What Now For Liverpool And Luis Suarez?

Digger working black shirt and jacket like a boss. - Clive Mason

In the wake of John Henry's defiant stance, it would appear that Luis Suarez has been denied his 'dream move' to perennial Champions League qualifiers, Arsenal. John Barnes and Jamie Carragher have had somewhat contrasting views on the whole irksome farrago.

Most of us have spent a decade and a half listening to the insistent shrillness of Jamie Carragher's Scouse vocal stylings, as he marshalled and berated all around him. One tends to listen to Jamie. One has little choice. His new incarnation as Gary Neville's television chum is disconcerting and fascinating in equal measures. The once universally detested Manchester United alumnus has proved himself to be a shrewd and honest evaluator of the game and the potentially frank exchanges he may have with Carragher are a beguiling prospect.

The Bootle man has begun passably well, with a candid assessment of what is now known as The Luis Suarez Situation. He expressed disappointment with the Uruguayan's actions and was predictably clear on the notion of no one player being bigger than Liverpool Football Club, but neither of these sentiments will have confused, self-flagellating Mancs making guilty furtive calls to the Pulitzer people on his behalf.

Where Carragher was insightful however, was in his observations of Suarez on the training pitch. Both he and Neville are recent dressing-room residents and their slant on the modern game and the preparation it requires is so much more revealing than the priggish inanities of stuffed-shirts like Alans Shearer and Hansen. The Anfield legend had returned for a day's work-out, ahead of his old mucker Steven Gerrard's testimonial, and he was struck by a change in the unsettled striker's demeanour.

"I know Luis and I've played with him in the last couple of years and he's a warrior," opined the Anfield legend. "He's a fighter on the pitch and every day in training. He never misses a session. I went in to Friday training before Stevie's testimonial and that wasn't the Luis Suarez I knew. I think it's right for Brendan Rodgers to take him out of the group because no one player is bigger than the team or the squad.

"He's not going to be playing because he's banned, so Liverpool need to concentrate on getting it right for the first game of the season against Stoke. If Suarez is a distraction for everyone then he needs to be taken out of the group."

Carragher, who had spoken recently about how he rated Suarez as second only to Gerrard in the list of finest footballers he's played with, seems to be genuinely irritated by the forward's behaviour towards his former employers. He's been impressed with the club's stance, saying on Irish radio this morning that Liverpool "have been very strong" and taken the "right course of action." Yesterday, on Sky Sports News, he was quizzed about how he would speak to the player, were he still in the Liverpool squad.

"Sort yourself," was the ex-England man's brusque response. "You can't have that and can't accept that. There's ways and means of going about it. Players get transferred all the time and you can't always have what you want. Liverpool Football Club have got to protect themselves as well. Arsenal are a big rival for a top-four place and maybe if he wanted to go somewhere else it wouldn't be such a big issue and maybe Liverpool would sanction a deal. Nobody wants unhappy players at the training ground or on the pitch playing. It affects other people."

Barnes is criminally under-utilised by Liverpool Football Club

It's very hard to argue with Carragher's take on the whole affair but John Barnes, normally a beacon of common sense and popular sentiment, had a slightly more controversial slant on the issue. Barnes is criminally under-utilised by Liverpool Football Club, who have rarely needed a man of his intelligence, passion, old-school loyalty and media savvy, as much as they do now. As a result, we are restricted to poring over his sapient observations, as delivered to the likes of TalkSPORT. I know.

"This is the future of modern football we have created," offered Barnes to the aforementioned station. "The media and especially the fans have empowered the players too much to make them feel that a) they are better than their team-mates and b) they are better than their clubs.

"We've seen it at Arsenal, where so many players have left because Arsenal cannot match their ambitions, and the fans are the ones who have created this superstar culture, whereby you've separated the team and the superstars to feel more important than the club. What has empowered him [Suarez] and the likes of Fernando Torres is they feel the team is not losing because of them but because of their team-mates."

Barnes has a simple message for today's fans. He encourages them to accept partial culpability in the elevation of footballers to the kind of status where they can hold a club to ransom or destroy it's plans on a whim. He reminds us of a simple truth. When we are asked who we support, none of us shout "Luis Suarez" or even "Steven Gerrard." We support our club. Perhaps, if we are lucky enough to have an affinity with the place, we will be passionate about the city too, but John Barnes is clear about the dangers of deifying players in today's Mammon-worshipping game.

"Our superstar players feel they're untouchable," he insists. "We've gone too far and there's no way back. The fans have a lot to answer for. Don't fall in love with players because they will leave given the right circumstances. Support the club, support the group, and then, if any player wants to step out of line, we won't support him. Maybe then they won't get over-inflated egos and behave the way they do."

I'm not sure how I feel about this suggestion from Digger. I worshipped him. And Kenny. And Carragher, for that matter. Perhaps though, that is the point. Those men were of a different ilk and generation. Football's wheels are greased by filthy lucre now more than ever and the participants behave accordingly. Debates about loyalty have raged impotently over the last weeks but they are redundant to a huge extent. It's a show, baby. Buy your ticket and just keep going to the same theatre. I'm with Barnes on that much.

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