Luis Suarez Loves You

Luis was happy to commit to Liverpool but something would have to be done about Pascoe's shorts. - Michael Regan

In a lengthy interview, Liverpool's Uruguayan genius professed his dedication to the club, his gratitude to the fans and his desire to play Champions League football at Anfield next season. That thing your feeling? Yeah, me too.

Sometimes, the power of the mind is overwhelming. Last September, five short months ago, many of us had mentally divorced ourselves from the complex character that is Luis Suarez, feeling the humiliation of rejection following his flirtation with Arsenal. We'd had enough of this temperamental chap whose on-pitch brilliance was matched by his irascibility and extreme unpredictability. There was no questioning his sublime jaw-dropping ability but one was just as likely to be left, mouth agape, shaking one's head in disbelief at his latest unhinged indiscretion.

We'd argued for fairness in the face of some pretty clear press xenophobia during the tortuous saga over allegations of racism. We'd turned a blind eye to his sullen gesticulations towards opposition fans and we'd even been indulgent, if irritated, when he tried a little light cannibalism during a key game. Now he wanted to leave? For bloody Arsenal? After all his bleating about the media intrusiveness? Was this kid serious? The sting of betrayal was sharp and deep and many folk, their tolerance for the inherent disloyalty of the modern game very low, just wanted to be shot of the volatile striker.

Liverpool Football Club, however, has started to make some decent and hard-nosed business decisions of late and John Henry et al refused the derisory offer of the north Londoners, meaning Suarez's hand was forced. He was staying. He chose to embrace that reality and trained hard as Daniel Sturridge's goals made us think that it might actually be okay if the club cashed-in on the gifted forearm epicure. However, like a scorned lover who cannot resist the philandering cad they adore, fans were wary and full of resentment as the day of his return approached whilst still retaining an excitement at the thought of a reunion. Most of us, the hurt having abated, were utterly thrilled by the prospect of Suarez donning the number seven again.

His return, when it did come, was spectacular. Luis Suarez has made 21 appearances in the Premier League this campaign, thus far. He has scored 23 goals and made eight assists. The general standard of his play is so high that he is now rightly considered to be amongst the world's finest footballers. Just on his truncated contribution to date, he has surely earned the nod of every right-thinking voter in the player of the year awards. Then again, this is England and the memories of those in authority are long.

Regardless of any disappointingly predictable media agenda, anyone with eyes can see the outrageous magnificence of the player. At times he is so superior to those trying to hack him down that it is almost comical. With his insistent, sinewy movement and disproportionate strength, Suarez is a whirling storm of forward momentum. Imagine, for a moment, the witless and frantic thought process of an opposition defender facing this ever-motile, ever-threatening blur of energy. You can see him but you can't stop him, and if you do manage to wrestle him to the ground, he simply gets up and comes at you again.

As he made his way out on to the pitch at Anfield in October to make his comeback against Crystal Palace, Luis Suarez held his daughter's hand and cradled his infant son. Many cynically dismissed it as a charm offensive but the player insists it was in keeping with the traditions of his country and his words these days are so loaded with gratitude and devotion to the Anfield faithful that this scribbler has allowed himself a little revisionism. This is the world. Nothing is perfect and we snatch the happiness where we can. Luis Suarez has been making us very happy and he wants you to know that the feeling is mutual.

"The fans have helped me so much," Suarez told the Echo. "Everyone knows that I had some difficult times last summer. But they have always supported me and always had confidence in me. I really feel that support in my heart. I think this has been the best season of my career so far. It’s my job to score goals and create goals, and help the team. When you have really good team-mates and a manager who believes in you then it helps so much with your job. For me, stepping on to the pitch knowing I have the confidence of the supporters means everything to me as a player. They help me to give my best."

This time around, Suarez  seems disinclined towards the usual equivocation and prevarication one expects when a footballer is faced with a direct question about his future. In the normal run of things there is much shrugging and gnomic utterances about how you can never know in football. The Uruguayan, who has worn the captain's armband with pride this season in Steven Gerrard's absence, is quite unambiguous about what his hopes are for the coming campaign. His words will be as a soothing balm to those hearts he had so badly damaged in the late Summer. He wants to play in Europe's premier competition and he wants to do so wearing the Liverbird.

"I watched the games on TV this week and when you hear that Champions League music that’s motivation in itself," he averred. "I want to be there with Liverpool. It’s an unbelievable competition. It’s where we want to be – playing against the top teams in Europe. Stevie has told me about Champions League nights at Anfield. He said when you have played Champions League football at Anfield you will never forget it. I want to try it for myself. When I arrived here I said it was my dream to play for Liverpool and play Champions League here. I know I can achieve my dreams here."

This newly responsible and considered version of Luis Suarez is one that all of us will welcome and indeed his manager has remarked upon the maturity he has displayed, both at Melwood and on the pitch over the course of this campaign. Perhaps, and I write this with a wary grimace, but perhaps he has truly seen the light and realised that his volatility can be channelled in a non-destructive way. Maybe Luis Suarez has realised how good he is and how little he needs to be detracting from that with his temper.

"I try to keep my cool on the pitch with referees and defenders," he insisted. "I try not to get involved in arguments. It is better to just concentrate on helping the team – that is the most important thing. You need to keep a clear mind. When I was a kid I listened to the big players. Now I’m a big player in a big team other players come to speak to me. It’s a positive for me. I need to be an example."

In this most promising of campaigns, Luis Suarez has indeed led by "example" and his form has marked him out as a world great. Liverpool fans have not witnessed a talent of his stature since the days John Barnes and Kenny Dalglish bestrode the Anfield pitch. How fitting it would be if this most singular of footballers could inspire a new collection of trophies for the Anfield display cases. Luis Suarez loves you. You love Luis Suarez. For now, all is right with the world.

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