x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Transfers are part of the game, just ask Liverpool's Luis Suarez

Liverpool may find it a bitter pill to swallow if Luis Suarez leaves, but they have expereinced this before, as have Arsenal.

Luis Suarez scored more goals than any other Liverpool player but is keen on a move. Mark Thompson / Getty Images
Luis Suarez scored more goals than any other Liverpool player but is keen on a move. Mark Thompson / Getty Images

Football can be a cruel and a sadistically repetitive sport.

Very few teams experience the joy of success. Managers get sacked. Star players move on.

Yet despite the sport's penchant for everything cyclic, the maxim "once bitten, twice shy" somehow does not seem to ring true with football supporters.

Luis Suarez, in case that tortured biting metaphor did not give it away, stands accused of issuing a thinly veiled "come and get me plea" to Real Madrid last week.

Liverpool fans are not happy.

Quite why many are so shocked, however, is a mystery.

The club have been through this before. Kevin Keegan and Ian Rush were sold at the height of their, and the club's, powers to Hamburg and Juventus. In more recent and austere times, local lads Steve McManaman and Michael Owen both concocted dream moves to Real Madrid by running down their contracts at Anfield.

Finally, and most unforgivably, Fernando Torres committed the ultimate sin – in the eyes of Reds fans – by joining bitter rivals Chelsea halfway through the 2010/11 season.

It happens, you move on. After all, no player is bigger than the club.

It is precisely the relative freshness in the memory of Torres's betrayal that makes the surprise at Suarez's statements, if not the anger, hard to comprehend.

Of course, in many ways that anger is perfectly understandable.

Suarez is, by some distance, the club's best player and one of world's top strikers. He is almost irreplaceable.

His exhaustively chronicled misdemeanours may have become increasingly difficult to defend, but the club continued to stand by him, often at the cost of their own reputation and credibility. Surely, this is no way to repay Liverpool Football Club?

In truth, his desire to move on is perfectly understandable, even if he is now using the dark arts of deception off the pitch just as well as he does on it.

There is no middle ground with Suarez. Loved by Liverpool and Uruguay fans, hated by everyone else. While there will be few sympathisers, Suarez's claim that the English media have conducted a witch hunt against him is not unfounded either.

It is telling that one of English football's brightest pundits, Gary Neville – a former Manchester United stalwart who in his autobiography expressed his staunch dislike for United's bitter rivals, Liverpool – spoke the most sense about Suarez, suggesting much of the media's reaction towards him was over the top.

But perhaps the most upsetting thing for Liverpool supporters is the knowledge, deep down, that Suarez's decision is a footballing one. As one of the world's best players, he believes he should be competing in the Uefa Champions League, and that will not happen at Liverpool for least another season and possibly more. Parting ways, sometimes, is best for all concerned.

But supporters of all clubs continue to act like scorned lovers when star players seek a transfer. Arsenal fans, who have now enjoyed Champions League participation for 16 successive seasons, for years have had to put up with seeing star players leave almost annually, and never more painfully than when Robin van Persie joined Manchester United last summer.

United themselves were dealt a reality check when Wayne Rooney almost forced through a transfer to neighbours Manchester City in October 2010, before being convinced to change his mind by Sir Alex Ferguson, and by a huge pay rise, too.

Despite his declarations of love for Liverpool, as Torres made before him, Suarez may soon be on his way. It has been said before but bears repeating: professional footballers, with a few notable exceptions, generally do not, nor should they be expected to, have the blind loyalty that is a characteristic of supporters.

Football is just a job to them, as painful as that may sound to fans who naively believe they share a sacred bond with those whose wages they pay.

A Liverpool supporters website earlier this week asked its Twitter followers to send in their reasons why "#suarezowes" Liverpool. The unwavering support of fans, players and managers; and the damage caused to the club's reputation, were the most representative of the responses.

But, encouragingly, many agreed that "#suarezowes nothing" beyond an imminent big transfer fee and, with surprising frankness, that he deserves to be playing at the "highest level" – the Champions League.

Suarez might come to realise that he does owe Liverpool another season, and if that happens, all will be forgiven. Until next time.

If or when he agitates for a move next, expect anger and disbelief to be the order of the day over a player who, once again, is seen to be biting the hand that feeds.

akhaled@thenational.ae

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