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Rodgers: Liverpool "Suits" Suarez

You can be as aloof and detached as you like but the truth is that Luis Suarez is amongst the world's finest footballers and already, after roughly two seasons worth of football, ranks as one of the greatest forwards to wear the Liverbird on his chest.

Was it a high-five or a snack? Luis was unsure...
Was it a high-five or a snack? Luis was unsure...
Jan Kruger

Let's begin with a question. What was the single best thing that you ever did? Don't speak to me of impromptu beach weddings, the birth of children, selfless kidney donations or even months spent building villages for the poverty stricken. No, nothing so profound; I mean the greatest thing you ever did for yourself, using your own talents and gleaning glory primarily for you. It's a selfish answer I'm looking for, not a for the greater good or changed my life forever type of deal.

During the Easter holiday of my first year in secondary education, I returned to my old school for a lunchtime kickabout. With my back to goal, some twenty yards out I pounced on a lofted ball and executed a text book overhead volley straight into the top corner. Stunned silence was followed by a barrage of adulation. I think part of me knew that I had probably peaked as a footballer at the age of 13 but that crushing reality was buried under a deluge of praise and genuine awe. Last summer, some twenty seven years later, a guy who was there reminded me of it. That's a moment.

Now, imagine doing something like that in front of millions. Got it? Okay, envision doing it multiple times, on three separate occasions over two seasons. Far fetched, right? Bananas, yes? I mean, that would just never happen. Luis Suarez begs to differ. The Uruguayan forward's nineteen minute hat trick against his own personal whipping boys, Norwich City, was his third against the East Anglians and his total of four goals, all of them delightful and technically adroit, takes him to 51 Premier League strikes in only 86 matches. This, my friends, is a singular footballer, possessed of an almost preternatural talent.

Liz's earlier piece, complete with video loveliness, is a perfect articulation of how masterful a performance we witnessed. Luis Suarez stands in defiance of the cliché that one can either be a great goalscorer or a scorer of great goals. The Montevideo native is both. He has scored at least two goals that rank in this forty year old's top ten Liverpool strikes and he is prolific in a way that could see him threaten records, were he to see his career out at Anfield. Robbie Fowler, feigning irritation that he was making previous Liverpool strikers look "very average," was a note-perfect and humorous way of summing up the profound impact the player has had in such a short and drama-filled space of time.

The player himself, whose words have not always been the most reliable, lest we forget, has said that he is "happy" at the club and focused on the attainment of Champions League football. I have no wish to be dour or joyless on a morning like this, but one wonders how this interview might have gone in the immediate aftermath of the Hull debacle. At any rate, enough of the negative speculation. What you want to hear is, Suarez something joy something something Champions League something something staying forever.

"I am very happy to be able to help the team," said the number seven. "It has been a good day and we are playing at a good level. The way it is going, I think we can achieve what we set out to do. My aim is just to help make the team better. My job is just to score the goals that mean we keep winning games and get as high in the table as possible. I am happy to be in the Premier League, the best league there is. I don't know about challenging for the title, but we want to be as high up in the table as possible and do as well as we can. I think we can achieve our target."

Brendan Rodgers, a fellow never short of a superlative or seven, was positively glowing in the wake of his striker's display. The Antrim man has had plenty of Suarez-induced headaches over the course of his season and a half working with the Uruguayan but he is clearly quite fond of his striker and realises that every time he can select him is an occasion on which a Liverpool side take the field with one of the the best players in the world spearheading the attack.

"I haven't seen many individual performances like that before," Rodgers offered. "It was a joy to watch, sheer brilliance from one of the best strikers in the world. Among the modern-day world-class operators like (Lionel) Messi and (Cristiano) Ronaldo, it's all about numbers. They don't seem to deal in ones and twos any more. It's all fours and fives and, of course, Luis has shown he can do that.

"He's the happiest he has been in all his time here, and that is adding a maturity to his play. This club suits him. It goes hand in glove with him, and I am convinced his best years are going to be spent here. The football we are playing is allowing him to exploit the spaces he likes playing in, and the way he is finishing things off deserves mention alongside Messi and Ronaldo. He is only twenty six and is going to keep improving. The quality of his finishing was just incredible, and I actually felt sorry for Norwich's defenders, because there's not much you can do about it."

Picture, if you will, a world in which Luis Suarez is playing those intricate one-twos with Santi Cazorla or running onto through-balls from Aaron Ramsey. When you have stopped shuddering, realise that nearly happened, folks. Instead, we got to witness as good a centre-forward display as Anfield has hosted in many a long year. Leave aside the hand wringing and moral scruples that so often have been elements of any debate on this remarkable footballer. Bask awhile in the reality that one of the world's finest dons the Liverbird every week. For now, at least, Luis Suarez is a Red and I doubt I am alone in hoping it is ever thus.

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