The latest Suarez scandal is unlikely to spell the end for troublesome striker

The Liverpool board will chew over selling their prized asset - but not for long, says Cameron Sharpe.

 

If Luis Suarez had wanted to endear himself to the players that helped put his name on the shortlist for the PFA Player of the Year award, his decision to sink his teeth into the arm of Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic during yesterday’s 2-2 draw at Anfield has to go down as a poorly conceived thank you. 

In the past, the Uruguayan has cited cultural differences as reason for some of his on-field indiscretions, but even he may struggle to convince the FA that biting others is how they say hello in Montevideo.  

Suarez has already apologised publicly to Ivanovic, but it is likely to be far too little, far too late.

Due to his previous record and severity of his latest offence, Suarez will, in all likelihood, play no further part this season - meaning that he has a near four month break from competitive action before playing again in a Liverpool shirt in August.

Yet, once the dust has settled and the FA have thrown the book at Suarez for his second display of mind-boggling idiocy in the last 18 months, Liverpool Football Club will have to take a business decision on whether or not the 26-year-old should be sold in the summer.

It will be the shortest meeting of the off season.

The discussion will be simple. The former Ajax striker is one of the very few truly world class footballers playing on the red side of Stanley Park. Moralising is for others - Liverpool cannot afford to do away with their troublesome forward.

Were he ten years older with a patchy fitness record and little form to speak of, his bite would prove his footballing epitaph at Anfield. But whilst he maintains value, there is little chance that Brendan Rodgers will be forced accept any of the offers the club will receive this summer.

Chelsea’s handling of John Terry over the past decade is a perfect template for how Liverpool will deal with the Suarez situation.

The former England captain has been involved in a number of scandals which could have cost him his career at Stamford Bridge. Yet, 15 years after he first signed professional terms with Chelsea, he remains the club captain and revered by fans.

His behaviour on the pitch has, generally, been good but his off field indiscretions have been defended resolutely by a club condemned for having no moral backbone.

At 32 and with an equally chequered fitness record, Terry is no longer indispensible and may find that his comeuppance from a decade of misbehaving will come in the form of the club failing to offer him a new contract in 12 months time.

Quite simply, Terry is no longer worth the fuss and therefore not deserving of any further loyalty.

Despite being on a different plane of misconduct, Suarez’s qualities on the pitch will mean that he is far too valuable to be sold - particularly to a rival club. That particular decision could quite literally come back to bite them on the backside.

There will be those who argue that Liverpool have to take a stand “for the good of the game” but there are few fans who would forego Champions League qualification or domestic success to gain the moral high ground.

You don’t hear Fulham fans singing about finishing top of the Fair Play League.

That is not to say that Liverpool won’t be forced to sell. A  fourth consecutive season outside of the Champions League will mean that Suarez himself might want to force through a transfer, allowing him to spend the best years of his career at the top table of European football rather than battling to get a hand on the tablecloth.

First and foremost, football is a business. Those calling for Suarez’s permanent exile would do well to remember that.

Luis Suarez during Liverpool's fixture against Chelsea at Anfield. Photograph: Getty Images

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France is changing: an army stalks the streets and Boris Johnson wanders the Tuileries

Will Self on the militarisation of France, and Boris Johnson at the Foreign Office.

At the corner of the rue D’Hauteville and the rue de Paradis in the tenth arrondissement of Paris is a retro-video-games-themed bar, Le Fantôme, which is frequented by some not-so-jeunes gens – the kind of thirtysomethings nostalgic for an era when you had to go to an actual place if you wanted to enter virtual space. They sit placidly behind the plate-glass windows zapping Pac-Men and Space Invaders, while outside another – and rather more lethal – sort of phantom stalks the sunlit streets.

I often go to Paris for work, and so have been able to register the incremental militarisation of its streets since President Hollande first declared a state of emergency after last November’s terrorist attacks. In general the French seem more comfortable about this prêt-à-porter khaki than we’d probably be; the army-nation concept is, after all, encrypted deep in their collective psyche. The army was constituted as a revolutionary instrument. France was the first modern nation to introduce universal male conscription – and it continued in one form or another right up until the mid-1990s.

