Time to bite the bullet: Rodgers should wash his hands of troublesome Suarez



You have to feel sorry for Brendan Rogers. Every single time he's given something nice (say, a last minute equaliser against Chelsea) things turn sour quicker than a pair of marathon in-soles made of brie.

Just imagine it. Your side gets an improbable 97th-minute equaliser against the reigning European champions. You bound into the press conference with the cheeriest of songs in your heart. You sit down, ready to talk about how determined your team was and how much character they showned, and you're greeting with the words, “What did you make of Luis Suarez trying to bite a chunk out of the defender's arm?”
  
After thumbing through the back pages to read the nation's newspapers indulging in their very own mini-league of pun writing today (I'm buying a year's subscription to whichever can do better than "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves"), Brendan Rodgers will have forlornly reached for the intercom and told his assistant to make sure all his teas are served with an extra sugar. What should have been a week talking up his side's chances of catching Everton will now be spent facing questions about his centre-forward's latest shoddy behaviour. I know people think the game's gone soft, but we can at least agree that attempting to eat an opponent is drastic.

Just over a week ago, and to the tune of an entire country squealing “are they for real?”, the Uruguayan FA labelled him a persecuted individual. Suspended from Ajax for boxing Albert Luque, vilified at the 2010 World Cup for deliberately handling a goal-bound winner, banned by the Dutch FA for chewing on Otman Bakkal, suspended here for racially abusing Patrice Evra and then refusing to even shake his hand, Suarez's status as a national treasure wasn't even tarnished by him attempting to clean Gonzalo Jara's teeth with his fist.

Once all the jokes, jibes and plays on words are over, Brendan Rodgers needs look again at his grand plan for Liverpool and get his teeth into the issue of Luis Suarez. The club have, for once, acted quickly and decisively in the old PR game, making Suarez tweet a public apology to Ivanovic. This is good management of the situation, but it's management of the man that's the real issue.


Whether you think it's deserved or not, the almost farcical level of Suarez's pantomime villainy in this country is part of the package now. Such is his standing in English football, it's no harder to picture him scoring a divine solo goal than it is to imagine him celebrating it by twirling the end of an extravagant moustache, cackling maniacally, and disappearing in a puff of smoke. That'll never change now, even if he does. Brendan Rodgers has to decide if he's worth the hassle.

If you take away Luis Suarez's contribution to Liverpool this season, they'd no doubt be marooned in the bottom half of the table. He scores goals for fun and has a fantastic understanding with those around him. He's a vital element in their current system, pulling defenders all over the pitch and able to turn a game in a flash. He is adored by his fans even more than he's derided by everyone else. Lynchpin, maverick, shyster - whatever you want to call him, there's arguably nobody in the Premier League who's more important to their club. With the exception of a certain jug-eared Welshman, maybe.

But this dependence comes at a cost. The club suffered a PR catastrophe last season when they refused to budge from Suarez's side during the Evra incident, insisting that if their man said he was innocent then that was proof enough for them. He wasn't.

Had that have been Jay Spearing on the end of the accusation, he'd have been carted out into Liverpool city centre with a big sign saying “sorry” on it and made to apologise to Patrice Evra over a megaphone while the locals pelted him with rotten fruit. They dared not punish Suarez though, or even leave him dangling out on his own like a sock on a washing line, and it cost them.

The decision to get the club's PR team out of the pub on Sunday evening to organise a full and frank apology implies Rodgers is not as willing to get dragged into whatever custard pie-throwing Suarez decides to indulge in. His post-match comments were perhaps even more telling: “Players are always replaceable. It doesn’t matter how good they think they are”.

He's right as well. It might not be a popular decision, but if either the manager or the owners have decided that the player isn't worth the trouble, Liverpool would cope. Rodgers' rebuilding plan would get a big financial shot in the arm, he'd tweak his tactics slightly, and he's get to spend his Monday mornings basking in positive results instead of having to work out his position on the latest piece of astounding foolishness he's been dragged into.

Read Adam's column ever Monday on Bet.Unibet.com.

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