It's got to be a difficult task, managing Luis Suarez. There's the undeniable genius with the football at his feet, the tireless workrate, the downright refusal to succumb to injury for any meaningful spell, the demand for teammates to match his level even if that's not something that would ever be possible. He is, in many ways, a manager's dream. A player of supreme talent that will run himself back and forth with little urging needed, with little risk of injury, and little chance that he won't end up doing something so ridiculously brilliant that it makes you nauseous.
The other side of the coin--as both Kenny Dalglish and Brendan Rodgers discovered during their time with the Uruguayan--is the need to extinguish the flame trails Luis Suarez leaves behind. Tugging Rafael's hair in that Manchester United match, the one that saw him slalom through no less than four opposition defenders before Dirk Kuyt score the first of three on the day to drub United at Anfield, was Dalglish's introduction to what would be a turbulent time for both player and manager.
With Kenny there was always the sense that, overt defiance in the media aside, there was almost a pity for the player as he endured the consequences of his petulance on the pitch and the fallout from his use of racially charged language against Patrice Evra. The brilliance of Dalglish came effortlessly, with class and composure, whereas Suarez seemed to be incapable of taking one step forward without inevitably tumbling backward as though the Earth's axis had just shifted.
Under Rodgers that seemed to change. Fewer dives in the Northern Irishman's first season, a stint as captain, more goals, a fledgling partnership with Daniel Sturridge. Promise of a return to the heights that were once a matter of course at Anfield. Then came Branislav Ivanovic's shoulder, suffering the physical effects of a collision with the mouth of Luis Suarez. These things happen, you know.
But there were no t-shirts and scything pressers this time around, only acknowledgement of the player's misdeeds and assurances that things would be different. When Suarez tried to engineer a move to Arsenal last summer, Rodgers and company were resolute, first backing down the North London club and then casting Suarez off to solo training at Melwood until he was able to return--both physically and mentally--to Liverpool's squad.
Which he did, of course, to the tune of 31 league goals and one of the most astounding individual efforts in recent Liverpool history as the club came just short of their first Premier League title in over two decades. They could not, despite my efforts to convince myself otherwise, have done it without him. He was at the heart of nearly everything magical Liverpool did last season, and he deserves to be remembered fondly for it.
He doesn't deserve--or need, for that matter--to be eulogized, however. Suarez got the move he's apparently dreamed of, and once he's eligible to play again he'll combine with some of the world's best and be compensated handsomely for it. He wanted to leave last summer, he wants to leave now, and that's not a sentiment to be taken lightly. A chronic wantaway's departure, for me, is not to be met with anguish. It's to be met with a wave goodbye.
Liverpoool will also receive generous compensation, some of which they'll use in an effort to rebound from the loss of their star striker. An effort that, according to Rodgers, will only see the club strengthen:
"The club have done all they can over a sustained period of time to try to keep Luis at Liverpool. It is with great reluctance and following lengthy discussions we have eventually agreed to his wishes to move to Spain for new experiences and challenges. We wish him and his young family well; we will always consider them to be friends.
"We are focused on the future, as we strive to continue with the progress we have made and build on last season's excellent Barclays Premier League campaign.I am confident we will improve the team further and will be stronger for this coming season, when we will be competing on all fronts; domestically and in the greatest club competition in the world, the Champions League. If there is one thing the history of this great club teaches us, it is that Liverpool FC is bigger than any individual. I hope our supporters continue to dream and believe that we are moving forward and with continued improvement and progression, together we will bring the success we all crave and deserve."
Overly hopeful? Maybe. There are no guarantees when it comes to filling the void left by one of the world's greatest talents. But it's hard to ignore the notion that the pieces are in place for Liverpool to push on, even after the likely dropoff that comes when you've been hurtling through time and space on a Uruguayan thrill ride. But Daniel Sturridge is poised to become the number one striker he's believed he should be, the supporting cast have strengthened and will continue to do so, and, critically, the manager has a plan for his team that isn't contingent on the talents of one individual.
Luis Suarez is gone. In leaving, he makes one final demand that his Liverpool teammates try to match his level and account for his absence. They've done both before and, as Brendan Rodgers underlines, will do both again.