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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George Osborne's mistakes are coming back to haunt him

George Osborne's next budget may be a zombie one, warns Chris Leslie.

Spending Reviews are supposed to set a strategic, stable course for at least a three year period. But just three months since the Chancellor claimed he no longer needed to cut as far or as fast this Parliament, his over-optimistic reliance on bullish forecasts looks misplaced.

There is a real risk that the Budget on March 16 will be a ‘zombie’ Budget, with the spectre of cuts everyone thought had been avoided rearing their ugly head again, unwelcome for both the public and for the Chancellor’s own ambitions.

In November George Osborne relied heavily on a surprise £27billion windfall from statistical reclassifications and forecasting optimism to bury expected police cuts and politically disastrous cuts to tax credits. We were assured these issues had been laid to rest.

But the Chancellor’s swagger may have been premature. Those higher income tax receipts he was banking on? It turns out wage growth may not be so buoyant, according to last week’s Bank of England Inflation Report. The Institute for Fiscal Studies suggest the outlook for earnings growth will be revised down taking £5billion from revenues.

Improved capital gains tax receipts? Falling equity markets and sluggish housing sales may depress CGT and stamp duties. And the oil price shock could hit revenues from North Sea production.

Back in November, the OBR revised up revenues by an astonishing £50billion+ over this Parliament. This now looks a little over-optimistic.

But never let it be said that George Osborne misses an opportunity to scramble out of political danger. He immediately cashed in those higher projected receipts, but in doing so he’s landed himself with very little wriggle room for the forthcoming Budget.

Borrowing is just not falling as fast as forecast. The £78billion deficit should have been cut by £20billion by now but it’s down by just £11billion. So what? Well this is a Chancellor who has given a cast iron guarantee to deliver a surplus by 2019-20. So he cannot afford to turn a blind eye.

All this points towards a Chancellor forced to revisit cuts he thought he wouldn’t need to make. A zombie Budget where unpopular reductions to public services are still very much alive, even though they were supposed to be history. More aggressive cuts, stealthy tax rises, pension changes designed to benefit the Treasury more than the public – all of these are on the cards. 

Is this the Chancellor’s misfortune or was he chancing his luck? As the IFS pointed out at the time, there was only really a 50/50 chance these revenue windfalls were built on solid ground. With growth and productivity still lagging, gloomier market expectations, exports sluggish and both construction and manufacturing barely contributing to additional expansion, it looks as though the Chancellor was just too optimistic, or perhaps too desperate for a short-term political solution. It wouldn’t be the first time that George Osborne has prioritised his own political interests.

There’s no short cut here. Productivity-enhancing public services and infrastructure could and should have been front and centre in that Spending Review. Rebalancing the economy should also have been a feature of new policy in that Autumn Statement, but instead the Chancellor banked on forecast revisions and growth too reliant on the service sector alone. Infrastructure decisions are delayed for short-term politicking. Uncertainty about our EU membership holds back business investment. And while we ought to have a consensus about eradicating the deficit, the excessive rigidity of the Chancellor’s fiscal charter bears down on much-needed capital investment.

So for those who thought that extreme cuts to services, a harsh approach to in-work benefits or punitive tax rises might be a thing of the past, beware the Chancellor whose hubris may force him to revive them after all. 

Chris Leslie is chair of Labour's backbench Treasury committee.