Barnes Urges Haste On Suarez

Even Digger's archive photos are cool - Clive Mason

As the season approaches, the impasse over the future of Luis Suarez appears no closer to being broken. Liverpool legend John Barnes is typically direct and sagacious in his advice to the club.

There have been an irritating plethora of relationship-based metaphors in sports writing of late, and yet despite that I really wanted to start this piece with an apposite anecdote about the collapse of a romance, but whilst my own history is littered with a heart-rending array of such dolorous parables on which to draw, the truth is that what the fans of Liverpool Football Club have had with Luis Suarez is not so much a love-affair as an unrequited infatuation. Those things don't tend to end well; at least not for the hopeless fool supplying the adoration.

You have to admire the determination of some Reds, a few of whom possibly even still cling to the narrative of Suarez as the hard-done-by hero who simply wants to live in peace and raise a Scouse family. If, however, the player ends up at the Emirates next season, that myth will have been well and truly exploded. Relocation to the hub of the evil media empire, which had persecuted and hounded you to the point of desiring to leave your home, does not make a whole lot of sense; unless that persecution wasn't the real reason you wanted to move, and the love you professed for that home and its denizens was somewhat less than total.

Nobody, who has even a smattering of knowledge about the history of Liverpool Football Club, would doubt the strength of the bond between John Barnes and the people he continues to have a deep affinity with. Liverpool fans hold the Jamaican born player in the highest regard and with good reason. Between 1987 and 1997, Barnes did enough to cement himself in the all-time-great lists of every fan. Indeed only Robbie Fowler, Ian Rush, Steven Gerrard and Kenny Dalglish finished ahead of him in the official website's 100 Players Who Shook The Kop feature.

In recent years, as controversy as dogged the club, it has been Barnes' voice that has made most sense to me. He is an intelligent and eloquent commentator on an array of issues and was particularly sapient when speaking about racism and discrimination in the wake of the contretemps between Patrice Evra and Suarez. As fevered, yet shallow discussion emanated from our televisions, it was Barnes who spoke with dignity and wisdom, exposing the majority of the commentary for the self-serving, mealy-mouthed nonsense it was.

When John Barnes speaks then, it generally behoves us to listen. Unusually, given the frothy nature of the subject matter, he has added his considered voice to the debate around the best course of action for Liverpool to take, as they seek to resolve the Suarez scenario with maximum benefit -- or at least minimum damage -- to the club. Barnes has urged the club to act expeditiously and not allow the situation to drag on, if possible. He's also unequivocal about the pointlessness of retaining the services of a player against his will, contract or no contract.

"We've seen in the past when transfers go down to the last minute, that it doesn't help anybody, especially for a club like Liverpool who, if they lose Suarez, would have to find a big-name replacement," he opined to talkSPORT. "I'd like it to be done sooner rather than later because if it goes down to the last day, and you then have to go and get somebody, it's not ideal. As far as Suarez is concerned, if he's not going to be happy then he has to go. We can all say, 'Yes, we think Suarez is going to be a player like Carlos Tevez who gives one hundred percent no matter what' but we don't know what his mental state is going to be if he doesn't get his wish (to leave LFC)."

Several voices I respect have, up to this point at least, advocated the keeping of the Uruguayan in the absence of an obscenely large offer of cash. "We hold his contract," they've correctly said. "There aren't many players of his ilk knocking about, you know. Who are we going to replace him with," they've reasonably enquired. "You won't give a damn about all this when he starts scoring wonder-goals for Liverpool again," they've ventured.

You've heard those voices too. You may even be one of those voices. I listened, nodded and regretfully agreed for a long time, even though inside my idealistic supporter's heart something was irreparably damaged the moment I realised the player did not want to wear our shirt. Deep down, from the second that became clear, I wanted rid. You see, to my chagrin, I'm incapable of the cold detachment others can manage in their relationships. It's the main reason for the plenitude of heartbreaks mentioned earlier.

A barrel load of cash is worthless to Brendan Rodgers on deadline day. Team-mates need to bond, and if Liverpool are to overcome the trauma of losing a talent as magnificent as Suarez, the squad will need the psychological balance of a star-arrival. That's why I'm with Digger on this one. If Luis Suarez is going, let's hope the club can put a satisfactory deal in place and just get him gone, sooner rather than later.

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