 months – and that is before taking into consideration his four-month ban from all football-related activity.
It feels like Liverpool have found the right timing to bid their talisman adieu; the £75m fee is good value considering the striker’s sizeable baggage and the Reds can reinvest in new talent.
Suarez leaves Liverpool not quite a legend, but having played an important role in the club’s renaissance. Now Rodgers must rise to the challenge of replacing Suarez and ensuring the Reds’s upward curve continues.