"Ability is nothing without opportunity."
"I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one."
There are times, in the lives of us mere mortals, when we simply cannot have what we want. Perhaps we are constricted by financial adversity, constrained by a powerful bond of loyalty or confined by the limits of our ambition. That home by the sea, that lover in a foreign land or that exciting career opportunity, for whatever reason, is just out of the limits of our reach. In such scenarios, one rationalises and restructures. Acceptance is required. This is not as inherently honourable as some folk make out and there is certainly a certain bravery and nobility to following one's dreams with clear-eyed ruthlessness, but martyrdom is a condition in which some revel and compromise is a dish on which most of us have dined.
The modern footballer is not one for the integrity of self-sacrifice. Not for him, the quiet satisfaction of the aforementioned compromise or the cold consolation of having done the right thing. And why should he? The career of the professional sportsman is fleeting, finite. In such circumstances, one probably becomes attuned to grasping whatever opportunities present themselves. It is likely that the need to employ an agent, the majority of whom are innately grasping, merely exacerbates the tendency to grab hungrily at whatever presents itself as attainable. Maximising potential is the name of the game and this is where the problems start to manifest themselves for those who idolise these footballers.
Loyalty is the greatest currency for most supporters. Of course it is. One day, they see a spirit shocking match or witness an extraordinary player and that's it. They pledge their remaining years on this mortal coil to one club. It's quite mad, when you think about it. Bananas, in fact. There is a whole breakfast buffet available to be sampled. A life to be spent grazing on the most fabulous array of football fancies, but no. We choose one delicacy and we remain loyal to it for life. The particular pain-au-chocolat I chose was Liverpool Football Club and it's currently very tasty, thanks very much.
Like most Liverpool fans, the pleasure I've derived from the club, of late, has been massively enhanced by the remarkable talent of Luis Suárez. Over the last twelve months, the Uruguayan has been the form player on the planet and it has been a delight to watch him tear defences apart in the Red of my club. Now, it seems, we must forego that particular joy, as the man himself has seen one further opportunity to be seized. Next season, Suárez will likely don the jersey of the Blaugrana and their fans will come to know the unique amalgam of glee and heartache that comes with having the brilliantly bellicose but assuredly unhinged forward represent them.
It is wise, dear reader, to be wary of the rabid moralising that has gone on since Suárez made it clear he wished to leave. Again. Somewhere, no doubt suspiciously close to a Sky Sports camera, there is a mouth-breathing moron ready with a match and a jersey bearing the name of the masticatory magician. Elsewhere, self-righteously indignant oafs hover over their phones, frothy spittle foaming at the corner of their mouths, as they ready themselves for a rant on their favourite drivetime radio show.
Such behaviour is as tiresome as it is offensive. When Suarez signed for Liverpool or Ajax before that, he was taking the next step on the ladder. It does not sit well with old codgers like your scribbler, who have seen Liverpool lift multiple European Cups, to consider the possibility that there is a step up from Anfield. Realistically, however, Luis Suárez has just taken that step. More heartening, is the reality that Barcelona and Real Madrid probably now represent the only remaining steps up for a player like the Uruguayan superstar. Such has been the progress under the stewardship of Brendan Rodgers, that his ex-teammates may even have a chance to show ol' Bitey the error of his ways in the Champions League next season.
Footballers, with a few notable exceptions (and even those are qualified), will never have the loyalty that fans have. They cannot, for the reasons already discussed. In an ideal world, a player gives several good seasons to a club and leaves on good terms. Xabi Alonso or Dirk Kuyt would receive rapturous applause, if they returned to play in front of the Kop in the shirt of their current clubs. Will Luis Suárez be afforded that honour should he represent his new side at Anfield in the future? This, after all, is the player many of us felt was the best to wear the Liverbird since John Barnes. This, after all, is the player who drove the club back to the promised land of the Champions League.
Suárez, however, is now perceived as disloyal -- a cartoon villain, who to be fair, has given his detractors a lot to work with. Will you applaud him when he returns? It's an interesting question. I'll leave it with you.