Suarez quits: will Liverpool be better off without him?
The striker was a genuine talent and a liability, and now he is Barcelona's problem
Liverpool have confirmed that they are to sell Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez to Barcelona, bringing down the curtain on a controversial three-and-a-half year career at Anfield for the Uruguayan. The £75m deal was finalised a day after Fifa upheld the player's four-month ban for biting an opponent during the World Cup.
Suarez, who tried to leave Liverpool last summer before signing a new long-term contract with the Reds and enjoying a stellar season in the Premier League, has agreed a five-year deal with Barcelona, where he will play alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar.
In a statement Liverpool said: "We would like to thank Luis for his contribution and the role he played in helping bring Champions League football back to Anfield. Everyone at Liverpool Football Club wishes Luis and his family well for the future.”
The player claimed he was leaving with a "heavy heart" and thanked the fans for their support. "I hope you can all understand why I have made this decision," he said, citing his "lifelong" ambition to play in Spain.
However, manager Brendan Rodgers hinted at the simmering tensions involved in the transfer when he said Liverpool agreed to sell Suarez with "great reluctance and following lengthy discussions" and added: "Liverpool FC is bigger than any individual."
Suarez arrived from Ajax in January 2011 with a poor disciplinary record and proved himself to be a lightning rod for controversy while at Anfield. In 2012 he was banned for eight games after racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, although he vociferously denied the allegation. When the two teams next met he exacerbated the matter by refusing to shake Evra's hand.
A year later he was handed a ten-game ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic. It was not the first time he had bitten an opponent and he shocked the world by doing the same thing to Italian opponent Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup.
Throughout his travails Liverpool stood by Suarez, even donning T-shirts proclaiming his innocence him during the Evra furore. However, he agitated for a move to Arsenal in the summer of 2013 but was not allowed to leave, and eventually won back fans with a series of brilliant performances as Liverpool narrowly missed out on the Premier League title.
Writing in The Guardian, Andy Hunter says that the departure of a player of Suarez's status is bound to cause a reaction, and notes that some fans are "incandescent".
"Suarez leaves glorious, gory memories and with a reputation as one of Anfield's finest talents minus the character to match," he writes. Now he is Barcelona's problem.
Good riddance is the view of some. "In three-and-a-half years, his actions morally bankrupted Liverpool far more than his goals and individual brilliance could ever possibly redeem," says website Click Liverpool. "As he finally prepares to leave Merseyside for his dream switch to Barcelona, it is under a cloud far greater than any of his predecessors."
Suarez was a "disciplinary liability," says Tony Barrett in The Times. But the experience of dealing with him has benefited Liverpool.
"Structurally and morally, Suárez asked searching questions of Liverpool that no other player has ever posed... For new owners, the forward provided a crash course in dealing with footballers at their best and at their worst. The lessons, some of them harsh, will stand Fenway Sports Group (FSG) in good stead as they continue to come to terms with an industry that John W. Henry has compared to the Wild West."
But claiming Liverpool are better off is the "default response of those who react to being dumped", says Chris Bascombe of the Daily Telegraph. Suarez's was one of the Liverpool greats, even though he was at Anfield for three-and-a-half seasons.
"Brendan Rodgers will curse the loss of one of the greatest modern footballing talents, but relish the opportunity to build a team based on collective brilliance rather than Suarez's eclectic mix of the mind-blowing, inspirational and, more than occasionally, unpleasant."