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Honest, I Can Change

Luis Suarez has returned from his latest lengthy career suspension and been immediately magnificent. He insists that he has begun to battle his demons. Everywhere, eyebrows are arched in dubiety and derisive sniggers are stifled. None of that matters.

"Honestly babe, it'll never happen again..."
"Honestly babe, it'll never happen again..."
Clive Brunskill

Most of us have broken a promise or paid empty lip-service to a loved one's wishes, only to ultimately do exactly as we ourselves have determined. Reneging on one's word, however, can cover a broad spectrum, from the trivial to the profound. There is a vast difference between an infuriatingly constant uncapped tube of toothpaste and a shattered love-affair. As ever, it is dependent upon the grace and poise of the sinned-against, if relationships are to mend and wounds to heal. The errant party is often chastened by remorse, and a period of uneasy trust can begin to build, but some scoundrels are not for changing and we must accept their capriciousness and whims or wave them goodbye. Luis Suarez is one such malefactor.

This will be no morality tale, gentle reader. Your scribbler is not a fan of hypocritical pontification and the esteemed pages of this fine blog are no place for sermonizing, especially not by one as uncouth as I. A genuine football fan, as opposed to a Premier League soap-opera viewer, I care little about the frothy titillation that fills tabloid rags. My concern is my team on the pitch and the progress of Liverpool Football Club. Off-field dilemmas and scandals are distasteful and vulgar -- fine for pub-talk but of no real interest.

This is why, despite the most flagrant expression of his desire to leave and all the attendant hurt that brings, I, and so many like me, will cheer each goal the Uruguayan scores with maniacal abandon. I may no longer love him, but Luis Suarez, like Fernando Torres before him, has taught me that the benefit of a hardened heart is that one can learn to compartmentalize feelings of betrayal. Whilst the talented forward wears the Liverbird, I am happy to enjoy his contributions. Indeed, with the self-righteousness of a scorned lover, I believe they are owed.

Make no mistake, Suarez is possibly the most exciting footballer to wear the red shirt since John Barnes. His array of talents is mesmerizing. If you love the game of football and love Liverpool, you want that player in red. Every game. His is a singular ability, of the sort that eases one's angst about overpaying for a ticket. Luis Suarez entertains. The eye is drawn to him, whether gawping at one of his mazy slaloming dribbles or riveted by one of his improvised snapshots. The man is bloody good value.

Irrespective of his sincerity on the topic, Suarez has returned from his latest exclusion with a demeanour and line in chat which, if not reflecting abject contrition, at least provides a reasonable facsimile thereof. His words paint a picture of one who has learned a valuable life lesson and just wants to be a better man. Like many a wayward soul, he claims to have found a new virtue in providing an inspiration to his children, having recently fathered a son, Benjamin.

"They make me think hard and calm me," he insisted. "Nowadays I think a lot of them when I am on the field. I wanted my son to live as I do. I suffered a lot as a child and I do not want my children, or any other child, to experience the circumstances as I did. As a parent, I try to give them all the love in the world and all the best."

Liverpool's number seven brought his son and daughter onto the pitch with him at the weekend despite the initial protestations of the club. Suarez insisted that they would be accompanying him "like it or not" and the powers that be relented. The striker avows that his period of reflection has changed him inherently.

"I'm aware that in recent matches that I played I've been calmer," he said. "I am very self-critical and I realised that playing well, with more tranquility, is helping me a lot. I realise and I prefer to continue and not be the same as before."

Over the summer, as he and Pere Guardiola attempted to wriggle free of FSG's vice-like grip, Suarez cited the media as one of the chief tortures he wished to elude. This argument was somewhat undermined when the abhorrent flirtation with Arsenal played itself out in font of heart-scalded Liverpool fans. Escaping the media in London, Luis? Have you thought that through fully, chief? Thankfully, now that he's happily settled back into Merseyside life, the Uruguayan has rediscovered a thick skin, averring that he does not care "what the English papers say." Well, a man's entitled to change his mind. Several times. In a few months. What?

If you are possessed of a corporeal shell as aged as mine, it is hard not to have a sardonic chuckle when reading how Suarez now presents the events of the summer. It is a spectacular exercise in revisionism. As he would have it, the decision to stay at Anfield was his own and the key factors were the fretful pressure from Steven Gerrard and the loyalty he feels towards Liverpool's fans. Suarez is at pains to stress the esteem in which he holds Gerrard and it is difficult not to wince a little as he presents the image of the iconic captain suffering a surfeit of his trademark angst over the striker's future.

"I do not know if he [Gerrard] prayed, but what he said is what he feels because he was talking to me all the time," claims the controversy magnet. "Gerrard, for me is a legend in Liverpool and a great team-mate that helped me a lot. His attitude was an extra boost for me to take the decision to stay in Liverpool; both he and the fans of Liverpool influenced much for that (sic). I admire him for the great player he is worldwide. For me, he will always be a benchmark and at club level, he is the best player I have ever played with in my career, as a person and as a footballer."

Ah yes, the truth according to Luis. He has, to quote Hamlet, layered a "flattering unction" over the reality of the situation. In the version of events Suarez  presents, FSG's intransigence plays no part and nor does the reality that he would be donning the colours of another club had our owners not maintained their unwavering stance. But it is no matter. It is all just narrative and for as long as Luis Suarez adds exciting chapters to Liverpool's on-field history, he can tell as many tales as he wishes.

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