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Suarez: "I Know What I Want"

Pour yourself a stiff measure of your favourite poison, my friends, because it's that time of the year again, when even the most harmless utterances get misinterpreted and the most apparently unambiguous statements are viewed with dubiety in the carnival of awful that is the transfer window.

"Dad, tell us the Ivanovic story again..." "Well, I grabbed his arm like this, and..."
"Dad, tell us the Ivanovic story again..." "Well, I grabbed his arm like this, and..."
Laurence Griffiths

Welcome, admirably sane readers of these scribblings, to the utterly unedifying, perturbation inducing and disconcertingly unhinged world of the off-season. During this time of year one expects to lose more than a modicum of self-respect whilst trawling maniacally through flagrantly disreputable corners of the internet in search of a new story or a fresh rumour, the saccharine hit of which will ultimately fail to sustain us in the absence of actual football to obsess over.

Many of you won't remember the full horror of last summer, not because you are deficient in your recollections but because the thoroughly lovely drunkenness of this season's mighty efforts has still to wear off and all the rancour of the past along with all the angst-ridden questions over loyalty and motivation have been quietened by the heady and potent cocktail of success. There was horror, however, and justifiable anger, as Liverpool's finest player in decades attempted to manoeuvre himself out of the Shankly Gates and into the lascivious embrace of a suitor donning a Champions League badge on his arm.

It was nature at its most basic. A kind of mating ritual mixed with the harsh realities accompanying the primal idea that only the fittest will survive. In the end, as is often the case, a show of strength won the day and the player in question returned to the pack, if not chastened then motivated tenfold to have the season of his career. Luis Suarez, for it was he, has just had the kind of campaign not seen at Anfield since the days of John Barnes, displaying the type of excellence and consistency that has had people speak earnestly of him in the same breath as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Suarez has been arguably the most effective attacking footballer on the planet this season and Liverpool fans have been thrilled as much by his bellicose on-field urgency as his creative élan. Such a sublime combination of adroit ingenuity and belligerent effort has more than papered-over any cracks that may have been apparent in the relationship last August.

Irrespective of what was attained by Liverpool this season, even if it had been a Premier League title, there was always going to be an irksome amount of speculation linking the Uruguayan with a move to Real Madrid and Barcelona, primarily due to the almost unquestioned status of those two La Liga behemoths. Fans of the Redmen, therefore, should not become overly despondent when something as inevitable as this occurs and nor should they dismiss the talk out of hand with any faux bravado.

The world, alas, does not conform to our whims and nor does it dispense reassuring bear hugs to assuage our neediness, so the best technique for survival of the months to come that this scribbler can suggest is to try and embrace the circus with a resigned weariness. It's coming. In fact, depending on how you wish to interpret the Suarez's latest interview, it's already arrived.

The striker insists he is "focused on the World Cup" after having "a very good season with Liverpool" and avers that he will just "turn the page" when he encounters newspaper stories linking him with Spain. The gifted attacker will only say that Neymar and Messi are "great players" when asked if he would like to play in the same team. Similarly, he would not be drawn on whether he would be a good fit for the Catalonians, preferring to remind assembled hacks that he has a contract with Liverpool. "I know what I want," claims the forward. "My agent tells me what's there and what's not. It's more speculation than reality."

Where he is far more effusive is on the topic of the season just finished and his heartbreak at how it concluded. Although honest enough to admit that the late collapse of the Reds title charge devastated him, he retains an admirable optimism about what may be possible next season as the Reds compete in europe with an exciting bunch of young players under one of the continent's most rapidly improving managers.

"I was so angry on the inside," he said of the dropped points at Selhurst Park. "A week before we had real hopes of winning the league and after the Palace game, we knew that it had gone. We had lost the chance. I felt frustration and rage at the fact that the opportunity had been lost. I covered my face because I was so hurt and frustrated. I preferred people not to see me. We did everything we could; every player gave absolutely everything. The key game was against Chelsea. We lacked a little of … not luck, exactly, but a bit of concentration. If they hadn't scored when they did at the end of the first half, it was impossible that they were going to score and a draw was fine. Maybe [we were short] a touch of concentration or focus to stop that [Chelsea goal] or to create a clear chance to get the draw and then depend on ourselves. After that, we didn't depend on ourselves and that changes everything of course, including the Palace game.

"To get back into the Champions League, and to finish second, is great for us. We produced a spectacular season and no one expected us to be up there, but we were top with a few weeks left only to be left without the title. There are lots of young players who will grow a lot and improve. This year is an example for them to follow, to play even better next year."

Those are the words of a man who cared deeply for the club he was playing for this season. Of course, there is nothing written in stone which says that affection is non-transferable and although Suarez's combative character is such that he commands the affection of Liverpool supporters who admire his unquestioned effort, the fans of Ajax loved him too. If you value your sanity over the coming weeks and months you will allow the more fevered speculation to wash over you and avoid any definitive statements about what the player will definitely do. Liverpool play Champions League football next year. That's certain, at least. Smile.

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