Even so, it was surprising to witness the sang-froid with which Parisians regarded the camouflaged phantoms wandering among them: a patrol numbering eight ­infantrymen and women moved up the roadway, scoping out doorways, nosing into passages – but when one peered into Le Fantôme, his assault rifle levelled, none of the boozing gamers paid the least attention. I witnessed this scene the Saturday after Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel ran amok on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice – it was a little preview of the new state of emergency.

On Monday 18 July the French premier, Manuel Valls, was booed at a memorial service for the victims of the Nice attacks – while Marine Le Pen has been making all the populist running, whipping up anxieties about the enemy within. For many French, the events of the past week – including the failed Turkish coup – are steps along the way limned by Michel Houellebecq in his bestselling novel Submission; a via dolorosa that ends with La Marianne wearing the hijab and France itself annexed by a new caliphate.

Into this febrile drama comes a new player: Boris Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary. What can we expect from this freshly minted statesman when it comes to our relations with our closest neighbour? There is no doubt that Johnson is a Francophile – I’ve run into him and his family at the Tuileries, and he made much of his own francophone status during the referendum campaign. In Paris last winter to launch the French edition of his Churchill biography, Johnson wowed a publication dinner by speaking French for the entire evening. He was sufficiently fluent to bumble, waffle and generally avoid saying anything serious at all.

Last Sunday I attended the Lambeth Country Show, an oxymoronic event for which the diverse inhabitants of my home borough gather in Brockwell Park, south London, for jerked and halal chicken, funfair rides, Quidditch-watching, and “country-style” activities, such as looking at farm animals and buying their products. Wandering among ancient Rastafarians with huge shocks of dreadlocks, British Muslims wearing immaculate white kurtas blazoned with “ASK ME ABOUT ISLAM” and crusty old Brixton punks, I found it quite impossible to rid my mind of the Nice carnage – or stop wondering how they would react if armed soldiers were patrolling, instead of tit-helmeted, emphatically unarmed police.

I stepped into the Royal Horticultural Society marquee, and there they were: the entire cast of our end-of-the-pier-show politics, in vegetable-sculpture form and arrayed for judging. There was Jeremy Corbyn (or “Cornbin”) made out of corncobs – and Boris Johnson in the form of a beetroot, being stabbed in the back by a beetroot Michael Gove. And over there was Johnson again, this time rendered in cabbage. The veggie politicians were the big draw, Brixtonians standing six-deep around them, iPhones aloft.

The animal (as opposed to the vegetable) Johnson has begun his diplomatic rounds this week, his first démarches as tasteless and anodyne as cucumber. No British abandonment of friends after Brexit . . . Coordinated response to terror threat . . . Call for Erdogan to be restrained in response to failed coup . . . Blah-blah, whiff-whaff-waffle . . . Even someone as gaffe-prone as he can manage these simple lines, but I very much doubt he will be able to produce rhetorical flourishes as powerful as his hero’s. In The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History, Johnson writes of Winnie overcoming “his stammer and his depression and his ­appalling father to become the greatest living Englishman”. Well, I’ve no idea if Bojo suffers from depression now but he soon will if he cleaves to this role model. His Churchill-worship (like so many others’) hinges on his belief that, without Churchill as war leader, Britain would have been ground beneath the Nazi jackboot. It may well be that, with his contribution to the Brexit campaign, Johnson now feels he, too, has wrested our national destiny from the slavering jaws of contingency.

Of course the differences between the two politicians are far more significant: Johnson’s genius – such as it is – lies in his intuitive understanding that politics, in our intensely mediatised and entirely commoditised era, is best conceived of as a series of spectacles or stunts: nowadays you can fool most of the people, most of the time. This is not a view you can imagine associating with Churchill, who, when his Gallipoli stratagem went disastrously wrong, exiled himself, rifle in hand, to the trenches. No, the French people Johnson both resembles and has an affinity for are the ones caught up in the virtual reality of Le Fantôme – rather than those patrolling the real and increasingly mean streets without. 

Will Self is an author and journalist. His books include Umbrella, Shark, The Book of Dave and The Butt. He writes the Madness of Crowds and Real Meals columns for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 21 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The English Revolt