What Price Loyalty?

"Hahahaha! Okay, Stevie! I'll sign...jeeez! Stevie? Seriously man...I can't breathe...Stevie?!" - Alex Livesey

You never really doubted it, did you? It's summer, the World Cup is in full swing and Luis Suarez is busy settling scores and showing the world how good he is. The upshot? A daily barrage of fanciful tales about how the Uruguayan is leaving Anfield.

If, gentle reader, you have survived the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune for as long as the shattered husk of humanity that currently passes for your scribbler, your parlous progress through the often farcical pantomime of life will have left you all too well versed in the vagaries of loyalty. We expect, being the essentially romantic dreamers that most of us are, that there will always be a kind of karmic balance when it comes to such matters. Friends should not prove treacherous, family should surely not abandon their own and  lovers should not be false in the face of true devotion.

Alas the day, such an egalitarian existence is but a pipe dream and instead we painfully steel ourselves as, through sour experience, we come to be schooled in the disappointments of the betrayal, cruelty and indifference of those we have trusted and loved. Given the perpetually heightened states of emotion that it inculcates and fosters in its devotees, it is no surprise that the world of professional sport is such a fetid petri dish of messy sentiments. This seems to be especially the case in football, where individual passions and preferences intertwine with raging tribalism.

Of course, were the bellicose confrontations over players' loyalty to be restricted to fan-on-fan social-media jousting, one might happily avoid the unpleasantness. The problem arises when the media at large begin to openly take positions. Embittered by their own hurts and emboldened with an utterly unjustified sense of authority, these self-appointed arbiters of society's mores regularly hold forth on television, on radio and in the newspapers, categorically stating what a given footballer should or should not do. They know their audience, however, and for every reader that feels bilious when being lectured in ethics by unscrupulous businessmen, there are many who are more than ready to froth at the mouth and promulgate the drivel they have just read.

All of which brings us, in a circumlocutory fashion to the maddeningly inevitable case of Liverpool's Luis Suarez, a footballer at the height of his powers and currently displaying to the watching world just how special a talent he really is. As last summer's shambolic flirtation with all-comers rumbled on, Suarez cited the intrusion and vindictiveness of the English media as one of the prime motivating factors behind his desire to leave Liverpool. He echoed that same disdain recently, in the wake of his demolition of Roy Hodgson's England, as he lamented the lack of respect shown to him.

One-eyed Liverpool fans have rowed in behind their player in the past and steadfastly defended his honour when truthfully such devotion and loyalty was neither merited nor judicious. The Uruguayan has earned much of the approbation that has come his way and his fealty to the club was shown, only a year ago, to be dubious. However, after a miraculous season in which the player patently gave every scintilla of effort for the cause and produced arguably the finest body of work in European club football, even those of us who attempt rational analysis have been seduced and are guided by emotion.

Simply put, I want to see Luis Suarez playing football for Liverpool more than I want to see any outlandish combination of cash and players replacing him. Even if the club were to pull off the greatest financial coup in the history of football, the victory would be hollow. Watching Suarez conjure his magic in red is the most thrilling thing these aging eyes have witnessed since the days when one might see John Barnes weave through a defence or Kenny Dalglish dink a precise pass into the path of Ian Rush. Suarez would have walked into those teams. That is how good he is. More even than Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Xabi Alonso or Fernando Torres, it is Suarez who has the potential to be remembered as Liverpool's greatest. Dalglish was 27 when he signed from Celtic. Imagine what Luis Suarez might yet achieve, were he to remain at Anfield?

There, as some overrated hack once said, is the rub. Even with last summer's debacle fresh in the mind, even with the anger that still contorts the souls of Reds over the abscondment of Torres, still the short-term memory holds sway. We think of the goals, the celebrations, the overt displays of passion. This lad cares, doen't he? He's a proper Redman, isn't he? Well, perhaps. Perhaps not. It would be a wise fan who attempted to distance themselves from the drama that is about to unfold but wisdom, of an emotional sort at least, is not something that football fans are replete with. To engage as passionately as we do requires a certain suspension of some critical faculties. We will love the players who show passion and we will rally to their side when they are wronged.  This is not a fantasy football league. This matters.

Away from his club and in the comforting bosom of his countrymen, Suarez is understandably impassioned on the topic of how he has been treated by the English media. He is currently existing in a rareified and artificial atmosphere and it would behoove Liverpool fans to remember this when analysing any quotes attributed to the gifted forward. In the cold light of day, it would be a fairly delusional sort who was overly harsh on the Uruguayan were he to seriously contemplate a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona. Wouldn't any player?

There is, however, a difference between the fact that Marca have decided to put Suarez on the cover every day and the intentions and desires of the player himself. There is nothing pleasant about the position of the fan in all of this. Utterly irrelevant to the process, we can only wait and trust that if we are to lose the man that is currently the most exciting player in world football, then Brendan Rodgers will be aided in every conceivable way to try and balance his squad. In the meantime, most of you, like me, will simply hope that we get to see this remarkable footballer raising trophies and starring in the Champions League for Liverpool in the seasons ahead. We want to watch the best play in the Red. We want to watch Suarez.

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