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Suarez: Wanting It More

After a season of consistently breathtaking form and outrageous goal-scoring, Luis Suarez's bizarre and impulsive behaviour has robbed him of at least one award and reignited the permanent controversy that surrounds him.

Stu Forster

To witness the nauseating pandering to current Real Madrid manager, Jose Mourinho, in the lead up to Tuesday night's defeat, was to understand what happens with the British media when a personality is elevated to an importance beyond the game. The outrage that greeted ITV's decision to cut short the Portuguese manager's interview in favour of an ad-break was comically stunning. How could they treat Joe-zay like that? What an affront! Didn't they realise he had a bit of public flirting to do with his ex?

In Luis Suarez, that same media have a character of equal box-office appeal, but in the morally skewed world they inhabit, he is the villain to Mourihno's white knight. Whilst the eye-gouging former/future Chelsea boss is being feted and encouraged to engage in some serious mutual eyelash-batting, Suarez, the South American devil, is the focus of a full-on blast of bile and hypocritical vitriol.

In their quest to understand the Uruguayan striker, some outlets have gone to tremendous lengths to decipher why he sometimes acts in the way he does. They need to comprehend what could be behind this feral creature's vile impulses, in order that they might better berate, condemn and rebuke him. Little England must be protected. Flood the moat. Sharpen your pikes. Ready the archers.

To that end, countless panels have pontificated, moralised and condescended as they earnestly endeavoured to understand how anyone could ever behave as improperly as Luis Suarez. In their efforts to capture the motivation of the Uruguayan, BBC Radio 5 Live ran a documentary entitled, What's Eating Luis Suarez? To be fair, it's a more balanced effort than most have managed and traces his development from playing kids' football in Montevideo to being widely acknowledged as amongst the world's best.

One of the people interviewed at length was Henk Veldmate, now sporting director of Groningen in The Netherlands. In 2006, Veldmate was working as a talent scout and he described the first time he saw Suarez play for Nacional. A mere 15 minutes convinced the Dutchman that Suarez would be a "top world footballer" -- a standing he obligingly attained.

"He had everything you see today -- he scored a goal and did some fantastic dribbles," said Veldmate. "Sometimes you think he is lucky with his dribbles -- he starts something and you think it is impossible but in the end it works and he creates a chance and scores a goal. He dived to win a penalty, so all the things you see in Luis' potential, we saw in that 15 minutes and most importantly, we saw he was a winner."

Veldmate had an interesting take on the psychological make-up of Suarez, the footballer. He suggested that the character on the pitch is very different to the off-field man and implied that the Uruguayan has little choice in this. It is, he seemed to offer, an inherent part of what makes him the player he is but it is, simultaneously, the root of all his on-field issues.

"He's a grown up person but also, in the way he likes playing football, he sometimes has the mentality of a child. That's the way he enjoys playing. If you compare the mentality and attitude to Dutch players, then in South America it's dead or alive. To do the best for your family, it's a way of life and a way of surviving."

This is where the discussion becomes a tad nebulous for my liking. It's more than a little offensive to roll out the impoverished-background-drove-him-to-success narrative. I come from meagre means myself, as do millions of others, and within that massive cohort are people of high motivation and others who are bone-idle. It's reductive and disingenuous to say that Suarez's passion and drive are the result of where he is from and how much/little he had as a child.

The danger with this type of broad brush-stroke is that it lends itself to stereotyping and caricature. Surely I was not the only one who winced when high-street model/Sky pundit Jamie Redknapp described Suarez as a 'streetballer.' Aside from the validity of Redknapp's dubious neologism, it smacked of lazy pigeon-holing. From the mean streets of Montevideo, you say? Well, he'll be a bit tasty, won't he? He'll be able to look after himself, eh? And you should see his skills with an orange...

Brendan Rodgers, who has been more burdened by the extremes of Suarez's character than most, has said that he wishes he had a few more players in the Uruguayan's mould -- that speaks volumes about the positive side of the 27 year old's competitiveness. If push came to shove, even the most vocal detractors of this remarkably talented forward would prefer to have him in their team. Suarez makes things happen but it is that very manic desire to impact on a match that can cause his darker impulses to surface.

A possible solution to the more problematic aspects of Suarez's character may lie in some extended work with the highly rated club psychologist, Dr. Steve Peters. There may, however, be no solution. It is extremely difficult to coach the mind and the more extreme actions of Luis Suarez my simply always be a part of his on-pitch persona. Liverpool's fans, some as passionate as the man himself, must hope that he can curb his unacceptable behaviour whilst remaining at the top of his game.

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