Reason No. 4,506,326 for why I love soccer (football): No one player makes or breaks a team’s fortunes.
Now I realize this contradicts the very title of the post, but please humor me for a moment.
In order for a team to succeed, all 11 players on the pitch have to be in sync with one another. It’s almost impossible for an individual to try and dribble past an entire opposing team and score to give his team the win. It doesn’t happen. Yes, a Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo might have the talent to beat three or four, but he still has to receive the ball from his teammates at some point. And he needs to defend while he’s off marauding for goals as well. Individuals are often touted more than the club they represent but this is foolish and most of us know better than to get sucked into the hype.
This brings me to the case of Liverpool and Luis Suarez.
The Uruguayan forward has become one of the most polarizing figures in England’s top flight for a variety of reasons; both good and bad. He’s incredibly talented and has a tendency to score the more difficult goals. He is one of those rare forwards capable of beating three or four defenders by himself and scoring. But he’s also the poster child for unsportsmanlike behavior. A little over a year ago I wrote about how I hated Suarez for his handball at the World Cup in 2010. He knowingly and willingly violated the single most important rule of the sport. And he did not have to suffer for it as it ultimately preserved the lead and allowed his side to advance to the semi-finals. He’s brought that underhandedness with him to England. Last season he served an eight match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra. He then made matters worse by refusing to shake Evra’s hand at the second fixture between Liverpool and Manchester United. Now he has his coaches and teammates rushing to his defense because he is not being rewarded with penalty kicks when he actually does beat his man inside the box and earn a legitimate foul.
There’s something…poetic?… about a player so talented, yet controversial starring for a club steeped in tradition. A club that calls a blue collar, hard nosed town its home, Liverpool have a proud history of carrying the aura of its home city onto the pitch at Anfield with them. The Reds have fallen on hard times since then. A host of great players have recently left Liverpool, resulting in a very bare cupboard for new manager Brendan Rodgers. There is one bright (pun partially intended) spot for Liverpool though: Suarez. Suarez is constantly being relied upon to deliver goals for a club that has dire need of them. Last weekend the Reds rode Suarez’s hat trick to an away victory against Norwich; a club that frustrated Liverpool to no end last season. Today Liverpool found itself trailing Udinese 3-1 in its Europa League match and had to call Suarez off the bench in order to attempt to mount a comeback. He got one back for the home side, but ultimately the Italians came out on top.
The best efforts of one man were all for not because the defense behind him was not up to the task. One man can do a lot for a club, but he cannot do everything. Liverpool would do well to remember this and keep Suarez in mind as they continue to try and build a new powerhouse from the ground up. Would I rather have a Robin van Persie or Wayne Rooney or even Cristiano Ronaldo? Absolutely. I still detest Suarez for his antics.
But right now Liverpool have no other choice. It’s Luis Suarez…or bust.
“Walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone!”