He is Barcelona’s biggest risk, and he steps out on the high wire on Saturday.
Like a brilliant career criminal, Luis Suarez has emerged from prison not with the questions of whether he still has “it”, but whether he can keep himself out of trouble after biting Giorgio Chiellini on the biggest stage in sports (and earning a lengthy ban).
The short memory view of this is coming from Barcelona fans, who will say that they hope his extra-high profile suspension will make him think twice before exhibiting any similar rash behavior.
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The long-term view would be that Suarez is guaranteed to do something stupid again. It won’t necessarily be a bite, or a racial slur, or even a stamping of a prone opponent. But he’ll do something, be suspended and many will act shocked, as if it’s unconscionable the 27-year-old hasn’t changed yet again.
Then there is the view of a friend of mine who happens to be a Liverpool supporter, and will be coming out to watch El Clasico not to see the immense amount of international talent on the pitch, but in order to “boo his every touch.”
My, what a difference a few months can make when it comes to the volatile world of Luis Suarez, who will take to the pitch for the first time in a meaningful game for Barcelona at some point in Saturday’s El Clasico against Real Madrid.
Suarez again courted controversy in an interview with The Guardian this week, leaving after being asked about the Chiellini incident “38,000 times” and expressing a controversial reason as to why his racial abuse of supposedly saying, “Why negro?” to Patrice Evra qualifies as racism.
During the short interview published by The Guardian, Suarez sought again to discredit the Football Association disciplinary commission which gave him an eight-match ban and a £40,000 fine for racially abusing Evra.
The commission found Suarez used the word “negro” (black) to Evra on seven separate occasions, at one point saying to him “I don’t speak to blacks”.
But Suarez insists the FA commission had “no evidence” to support their finding, and that the word “negro” has no offensive connotations in Uruguay.
Yeah, the “I don’t speak to blacks” comment doesn’t seem offensive at all. Perhaps Real Madrid defender Pepe will combine with Suarez for the ultimate two-team double middle finger to the world, but we digress.
The fact is that Suarez is going to be controversial until the day he leaves this world, and then he may possibly put something in his will just to extend the headlines. His closest comparison would be Diego Maradona, but there was a sense with the Argentine striker that it was all part of a larger than life show. With Suarez, he’s a mercurial man who still somehow seems most interested in his family, not PR.
Real manager Carlo Ancelotti says their defensive plan will not change with Suarez in the lineup, which is like saying, “I’m going out to dinner and ordering really hot peppers but I’m not concerned.” Sure, defending Neymar and Lionel Messi is complicated enough, but you’re going to game plan for them and just hope that one of the most dangerous attackers in the world is able to be held down by ordinary means? Cool story.
Here’s what’s going to happen: Suarez is going to be on his best behavior and his most desperate form, scoring goals for fun for a good period of time. But at some point, whether near or far, he’s going to do something outside the parameters of what we consider good taste and fair play.
It’s going to be ugly and we’re going to shake our heads. Some will feign shock. And the whole cycle will repeat itself again at Barcelona. But this rinse and repeat will fail to clean the dishes.