When I was at school, I was aware of a hierarchy when it came to football. This was even more pronounced when kids would pick teams and if it was ever your turn to be "captain" you'd act in exactly the same way. Being little and dribbling with the ball past three or four players before passing it sideways for that kid who always hung around the goal for a tap in would guarantee first pick. That was the dribbler runt who could score or assist at will and run for what appeared to be an age. Nobody ever complained whenever that sort of player got first pick because everyone understood that was just how it was.
In professional football, goalscoring and creative types are the kings of the world, especially when they can beat a few players with bamboozling footwork and a confounding twist of the hips. Often their technique, close control, touch, flair, and mobility make them easily recognisable on the field. They stood out when they were barely into their teens and they stand out now. Luis Suarez is one of those players. Often it appears that he's on a singular mission that has been disclosed to him and him alone where the ball is a covert message, which needs to be delivered from one point to another. At his feet and past others.
Steven Gerrard may be the captain and living legend, Daniel Sturridge might be the reliable goalscorer, and Philippe Coutinho could be the club's number ten in every way for years to come but it is Luis Suarez who is Liverpool's star attraction. Like a king in his court, El Pistolero sits slightly above everyone else in status but what do we make of his return? Brendan Rodgers has confirmed that Suarez will be available for the League Cup game at Manchester United. In terms of actual fitness, Luis Suarez might be short but has managed a full 90 minutes against Japan, Colombia, and Peru for Uruguay from mid-August to early September. He also managed a full match last week against Burnley in a behind closed doors friendly. The player might not have had any competitive appearances for Liverpool so far this season but he may very well be sharper than some would think.
Often when a player courts controversy away from a rectangular plot of grass, defenders tend to point out that he should be judged by his actions on the pitch. It gets trickier when that hallowed ground is the scene of one regrettable incident after the other. Luis Suarez is prone to doing things that he shouldn't and they appear not only to be in pursuit of victory but part of his own particular Heisenberg persona as soon as he's engaged in competitive football. Anyone watching the player will understand that he lives to win on the football field and summons all that he possibly can to achieve this goal. This is not somebody who deals in half measures or inferior product, what Suarez produces can sell in Europe and beyond. He's the blue stuff.
One of the frustrating aspects of the ban is Suarez was showing greater maturity on the pitch for months. Sure, there were the goals and the passionate celebrations but we thought we were seeing a player who had gained maturity. He was targeted. He was kicked. He was cajoled. He was marked closely. Every move was analysed ad infinitum. Every touch and reaction was worthy of the finest of close ups. Smile for the camera. Penalties were denied only to be eventually rewarded as replays constantly vindicated one of football's biggest characters. He rode poor tackles and when he could not evade them, he got up and continued his work: scoring goals and bamboozling anyone in his path. Luis Suarez was the player of the year. Forget about awards and media anointing. The Golden Boot was within reach and looked to be his only for temptations of the flesh to ruin it. Listening to the serpents in one's head and taking a bite is not the way to go. Heed this warning all ye who stop by.
So, Suarez spoiled the rehabilitation of his character on the pitch and changed his association with interviews. Does anyone remember the one he gave in August last year? What about the one at the end of 2012? Now those words are drowned out by interviews over the summer and bids with a solitary pound bolted on for good measure. Perhaps interviews and players aren't always the best concoction but as fans, it's always worthwhile to attain greater understanding of the distant figures whose names we chant and discuss in reverence or disdain. Reading those two interviews is an exercise in understanding the relationship between players and the world of football. Everything is transient. Nothing is certain. This is a job that can be often enjoyable but there are as many rules governing football off the field. They're just written in the ether.
Whatever we believe Suarez owes Liverpool; he is the club's best player. There is no other player who possesses his attacking dexterity and flexibility. He wanted to leave Liverpool this summer and will most likely want to leave again one day. However, at this stage...we need him. We might not love him today as we did yesterday but he's still a part of our lives. The only guarantee is that Luis Suarez will be available for at least 14 league games and one league cup game. It might very well be a simple matter of a vital player returning to his club who only knows one setting on the pitch: full speed with added passion. His obligation to Liverpool renews on Wednesday but where do we go from here?